Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Promise Keeper

With rain moving in and the stock market going up, I waited the other day for the well-muscled young men with the new sleeper sofa to show up with their delivery -- the third sleeper sofa lugged into our lives in the past 40 years.

The first was a big black leather affair that we got at one of the furniture warehouses that were once so popular. I miss them. I miss the forklifts beeping urgently as they scurried about the floor. I miss the showrooms where gals looking like Shelley Long held long clipboards and lured you into the galleria of mid-priced furniture. I miss the neatness of it all, the promise that came with the neatness – that we, too, could arrange the rooms in our house so that they were painted and papered perfectly, accesorized with all the right gee-gaws in just the right places.

It was a promise that was never kept.

Anyway, we wrestled that leather beauty into our first apartment by ourselves because the 25 bucks they wanted for delivery seemed a foolish extravagance. Aside from a mattress and box springs, this was the first piece of real furniture we owned. A good friend’s parents had a black leather sofa in their home in Glenview, and we must have thought that having one would like theirs would send us zooming up the scale of 70’s sophistication. We hadn’t realized that theirs was part of an extravagant mise en scene of upper bracket suburban life, including a pool table and wet bar.

Their sofa almost certainly was not a sleeper sofa. And it certainly was not purchased at a furniture warehouse.

We moved the thing once after that. It sat in front of the fireplace in our first little house until late one night or early one morning, while entertaining friends, things turned serious and she who is wiser than I began to cry about the couch. Six years after its purchase we had no pool table, no wet bar. One Christmas season we had to sell the little bar that came with the house to pay for gifts. The couch was as good as gone at that point. Black and brooding, it was the promise that is never kept.

Raising kids kept us away from sleeper sofas for a long time. A house with two kids, a neutered poodle and three bedrooms is no place for a guest to stay the night, especially if that night is to be spent on a sleeper sofa.

But then came the day when the sensible floral print couch the Carsons salesman had soberly sold us – a cushioned definition of middle class status -- had to be replaced, defiled by the piddle of an aging poodle and the rigors of seating a family for a decade and more. Wary of the upcoming college tuitions for two daughters, we happened upon the Sale of the Century. A sleeper sofa and love seat for just the price of the love seat.

Bam! We knew what we were needing and didn’t want to waste more time. We were (once again) in a sleeper sofa state of mind. But it was never really a part of the family. The girls went off to college shortly after, we had the dog put to sleep, and another attempt was made at redecorating the room. If more than two or three welcome and pampered guests felt the unyielding cross rail of that sleeper sofa in the middle of their backs, I would be surprised.

Now it is a half-dozen years later . . . we are a little older, not a whole lot wiser. The latest sleeper sofa sits in the wrong room, crammed between two other sofas that do belong there. At its most narrow point it is 30.5 inches wide. The doorway to the room in which it belongs is 29 inches wide. The couch won’t get smaller. The door won’t get wider. The apartment conspires against the delivery.

So we called Dave, and today Dave came by. Big guy – the kind of guy you see at fire stations and loading docks. He has found a way to make a living in what trendsetters call a niche market. He takes furniture apart, squeezes the parts into the room where they belong and then reassembles the parts. He works seven days a week.

“No problem,” Dave said as he ripped the staples out of the sofa’s rich backing material. “We do this all the time. It’ll be good as new. I promise.”

He and his partner wasted no time, went right to work, and within 15 minutes the special order couch, the most expensive sleeper sofa of our lives, was sawed apart and lay in large sofa chunks in the right room. Another 20 minutes, and the thing was reassembled and sat submissively where it belonged.

Big Dave, smiling as he took the check for 125 bucks, said, “See. I promised. Good as new. We do it all the time. Armoirs, dining room tables, you name it.”

In a lifetime of believing the promise that is never kept, we finally found a guy who could make the promise, cut it in pieces, and put it back together again. Good as new.