We’re doing some reconfiguring at our house and purchased some new bar stools on-line that were delivered in boxed-up, do-it-yourself form. Today’s project is to assemble the bar stools by following instructions that appear to have been written in Vietnamese and then loosely translated into English. The assembly process involves, among other things, determining whether the “flat washer” mentioned in the instructions is the same as the “plat washer” that is labeled in the parts bag (that seems like a safe assumption, doesn’t it?) and using the dreaded “Allen wrench” that was not a known tool back when I took wood shop in high school.
Who was this “Allen” guy, anyway, and why couldn’t he figure out a way to use a crescent wrench, instead?
When I first sit on one of these I’m going to do it gingerly.
Only one month or so into the new Administration, and already we’ve reached the point of arguing about treatment of furniture! Hey, I know — let’s call it “Sofagate”!
Maybe some of the angst about the furniture in the Oval Office comes from people whose parents were hyper-concerned about maintaining the condition the furniture in their home, and covered it with uncomfortable plastic slip covers for daily use so the furniture would always look brand new for company. These were the people whose mothers were always yelling “feet off the furniture!” when you went over to their house as kids. Other people, like the Webners, grew up in households where furniture was not viewed as a some kind of sacred item and putting your feet up on the coffee table, or stretching out on the sofa to watch TV, was a perfectly acceptable practice and a little wear and tear on the couch and chairs was to be expected. And still other people recognize that putting your feet up on a wooden desk is different than putting shoe-clad feet up on a fabric-covered sofa.
This is a classic example of the kind of tempest in a teapot that makes Washington so baffling and weird, with people with an inside-the-Beltway mentality consciously trying to blow little things up into huge disputes. It’s gotten worse in the social media age, where Twitter allows anyone (including our new President) to immediately make snide comments about anything and everything and create purportedly hilarious “memes.”
In the grand scheme of things, shoes with heels on an anonymous sofa, even one in the Oval Office, aren’t that big a deal. With President Trump in office, there’s lots of meaningful, substantive stuff to argue about. Can’t we at least focus on that, rather than feet on the furniture?
I set off today with great plans to put together a bed frame we bought from Ikea for the spare bedroom. I successfully put the slatted sections together, then hit the wall when I tried to assemble the bed frame using dozens of unknown pieces and parts and instructions that have no written words.
Seriously, what’s with the piece that looks like a piston, anyway? What ever happened to simple bolts and screws? Messing around with the tiny wooden dowels and plastic snaps and and rubberized tips and random straps and odd metal contraptions made me want to get out a ball peen hammer and start pounding on things on general principles.
Rather than put the bed together the wrong way, and have our next guest experience some kind of disastrous bed failure, I decided to chuck it and hire someone to do it for me. There’s a reason we have “handymen” in the world, and Ikea is one of them.
For the most part, I think I’m a pretty capable person when it comes to the basics of American life. I may not be able to fix a car, but given enough time I can puzzle through the arcane 1040 tax form instructions, or load a moving van with reasonable competence, or do a load of laundry without turning everything pink.
But there is one area where I realize that I am far out of my depth: picking furniture and determining whether it “goes together” with other furniture or, say, a rug. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am fundamentally furniture-challenged. So when Kish asks my opinion on a particular chair or end table or desk, I know that she is just being polite and humoring me, because no rational person would ever rely on my furniture opinions.
I never had to make a furniture decision until I got my first apartment during college, and my decisions were based entirely on what I could afford — which wasn’t much. Stylishness didn’t enter the equation, which was a good thing, because college life isn’t conducive to maintaining fine furniture unless fine furniture increases in value with beer bottle rings on every flat surface. And after college Kish and I lived with an eclectic collection of college remainders and other hand-me-downs that we were grateful to get until we bought a house — at which time Kish, fortunately, made all of the furniture decisions.
So here I am, in my late 50s, and I now realize that I am completely clueless in this basic building block of American life. Does this chair “go together” with this cabinet? You might as well ask me to perform a differential equation for the value of X prime.
When you downsize, as we have done, you face a dilemma: what to do with all of the furniture that worked so well in our former, larger house, but just doesn’t fit in our smaller current home?
Consider our couch. It has served faithfully as the center of activity in our family room for years. It’s been perfect for three-across TV viewing, or for a little dog romping. It’s long enough that one of our fully grown boys could comfortably stretch out for a little late night HBO-fest and wide enough to serve as an ersatz bed, too. A Harden, it is so sturdy and well-made that we’ve recovered it twice and it still looks and feels great.
But . . . it’s just too big for the den in our new place. We’ve had it in there, and its length and width just overpower the room. So we decided to buy a new sofa — and then had to see if we could find a new home for the sofa. I’m not sentimental about furniture, and I try resist hoarding impulses or the rationalization that we should keep everything in case our two adult sons who live hundreds of miles away might want it someday. Just giving the sofa to the Furniture Bank didn’t seem quite right, however.
Fortunately the Red Sox Fan and his lovely wife have decided to move to a bigger place, and will need for furnish a rec room. They were looking for a sofa, and found one in our Harden. It’s nice to know that it’s found a good home — and, incidentally, one with two growing boys who can stretch out, bounce on the cushions, and maybe pretend they’ve made a sprawling fingertip catch for the winning touchdown before crashing safely onto the sofa and its pillows.