Teal green leather sofa: $69.99
Handling fee for sofa: $20.00
Gas for my brother's truck: $90.00
Cost of ticket if anyone got our license plate number: unknown
Tips for three deserving maintenance men: $60.00
Many endangered lives: priceless!
It was traumatic, but it happened a year ago, so I think I can bring myself to tell this story now.
When Mery and I got an apartment together, our living room was completely bare-- neither of us had furniture for it. I decided we had to have a sofa, and went looking for a nice used one. My mom (whose father owned a furniture store when she was young) urged me to buy something brand new and high quality, with the idea that I'd have it for years to come. But I had my own ideas, and chose a big leather sofa being auctioned on eBay by a charity for only $70.
I won the auction. My dear mom met me the next morning and together we picked up my brother's truck, then headed to the warehouse where the sofa and a dresser I'd also bought were waiting for me. I was all smug about paying so little for them. People are suckers, I thought. They don't really know how to buy stuff.
I played with a friendly dog while the warehouse staff loaded everything up. "Do these cushions come off or are they sewn on?" was Mom's question to them about the couch. She had had a bad experience once with a moving truck and flying pillows. But she soon determined that these cushions were sewn on. The men tied everything down with ropes and we took off. Mom took the freeway but drove slowly. It was forty-five minutes back to my apartment. Towards the end of the drive someone honked at us and pointed to the back of our truck. "Can you see what's going on back there?" asked Mom. I thought she was fretting too much. "They just want you to get over another lane 'cause you're going so slow," said I.
We reached the apartment and I hopped out and checked the furniture. It seemed okay... just a gap in the sofa I didn't remember seeing before... one of the cushions was missing.
Pause while this sank in. My lovely green leather sofa, transported with such effort, was now worthless. Even I don't want a sofa with a missing cushion! I looked closer and saw that though the top cushions were indeed sewn on, the bottom ones were merely held by velcro, so one of them had ripped right off while we were cruising on the freeway. I wondered who had been endangered by the flying cushion.
"That's why you buy new!" Mom burst out. "Then they deliver it for you, for free!" But God bless her, that was all she said in the way of I told you so.
We set about moving the worthless hunk of junk off the truck, but it was quite heavy and I got a finger pinched and said, "Let's just rest a minute." As we rested I thought about where the missing cushion might be. "Mom, how about if one of us takes your car back on the freeway to look for the cushion while one of us guards the stuff?" I knew she wouldn't want us both to go looking for the cushion, since she'd said we couldn't possibly leave furniture unguarded in a truck on the mean streets of Lakewood. But she'd had a change of heart:
"Oh, just leave it here!" said Mom. "If we're lucky someone will steal it!"
So we both took off in Mom's car to retrace our steps back to where we'd been honked at. It was a long drive that took us near the ocean and then up the 405 again, keeping our eyes on the road. There was no sign of a recent traffic accident; that was comforting. I prayed to St. Anthony that we'd find the cushion if it was God's will, but even as I prayed I felt myself becoming detached from worldly goods. Sometimes they're more trouble than they're worth. :)
A lumpy something loomed ahead at the side of the freeway. It didn't look promising, but as we drew nearer I saw that its underside was teal green. Unbelievably, we'd found the cushion! (Thank you, St. Anthony!) How it migrated to the side of the freeway when we'd been driving two lanes over, I don't know. I'm a bit afraid to imagine, actually. And I'm even more afraid to imagine how all the tire marks on the cushion got there. Running over something on the freeway would scare the heck out of me; I can just imagine cars swerving and drivers screaming. I really really hope no one was hurt!
I got out of the car and fetched my precious cushion. Though its underside was treadmarked, the upper side actually wasn't that bad. "It'll come right off with leather cleaner," said Mom.
I felt rather cheerful driving back home. Not only was my sofa no longer worthless, but it was satisfying just to have found the cushion again against all odds, and apparently without killing anyone on the freeway!
I didn't know that worse was to come.
We pulled up in front of my brother's truck. The furniture was still on it, untouched. (Ever see that Seinfeld episode where Jerry can't get the smell out of his car, and finally in desperation he leaves it parked and open on the street with keys in the ignition, but he can't even get a thief to drive it away? That's my furniture.) We pondered what to do now. This stuff was heavy; how to get it inside the apartment complex and upstairs to my place? My older brother had offered his muscle, but he couldn't be there for several more hours, and Mom and I wanted to have a go before then.
