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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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If I Never See Another Hand-Carved, Claw-Footed, Sleigh-Backed Mahogany Frickin’ Chair, It’ll Be Too Damned Soon

The wife and I went furniture shopping today, looking for a dining room table.

Does anyone out there have a bayonet I can borrow, to cram into one of my eye sockets? Or an industrial circular saw I could use to slit my damned wrists?

My god, what a painful, spasm-inducing, bag-of-crap experience that was. We were out for four fricking hours, and bought a big fat bunch of nothing. And we only visited two stores. Two! How the hell does that happen? How the hell can a guy ‘window shop’ for four hours and walk away empty-handed?

(Hell, even in Amsterdam, most guys grab an ashtray or something as a souvenir on the way out the door, after their ‘window shopping’ transaction has ended. And they’re not in there for four hours, either. I don’t care what the hell it says in ‘Penthouse Letters‘.)

Anyway, this was not your normal, garden-variety four hours. This was six and a half weeks packed into a four-hour time slot. Like Gandhi, if you’ve seen it before, or pretty much anything Ken Burns has ever done. I walked out of the second place entirely drained — I couldn’t even drive home. I just sat in the passenger seat, twitching and bleeding from the ears, while my wife got us back safely.

(I don’t know how the hell she did it. I could barely control my sphincter after that little slice of hell; where she found the intestinal fortitude to navigate a car, I’ll never know. She’s an infinitely better shopper than I. Maybe it’s genetic. I have no idea.)

So, just in case you’re interested, I’ll tell you how it went.

(This won’t take four hours. I promise. It may seem like it, but I can’t help that. I gotta write about the material I’m dealt. Deal.)

The first place we went was enormous. Couches, beds, recliners, tables, rugs — room after room of pricey furniture and home accessories. This particular furniture store is part of a chain that ‘themes’ each of its showrooms. (Ostensibly to distract the patrons from the hefty price tags attached to the merchandise. And to attract hordes of small screaming children. Peachy.) We were in the ‘Mardi Gras’ outlet. There were beads and piped-in jazz music and New Orleans street scenes painted on all the walls. Really, they had everything but the watered-down Hurricanes and gap-toothed hookers.

(Which means they really didn’t have anything, of course. Anything really important, anyway. But let’s move on, shall we?)

Anyway, we stepped into the dining room area, paused over a cherrywood table, and were immediately set upon by one of the store’s overeager employee leeches. His name, according to the tag on his shirt, was ‘Al’. ‘Overagressive Assbag Al’, as I’d soon come to know him. He turned on the smarm from the millisecond he saw us.

Al: Hi, folks. You like that table? You looking for a table? That’s a nice table!

Wife: Um, yeah. We’re looking for a dining room table.

Al: Well, that’s a nice table. I really like that table. Don’t you love that table? What a great table!

Wife: Uh… okay, sure. It’s nice. These chairs here — does the upholstery come in different fabrics?

Al: Hey, great question! Fantastic question! Unfortunately… no. But what a great question! And nice chairs, don’t you think?

Wife: Well, we’re really looking for something in a little different color. Maybe we’ll just browse around.

Al: Okay, that’s super! Just super! Did you just walk in? I didn’t realize — by all means, look around. If you have any questions, just let me know. Really, really super!

Wife: O-kay. We’ll be way over here, then.

We got as far as the next table. Thirty seconds later, up stepped Al for round two:

Al: Hey, that’s a cherry table! The last table you looked at was cherry! Are you looking for a cherry table?

Wife: Yes, we’re pretty much set on a cherry finish, I think.

Al: Stupendical! Hey, you like that word? I just made that up! We’ve got lots of cherry tables! Hey, cherry’s my favorite!

Wife: That sounds, um, good. We’ll just walk around and take a look at a few, okay?

Al: Perfect! Good idea! Have at ’em! Just let me know if you have any questions! Cherry questions! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Two minutes and three tables later, somebody pulls Al’s chain and he comes skipping up again:

Al: Hey there! I know you! Hey, I just thought of something. There’s a table over here — on sale! Comes with chairs! Big discount! Woo! Woo!

Wife: Hmmm… I don’t know. That one’s kind of plain.

Al: Plain is good! Less is more! It’s cherry — you like cherry. It’s cheeeeee-reeeeey!

Wife: Huh. Well, it is a pretty good price. Maybe we should look at this one.

Al: Look! Look! It’ll be fun! On sale — limited time! Get it while it’s hot! Hot cherries! Cherry jubilee! Wheeee!

Wife: Dude. Take it down a notch. We’ll think about it.

Al: Woo hoo! Yes, ma’am! I’ll be way over there until you need me.

Al: Got a question? No? Okay — I’ll be over there.

Al: Now? Question? No? Okay. Just ask.

Al: What? Did you ask? No? All right, I’ll go over there now. Talk about the table! Whoo!

Needless to say, Al didn’t actually go the hell away. First, he came to tell us that only the floor model was left. We didn’t like that much, so he came back thirty seconds later to ‘confide’ that he’d ‘discovered’ that there were a couple of other tables left. (Where, I don’t know. Back-ordered, in another store, crammed up his rather ample ass — I couldn’t really say. The last thing I was going to do was encourage ‘Big Al’ with a real question. I stuck to half-nods and quarter-smiles until he finally unhooked his grubby suckers from our foreheads and slithered off. As soon as he was out of sight, we got the hell out of that section and went for a soda.

