My wife Kara and I realized recently that we were living in a house furnished exclusively with hand-me-downs, last-minute dumpster rescues and foldable camping amenities that were never meant to be used in non-s’more settings. The only furniture we’ve ever purchased ourselves has been assembled either with an Allen wrench or the thwacking heel of Kara’s shoe. Our big black couch, the one that spent many a happy decade in my parents’ basement, has become less of couch and more of a big fluffy Habitrail for our ferret. Chopper has dug so many holes in the couch that when the cushions are removed and his head is poking out, the scene looks so much like real-life whack-a-mole that you have to resist the urge to bonk him over the head with a giant stuffed mallet.
Given the state of our furniture collection, Kara and I decided to take our first expedition to a non-Allen-wrench-based furniture store, where we were greeted at the door by Martin the Salesguy in the same way Calvin used to get greeted by Hobbes. After we dusted ourselves off, we quickly learned that salespeople do not at all attach themselves to you like leeches, as you can remove a leech with forceps. And even if you do manage to briefly shake your pursuer, you can’t shake the feeling that they are peering at you through a keyhole in a nearby armoire.
I don’t really mean to give the salespeople a hard time. They do provide the service of offering helpful observations that you, as a furniture layperson, would be unqualified to make. “That’s a couch right there,” they might say. Or, “That’s a table.” Without their help, you might accidentally stuff your dishes into an ottoman or unbutton your pants and sprawl out on a china hutch.
On subsequent trips, Kara and I experimented with different techniques to avoid being assigned a salesperson when we entered the store. If you somehow manage to sneak past the initial greeting by juking and then quickly making a hard turn, you can see out of your peripheral vision that a salesperson has deployed from the mother ship and is beginning to slowly but deliberately orbit you. No matter how quickly you move, they know all the angles to cut off your escape routes. Capture is inevitable.
We have thought about trying to enter the store through the air conditioning ducts, which in the movies are always big enough to crawl around in, but in real life would probably only be useful as a mode of transportation if you happened to be, say, a garter snake. Kara will take issue here with the term “garter snake,” as she prefers to call them “gardener snakes.” You can tell a garter snake from a gardener snake by the latter’s distinctive markings, which include floppy straw hats and tiny little wheelbarrows.
But even if you could crawl through the ductwork and drop down into the back corner of the pitch-black storeroom, as soon as you flipped on the light switch, you’d immediately be tackled by Martin, who would sit on your chest, shake your hand and say, “Welcome to Preymoor and Shenanigan’s! I’m your new best friend. Has anyone told you about our Sizzling Hot 57th Day of Summer Sale?”
You can furnish Mike Todd with an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.