It was my first official piece of furniture purchased for my new apartment in Park Slope. Two overweight deliverymen, breathing and sweating heavily, carried it up the four flights to my apartment on the top floor of the Brooklyn brownstone. That's when they found that the angle of the doorway and the large wooden banister, made it impossible to get the couch through the entranceway to the living room.
"Maybe if you tilt it towards you a bit more," I offered, as I watched in disbelief. A measly inch was all that prevented my sofa bed from reaching its final resting place. The men ignored me. I looked away from the rear cleavage staring me in the face as they contorted their bodies while maneuvering the sofa bed. Each time they tried a new position, I thought, this is it. They have it now. But after twenty minutes, the couch still remained stuck in the stairway landing poised over the banister.
My landlady, Angela, who had been working on the floor below, came out to offer suggestions. "Maybe you should have them take it back," she said to me in a half whisper.
"I don't think I can even if I wanted to," I said. I bought it from the Bloomingdale's Warehouse. It's a final sale."
I was starting to panic. The deliverymen had given up and were looking to me for an answer. "Well, whaddaya wanna do here?"
"See if you can get it in that room," I pointed to the spare room that was on a different angle than the living room, and crossed my fingers.
So that's where they left it. It was my problem now. I thought buying furniture was supposed to be fun, a happy experience, like those Ikea ads on TV. Everyone's laughing and collapsing on the new couch, kicking their legs in the air and hugging each other. I could do that too but it would be a little tough; with the sofa bed sitting against one wall, the only thing I'd be kicking would be the opposite wall barely five feet away.
Before they left, one of the deliverymen handed me a card. "Call these guys." I looked at the card. "Unique Furniture Service. No Sofa Too Big, No Door Too Small."
I made an appointment for the following weekend. I was standing at the window where the couch should have been, when a beat up Ford pulled up in front of the house. I was expecting something more--a van at least. Out hopped a man, with a round face and black mustache, and a short woman with long reddish hair and stretch pants. They looked at the number on the brownstone and headed up the steps.
I showed them the problem. I wrung my hands nervously, offered them a drink, not sure what to do--did they need my help?
"Oh no," he said calmly. "It's nothing. It'll take about an hour. You relax."
Relax? On what? They were about to dismantle my $900.00 couch.
I sat in the kitchen and flipped through the Village Voice looking at the furniture ads; nice little wooden chairs from Gothic Furniture; small futons that, with a little help, I could probably carry up the stairs easily. No, I had to pick a massive, corduroy covered, big, comfy-armed couch with sofa bed to complicate my life.
I went back to the spare room to see how they were progressing. Tacks clattered to the floor as they yanked and pulled what had securely held my couch together. It was painful to watch. They didn't seem to notice me. I went back to the kitchen.
A few minutes later, I jumped at the sound of sawing. It sounded like it was coming from my spare room. But that couldn't be happening, could it? I ran back to see the man, his booted foot braced on one side of the couch, using a hand saw to cut the wood of the frame. What was he doing? Converting it to a love seat?»
"I don't want the couch smaller," I said.
"Oh no. This is what we do. Then we put it back together. Better than before. You'll see. We used to use an electric saw but it scared too many people. Now we use a hand saw. It's a little harder but not as scary."
I looked over at the woman who was smiling at me. I hoped she would tell me if her partner was actually some frustrated upholsterer who enjoyed sawing people's new furniture apart. I could just hear her saying, "It's a problem he has, but I love him. He's working on it in therapy." I gave her a smile and returned to the kitchen once again.
A half hour later, there was the couch, situated where I originally pictured it, under the windows, home at last. I sat down on it cautiously.
"You don't have to worry," the man said. "It's strong. Good like new."
I paid him $150.00 cash, they gathered their tools, and I walked them downstairs to see them out. "What happens when I need to move?" I asked them.
"You still have the card?" he asked.
"Good. You hold on to the card," he said. "We come, we take it apart, we move it for you."
Two and half years later, I broke the news to my landlady that I had decided to move in with my boyfriend in his apartment in Prospect Heights. "I'm really happy for you," she said, "but I'm going to miss you. You brought a lot of good energy into the house."
I gave her a hug. "Thanks Angela. You know I'm going to miss you too."
"Hey, speaking about bringing things into the house, what are you going to do about the sofabed?"
"No problem. I just need to contact the people that moved it in to move it out." Ugghh! The sofabed! It was like a ball and chain keeping me prisoner. I had to find that card.
I hurried upstairs to my apartment and began rummaging through cluttered drawers and shoeboxes where I kept important papers that I imagined would someday come in handy. It amazed me how much I managed to accumulate in two and a half years. I sifted through old receipts, recipes, addresses for people I couldn't remember, and old bills until I finally found it. "No Sofa Too Big, No Door Too Small." It was becoming my mantra. I dialed the number on the card praying that they were still in business. Please tell me there are enough short-sighted people in this city to keep them sawing brand new furniture into pieces.
"Hello?" I recognized the woman's voice as soon as I heard it.
"Yes, hello. I need to have my sofa bed moved to another location," I said.
"Okay, no problem. When is good for you?"
It was that easy. $225.00 cash to dismantle, move and reassemble in the apartment of my choice. After all this time my "deal" of a sofa bed had become an investment. One last time, one more trip. After this, no matter what became of my boyfriend and me, my relationship with my sofa bed was going to be over.
When the time comes, and I know it will, whoever rents our apartment gets a comfy, corduroy sofa bed in a lovely shade of moss green. I'll hand them the card for "Unique Furniture Service" when I hand over the keys. "You'll need this," I'll say. "Enjoy."
Unique Furniture Service
"No Sofa Too Big No Door Too Small"
Ask for Edith or Lionel