Mom urged me to asked someone in the rental office if they at least had a dolly we could borrow. As it turned out, not only did Maintenance have a dolly, but three of them also offered to help us move the stuff. (Why is my mom right all the time?) They got the dresser up our apartment stairs and through the door, and the same thing with its matching nightstand. Then they hauled the sofa up to the top of the stairs. And it wouldn't go through the door.
It was a longer and wider sofa than most, and there was little room to maneuver in the narrow stairwell. The men tried turning it this way and that, lowering one end and then the other, carrying on a conversation the whole time in rapid Spanish. No dice; the sofa couldn't be turned around the corner enough to fit. Suddenly the men all lifted it and carried it back down to the sidewalk below our second-story balcony. Were they giving up? No, but one of them disappeared. I wasn't sure what they were planning, but since they were working so hard I thought the least I could do was not interfere.
The man returned with a long rope and some ladders. Uh-oh... I thought. They placed the ladders against our balcony, then got some towels to pad the rope as they tied it around the sofa. One of them scampered upstairs, threw the rope over the big beam above the balcony, and proceeded to haul on the rope while the two men below perched precariously on the ladders and pushed the sofa up. It reached the level of the balcony, but still had to get over the balcony railing, and there wasn't much space between the railing and the overhanging roof for it to fit through. One of the ladder men went upstairs to help, and the remaining man below swayed on his dismayingly flexible ladder, trying to hold the sofa up. It would have been so easy for him to fall ten feet, or to have the sofa fall on him. I stood to the side almost paralyzed with fear, thinking that no $70 stick of furniture was worth this risk, praying repeated Hail Marys in a near panic. I think it may have been one of the most frightening moments of my life.
Somehow, though, the three of them stuffed the huge sofa over the railing, through the balcony door and into the living room, all without breaking their necks! (Thank you, Blessed Mother!) We thanked the men profusely and insisted they accept tips, though I felt pretty inadequate about it: "Here's some money; thanks for risking your life." In no time they were gone, carrying the rope and ladders with them, and I was left staring at my teal green leather sofa and thinking, "Now how the heck am I ever going to get this thing out again?"
It was a question that haunted me for a year. Oh, the sofa was nice to have during that time. It kept the living room from looking bare, and from time to time someone took a nap on it, and friends sat on it and laughed at my stories about it, and it was great for parties-- here's a picture of one of our good times on the death sofa:
But all the while the sofa's ultimate fate tormented me. What was I going to do with the thing?
The inevitable day came when Mery said she had something to tell me: "I'm going to the convent!" Time to move out. I made arrangements to move most of my stuff and donate the rest, but what could be done with a giant sofa that wouldn't fit through the door? Moving it could cost me more than its $70 price, and I was not eager for a repeat of the balcony scene. Perhaps I'd just abandon it and slink away...
Then my friend Christie said she'd like to have it. She's going to be the nurse manager of a crisis pregnancy center that will soon be upgraded to a clinic with ultrasound machine and all. The place needed furniture, and the teal leather sofa was pretty nice and would look good there. You'd never know its middle cushion got run over on the freeway if you weren't told. :)
I tried to warn Christie about the little matter of the sofa not fitting through the door, but she was optimistic and blithely rounded up a truck and a father and two sons from church to help with the moving. They all arrived one warm day last week and marched up to my apartment to take stock of the situation. It turned out that Gary, the father, had worked for his father's moving business when he was younger. He and his sons picked up the sofa and tried to get it out, but it couldn't turn the corner. Someone thought of dismounting the front door from its hinges to give us another inch or two of space, but that proved to be a bit difficult. So the men started maneuvering the sofa again, strategizing all the while: "Turn it this way so it goes around the corner... we'll have to push it so it's almost upright... can you get the end down without running into that railing?..." And suddenly the sofa was standing upright in the stairwell outside the door. It fit after all! They'd gotten it through!
After that I quite giddily helped to move the rest of the stuff Christie was taking, and we loaded it on the truck. "Is the pregnancy center on a second story too?" asked Nathan, Gary's older son, who studies sacred music in college. "No, it's street level," said Christie. "Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!" replied Nathan in Gregorian chant. And they drove off in the truck to take the furniture to its new home.
So that was a very happy ending to a stressful story. Given the sofa's new situation, I may even need to start calling it the sofa of LIFE instead. :)