Well, it’s Monday, and as you might guess, my mood reflects it.

Yesterday Art and I hit the malls. It was stupid, of course – a gorgeous, warm, sunny, November day with only six weeks to go till Christmas. What were we thinking?

We were browsing around for furniture. Need I tell you what the malls looked like? As a matter of fact, it was a challenge just getting to the malls. There was traffic, and when we got within a couple of blocks, there were cars snaking down the block for half a mile just trying to park.

But Art is nothing if not determined. We drove around to the less traveled entrances and made our way up to the floors where the air is thin. We boldly walked into The Pit. I can’t really say “boldly”, since it’s more like we had to elbow and jostle our way. There were wall-to-wall people.

Now, ordinarily, I like going out where there are people. I like the camaraderie of it. I like the social ambiance. But this was way over the top. It’s as if we were being herded through cattle stalls.

Our first stop was Pottery Barn. There we had the sense of being in a dream, since everyone looked like us – Middle-aged, receding hairlines, gently expanding hips, Gap-attired, bespectacled, no kids. We immediately saw a sofa that we liked. (It’s scary when they hit your demographic on the nose!) What we did not like was the price. We thought – “Well, this isn’t the only furniture store in the world.”

We tried going to a large showroom for a national furniture chain I won’t name. Much easier to get to. Much easier to park. Much lower prices. Many more selections. Not so many people. Just one little problem: ugly furniture.

So on we intrepid travelers schlepped to Ikea. Same situation with parking. Same (or even more) wall-to-wall people. We were greeted by a vaguely Swedish-sounding fellow at the door, “Vilkom to Ikea.”. Then we followed the herd upstairs to the showroom. We followed the arrows to the sofas. We gratefully took a paper yardstick and a pencil, which they provided, since the size of the sofas was not necessarily marked (or at least, easy to find). However, we noticed that the yardstick was marked in centimeters on one side, inches on the other. It was 39 inches long. After scratching our heads a few times, we just cut off the last three inches and measured in yards. That was easier.

The population at Ikea was distinctly different from the population at Pottery Barn. Ikea people look to be about twenty or thirty years younger than Pottery Barn people. They mostly had small children in tow. The noise bounced off the stark white wall, stainless steel surfaces and unfinished woods, turning into a loud din. Twice we saw sofas that looked promising, but upon closer inspection realized that, 1) they were “oversold”. Translation: Not available in the foreseeable future; 2) they were “unassembled”. Translation: My husband would spend an afternoon trying to decipher the pictographs that pass for instructions and would probably chuck all that in the end, and might have to resort to calling our cabinet-maker friend down the street.

There was one set of furniture that was set up in a little room. I really liked the look of it and longed to sit on the sofa to try it out. However, there was a young couple sitting on the sofa at that moment, so we walked around for about ten minutes and came back. When we came back, the same young couple was still sitting there (catching their breath?) and I decided that I would politely stare them down so that they would move over and let someone else try out the sofa. But it was not to be. They stared back at me with a stubborn look that said, “We were here first. Bug off!”. I finally decided that it didn’t look that good, and my husband pointed out that it was the same company as the one we had seen in the beginning (oversold/unassembled).

Well, we thought we would go downstairs and browse through the bric-a-brac in the basement of Ikea. “This is the real fun part”, I announced. My husband replied, “You think?”. Down we went and as we wended our way through a lot of pillows, candles, throws, strange looking paper napkins, and devices of mysterious purpose, I realized that I was having a déjà vu that went back to my college days. “Maybe I’ve outgrown Ikea”, I mumbled.

On we went to Macy’s, which, it turns out, has a very nice furniture department. Not as inexpensive as Ikea, but not as pricey as Pottery Barn. And you can order a sofa in the fabric of your choice. But thinking harder about it, we realized that – having a cat – we were not going to be happy if we bought a sofa with permanent upholstery. We needed slipcovered furniture (which is what we have now).

We went back to our house. Both of us had the same thought at the same time: “Maybe our old furniture isn’t so bad after all!”

© 2004, Robin Munson

 Category: Robin's Nest

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