Saturday, June 27, 2009

couchless, and the 5 stages of grief

Breathe. One, two, three breathe.

I am talking to myself, sitting cross-legged, palms up and humming; a soothing posture for one who has almost come across the couch deal of the century before it suddenly vanished.

Like an ideal date ending with mutual adoration but no followup phone call, I am bewildered.

I thought it was perfect.

I thought it was going to work.

I was in it for the long haul.

Heck, it wasn't even my idea, but they pursued me relentlessly until I gave in, my heart finally opening to possibilities I'd never before allowed myself to imagine.

I am trying not to picture the couch.

Its magnificent form, at once firm and yielding, beckoning... promising... delivering.

The world melting away in a single luxuriant moment amidst its plush fibers.

I push away thoughts of stroking its velvety fabric, fingers twirling lazy patterns as I lie enveloped in its cushiony embrace.

It's too painful. I cannot bear it.

. . .

Ok, I am exaggerating. Maybe the couch was covered in slime -- the post DID say it needed cleaning -- but they were going to deliver it. To my door. And it was cheap!

So, background. I have been hunting around for couches since we moved last week. All this hunting has taught me: Flagstaff is a black hole for nice used furniture. The keyword being "nice." Plenty of used pieces abound, if you're into furniture that looks like even godzilla's family discarded it.

Maybe it's the enormous student population, nabbing couches and regurgitating them 4 years later into another student's 4-year digestive cycle. Couches here are chewed like cud and they look like it.

Or at least the ones in my price range are.

So I expanded the search. I'm looking for something specific. I want a sectional. So I can seat lots of people. And I want it to have a sleeper sofa, so my friends have a less wretched place to sleep then the floor when they visit. And I want it to look nice. It cannot be hideous.

And it has to be comfortable.

The last time a sofa matching this description was available in Flagstaff was a month ago. And before that, none.

I paged all the way back in Craigslist time and verified, yes, this kind of couch is as rare as a sighting of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich (which, by the way, sold on eBay for $28,000).

So I expanded my search area. To Phoenix, Arizona, 2.5 hours away.

Yes, it was a crazy, impulsive thing to do. But I was curious.

We all wonder about the road not traveled. Could the perfect ______ be tantalizingly close only I do not know because I am not looking?

So I looked.

And I discovered something.

Phoenix is apparently the sectional sofa capital of the United States. Today alone, 136 ads were slapped up for sectionals looking for new homes.

And the prices! $40 to $1,000 or more, in every shape and size, with every option, every brand, some filled with down, some with recliners, others with sleepers, some with both. Some hideous, yes, but many, many in handsome neutral tones.

Impulsively, I called one of the ads. A sectional, for $250, beige microfiber, with a sleeper. And a recliner. Mmm, nice. But I was leery of the ad's flippant warning: "needs cleaning."

I told myself I would call just to ask. Like, was the couch sitting in a urine bath for 3 weeks? How many crusts of vomit needed scouring? Was it encased with bedbugs? Did a pet skunk reside inside? You have to ask about these things.

So I called.

The woman reassured me it was in good shape, but since she ran a home daycare, it had some spots that needed wiping.

Instantly, I imagined the couch drenched with urine and coated with vomit while kids tumbled over its surfaces like airborn dung pinatas.

I called my sister next, distressed. "Um, if someone has a home daycare, what does that mean for their furniture?" She has kids and understands this stuff.

She reassured me. "Most people are pretty careful and try to clean up messes right away when they happen. It's probably not as bad as you think. Plus babies wear diapers, they're not just placed on couches naked."

True, but I was still unsure. I don't like the idea of buying something sight unseen. I called around to see about renting a truck and getting down to Phoenix to see it in person.

Reality check. It's expensive renting a truck! Not to mention 5 hours wasted just for a simple look-see.

So I emailed a friend in Phoenix to see if HE would go sit on it in person. Maybe he could reassure me that it did not smell like a sewage containment facility or house families of mice and act as a hantavirus farm. But he was in NY and unable to sacrifice his time and jeans to a test sitting.

I texted the owner in Phoenix. "Sorry," I wrote. "We're having trouble getting a way down there."

I continued looking on Craigslist but my heart was no longer in it. Distracted, I put the computer down and began to clean.

Suddenly Phoenix texted back. "Look, we'll *bring* the couch to you if you pay gas."

Really? Now this changes things.

First I was extremely excited.

Then I was extremely suspicious.

What's wrong with the couch that they are willing to drop it off 2.5 hours away from their house? Is it radioactive? Is it embedded with grenades?

I called Phoenix back to discuss the couch's condition at length. She assured me there was no urine, vomit, animal hair, pests, uranium or grenades. She sounded honest. I decided to trust her based on nothing and said awesome, we'll take it.

We made arrangements. She texted me about looking for straps and said she would be leaving shortly.

I reasoned if this was somehow a mistake, Flagstaff's couch-eating swamp monster student population would swallow it up. I'd just relist it on Craigslist.

I cleared out space, putting away the folding table I'm using as a desk and emptied the living room to await couch nirvana.

And she stood me up.

Never called to say "nevermind, we sold it" or "sorry, it's not worth the time" or whatever. Heck, if she'd died en route at least she could have let me know. Not a peep.

I texted her once: "Are you still coming?" And then, two hours later, like a dejected lover finally getting the hint, I realized there was no couch approaching Flagstaff on the Interstate tonight. At least not for me.

I have finally finished cycling through the last stage of grief: acceptance. The denial, anger and sadness have dissipated. Like a zen monk who spent hours crafting a masterpiece out of sand only to erase it in a true detachment exercise, I am abandoning my fervent need for the perfect couch. I shall write on the floor instead.


Michael Berman said...

Holly, you're living in funky hippy town. Get a bunch of cool looking pillows and throw them on the floor. Cheap, versatile, and easily moved!

linda said...

Holly, what a great article! Send it to a magazine for publishing! This was the best yet! I laughed! I cried! It moved me! :-)

Fancy Schmancy said...

Love it - people on Craigslist suck.

Do you have any Rent-a-Centers near you? That's where I got my living room set, and if you pay it off in 90 days you don't pay any of the extra charges - and they deliver for free.

spleeness said...

Mike & Fancy Schmancy, I am totally looking into beanbags and Rent-a-Centers -- thanks! RIght now, actually!

And Linda, thank you for the sweet note, it made my day!! It somehow healed me from the pain of couchlessness. ;)

Shera said...

I'm seeing this in a magazine, definitely...tooooo funny!
I feel your longing and deep need, sister...just chucked mine and find myself on the hunt as well; I was at one store and wishing that I had my camera to capture the hideousness of the selection! I imagined a very depressed, unfufilled, and uninspired furniture designer sitting at his drawing table...submitting these ideas to just squeak by at work. Ask Linda where her sister-in-law got their sectional THERE'S a monument to couches!

spleeness said...

Shera, your idea is awesome. See my next post! "Ugly couch contest vote: Who wins?"

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