Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Got Furniture?

Have you shopped for furniture recently? I have, and because it’s been many years since I last had the experience of looking for bedroom furniture, the experience has been eye-opening. I mean, not as in ‘eye, opening’ like a trip to the optometrist, but we can talk about that later… This is about a trip to the furniture store, --er, stores.

My current mission, long overdue, is to find a new set of bedroom furniture for my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU) and me. Ours has been in service for too many years to admit here in print (but it rhymes with ‘shorty’), and yet it doesn’t have enough character to qualify for antique status. I guess we could continue to use it till we’re carted off to the nursing home, but where’s the fun in that? We’re hoping for another twenty to thirty years before that happens, so at this writing we can still justify the upgrade. Let’s face it, if we wait much longer, there will really be no point. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

Let me first explain that while this decision will be made jointly, CoTU is firmly, unconditionally and immutably dedicated to the principle that I should do the research, the fact-finding and the narrowing down to the top three contenders in the BFD (Bedroom Furniture Derby), at which point he will deign to enter the process and cast his vote. He likes to say that we are equal partners, but I’m pretty sure that he holds the 51% vote, and mine is 49%.

So off I went to furniture store number one. I wandered in on a snowy Saturday morning and was immediately accosted greeted by a lovely young woman, tastefully dressed, who offered to help me. I stammered, my mouth went dry, and I squeaked out the word ‘bedroom’. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but she gracefully directed me to the appropriate part of the store, which is to say, everywhere.

I quickly caught on to the concept: if bedroom furniture is interspersed with living rooms, dining rooms, game rooms, etc., every shopper is forced encouraged to cover every square inch of the store. You might talk yourself into buying something you weren’t even shopping for. Hey, I GET marketing.

I started around the perimeter of the store, and felt like Homer Simpson, muttering, “Ooh, pretty!” and “I like it, I like it!” to myself. I found several sets to my liking, and they were more or less in the price range CoTU and I had discussed. I was off to a good start.

I exchanged BFF necklaces phone numbers with the saleswoman, and she gave me a catalog of the store’s wares, website information, prices, sale prices, and a recipe for Huevos Rancheros. Kidding.

On to store number two. Only a few blocks from the first store, and all the furniture was in the same price range, but no one offered to help me. I swear, I was still in the exact same clothes, driving the same car, but these people had officially declared me persona non grata. In store number one, as I moseyed around, occasionally another employee would politely inquire as to whether I’d been helped. I refrained from telling them that nobody needed more help than I did, which I think is worthy of some note. But in store number two it was a different story…

Still, not one to hold a grudge (hah, yeah—right!) I perused the entire store and made a few notes of a couple of distinct possibilities. I even pulled my camera out of my purse and photographed the key pieces in question. I’m not about to cut off my nose to spite my face.

Upward and onward, let’s see store number three! A fine gentleman offered his help and gave me his card. A good start. Unfortunately their bedroom sets fell into three basic categories: No, Hell No, and Not Without a Court Order. Even the one or two that appealed to me on a design level, failed the aesthetic test when I got up close and personal. Bummer. Although, let’s face it, when you have fewer choices on your list, the actual decision is (at least in theory) easier to make.

Have we bought the furniture? Not yet, but at least there’s a list of five sets that are in the running. When I cull it to three, set up my Excel spreadsheet for CoTU, and establish a plan for relocating the decrepit set being replaced, we should be within 90 days of making a decision. Hey, as long as we beat the nursing home pick-up van, I figure we’re okay…

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is It Spring Yet???

Like most Americans, I’m tired of the cold weather. Yes, it’s only the middle of January, but I’ve had enough. Enough of super-cold temperatures, enough of the snow, ice, freezing rain (how is that different from ‘sleet’?), wintry mix (whatever that means) and slippery pavement.

Add to that the fact that my car’s heater is less than spectacular, and I am getting downright cranky. My car’s just five years old, and it’s a pretty luxurious model of its manufacturer (let’s just call it the Reliable), but the heat it produces only spews well from the dashboard. If I want my feet warmed up, I’m going to have to buy some electric socks. If it weren’t for the heated seats, I’d have turned into a human ice sculpture long ago.

I’ve asked the service manager if he could check to see if there’s a problem with my duct work or the air flow. He just shook his head and chuckled, “That’s a Reliable for ya… Never enough heat on the feet.”

Great. Why didn’t they tell me this before I bought the car? I guess they’re not known for telling you the downside of their product—who is, for that matter? But for several months a year I have to check my toes for frostbite at the end of the day.

Anyway, my Reliable went back to the dealer last week for some routine service. Its 60-month checkup is scheduled to cost more than the first car I bought. Way more. Add to that the fact that it needs new rear brakes, and we are talking some serious money here.

When I scheduled the appointment, they offered me a loaner car, which I cheerfully accepted. I didn’t expect a Mercedes, a Lexus, or even a Saab, but I guess I was surprised to be given a soup can on wheels. Let’s call it a Klunker. I believe in calling a spade a spade.

It is small, which is not a problem. I’m pretty sure that if you tried real hard you could fit two of these Klunkers into my Reliable. Not that I’m about to do that, but I think if you were in a Mercedes dealership, these might be over in a side lot with a sign that says “Take One”.

While I was waiting for the loaner, I was thinking that I should have asked for something that had the electric seat warmers. Then I thought, it’s only for a day or two, and it really won’t matter. Mistake.

Not only does this car not have seat warmers, it doesn’t have automatic door locks. I believe the last time I had to reach around the driver’s seat to manually unlock a rear door, Jimmy Carter was running for President. This doesn’t sound like a heinous burden, but my back has been acting up, and I had errands to run, and this business of back and forth with unlocking and locking doors was not helping.

The Klunker has an FM-radio, and the wipers work. When the rear window was fogging up, I searched in vain for a rear-window defogger. Yeah, right. I’m lucky I’ve got a rear window, let alone a defogger.

On my way home the first day there were such loud rattling sounds that I considered pulling over, getting out, and looking under the car for some extra tin cans that might have been coming loose. I was too cold, and decided to tough it out.

I mean, just to tell you how cheap this car is, the manufacturer’s emblem on the trunk lid is made of Legos. Well, not the real-deal Legos—more like the ones you would find in the dollar bins at Target. Cheap. Because when I say “Soup Can on Wheels”, I’m not talking Progresso soup. I’m talking store-brand, generic, plain-label soup. In a thin tin can.

So I’m into my fifth day with this car (3-day weekend at the dealership) and I’m still unaccustomed to coming home and having to lean in, reach around, and yank the lock to open the back door and take my things into the house.

But I will say this: that heater works like a dream. Maybe they can keep the Reliable a few more days—just till this cold snap ends.