To our credit, we actually did talk about the table for a while, just like we said we would. We even snuck back into the room for a second look, hiding behind armoires and ducking under end tables in case Al was lurking somewhere. But he wasn’t. Maybe he’d glommed onto another unsuspecting couple, or he’d retired to his lair for a quick smoke or a cup of coffee. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that we went back, decided the table wasn’t ‘all that’, and hit the door. The whole experience took an hour and a half. I thought the worst was over. How wrong I was. How very, terrifyingly wrong.

The lady employee who leapt at us as we walked into the next place wasn’t quite so… animated as Al. Her torture was simpler, more subtle. More devious. She didn’t come and go, or gush over her merchandise, or hard-sell us on any one piece. Rather, she overwhelmed us with information. She taught us ‘Dining Room Tables 101’, ‘102’, and three semesters of ‘103’. She instructed, illustrated, and opined. She was a freaking didactic whirlwind, flinging info and numbers and errata in all directions, like so much monkey poo. It began immediately, and never let up the whole time we were there.

Her primary weapon was the in-store information books. Soon after greeting us, she ran to get one catalog, then another, and then an armful more. Huge, heavy tomes, each holding several volumes of furniture manufacturers’ brochures. She flipped through them rapid-fire, thumbing through page after page as she laid down the dope on everything she saw:

Oh, this one’s beautiful. So elegant…

Tsk. The lines in this collection are so straight, so pedestrian. I really don’t care for the design…

Ah, see here how the same table leg motif has been used with a different table top? Very common…

Now this designer will be here in the store in January. We’re very excited…

On and on she went. The commentary was all over the map — the historical context of various designs, options for gilding and ornamental extras, gossip about the manufacturers, store policies, her favorite pieces and designers, and — in beautiful but all-too-brief moments — dining damned room fricking tables. Ugly, pretentious, and outrageously-priced tables, but shit — at least when she was waxing poetic about some neo-Victorian monstrosity meant to be eaten from, I could pretend that I gave a flying beaver butt. Because at least then she was close to the damned topic.

But it didn’t happen often, and eventually I zoned completely out. My brain retreated — I think it crawled down my spinal cord and set up shop in a lung for a while — and I just stood there, drooling and periodically nodding until the bitch finally ran out of saliva, and had to let us go. I swear to God, if she’d had a glass of water handy, we’d still frickin’ be there, hearing about wood staining brushes and distressing techniques and the advantages of a cabinet to hold the extra table leaves and — oh, for holy fuck’s sake, just kill me now!! Damn!

Finally, though, we made it out. My wife — bless her ever-patient, bullshit-resistant heart — suggested that we had time to check one more place before it was time to head home. I tried to give her a dirty look. Really, I did. I’m a weak man; what can I say? I know it wasn’t her fault, but we’d just been assaulted by two of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

(‘Manic’ and ‘Pedantic’, I think it was. But I might be thinking of another group of terrifying bastards. Were those two of the seven dwarves? Eh. I forget.)

Anyway, there was no way I was ready to subject myself to more torture, or risk running into another one of these damned vampires. So I tried to glare icily at my wife, to get the point across. I don’t think it worked, particularly — given her reaction, I’m guessing that I didn’t exactly have daggers shooting from my eyes. Tears, maybe, or blood, but not daggers. I saw pity in her eyes as she looked back at me. But my pitiful gaze got the job done — she mercifully led me to the car, and drove me home. I just pray that I never see another dining room table again, until one of the damned things is delivered to our door.

If even then. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. I’ve been hurt before, and hurt badly. And I don’t really mind eating over the sink for the next forty years. Really, it’ll be fun. Just please, for the love of Christmas, don’t make me go out there again and look at tables! (Please! Honey, are you reading this? Do you love me? Even a little? Hello?) Ugh. Can I see that table saw now?

Permalink  |  4 Comments



4 Responses to “If I Never See Another Hand-Carved, Claw-Footed, Sleigh-Backed Mahogany Frickin’ Chair, It’ll Be Too Damned Soon”

  1. Psycho Dad says:

    Right there my friend is why when my wife wants new stuff, I send her out to get it.Just tell me when it’s being delivered and I’ll take a day off to receive it.

  2. donna says:

    Tell your wife you’re into the “bedouin” look.

  3. Lara says:

    I’ve got a web address for ya…www.boyles.com. Request a catalog. Furniture store in North Carolina. They’ll deliver for a pretty penny but it’s GREAT furniture. NO salesmen to harass you, noone to pressure you. You call when you’re ready to purchase. I’ve personally used them as has my father and we’ve always been happy with the things we’ve ordered. Hell I ordered a chair and when it arrived it was a couch and one that was a couple hundred dollars more expensive than what I ordered. The delivery guys said if I didnt have a problem with it I could have it for nothing extra! ha ha but lets keep that little secret amongst ourselves, I don’t need the boyles furniture police knocking on my door if you know what I mean! If you can wait, there’s a GREAT sale twice a year, once in January through March and once from August until October 31st. It’s WORTH it to wait!

  4. Once again…I have tears of laughter streaming down my face. I look like a friggin’ wreck (thanks to too much time on your site). Unshowered, dirty house, yesterday’s mascara running down my left cheek. Thanks. Thanks a *lot* pal…Also, thank you for reminding me what a schadenfreude I am!! Keep on bloggin’!

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