Every once in awhile, I fear I’ve got a tiny problem with impulse control.
It manifests itself in different ways, but usually involves shopping and money. I’m usually pretty good at watching my spending – 36 years being married to the Curmudgeon will do that – but there are times when I just want to let loose and buy something without agonizing over it.
Our family room couch is 30 years old, and no longer practical. A 6-foot-long camel back, it’s a glorified love seat, big enough to accommodate three seated souls or one person (usually me) stretched out to watch TV. I realized its limitations when my son’s friend came over to watch a football game: we needed to haul in a chair from the living room so he could sit down.
It’s well made, solid and comfortable enough that we reupholstered it once, swapping its original flame stitch for a more neutral blue chenille. But it’s served it purpose, or should I say time? It’s tired and worn, flecked with fabric pills that I remove with a disposable shaver before company arrives. It’s also sheathed in dog hair, proof that yellow Labrador retrievers shed all year and no amount of vacuuming or lint rolling removes some fur.
I mentioned the need for a new couch and a flurry of post-holiday furniture sales to the Curmudgeon, and was told to forget it. But then I began to make mental notes of times that he’s splurged without telling me: the night he pranced in wearing a new tuxedo that he never mentioned he bought, or the expensive tennis stringer he bought for our son.
I then considered a few major home improvement projects that were entirely his idea: the kitchen remodel and the conversion of our screened porch into a year-round sun room. He initiated both projects, which have made our place much more comfortable. But I was supportive. I had no objection to overseeing both projects and supervising contractors.
So I gave his objection to a new couch very little thought. In fact, I ignored it. Sometimes, a wife must take matters into her own hands for the good of the family room.
I enlisted the help of my son to measure the room and the existing couch – a mere 6 feet from arm to arm. And then we measured one side of the room where two striped over-sized club chairs currently sit – about 8 feet. I planned to replace the couch and chairs with an L-shaped sectional to accommodate more people, or as my friend Beth would say, to facilitate “flopping.”
I don’t love sectionals – they’re big, bulky and tend to dominate rooms. But they’re practical when it comes to seating large numbers of people. My mom has a half-circle sectional that seats about eight or nine people and still has room for her dog Maggie. She got it about 35 years ago, long before the dawning of the sectional craze, and it’s served her well.
We have an L-shaped sectional in our sun room that comfortably accommodates my son and about six or seven friends who come over to watch football games. Guys never seem to mind piling together, no matter how old they get.
I went to Raymour & Flanigan, stepping into the furniture giant for the very first time and tried to get my bearings. I quickly asked to be pointed to the sectionals and began inspecting them for style and comfort. Regrettably, most were leather or microfiber behemoths, reminding me of why I don’t really love sectionals.
But then, over in the distance, I spotted the Corolla, a sectional sharing the name with a Toyota and a comedian named Adam. Low slung, sleek and modern, the Corolla is a modular sectional that allows you to pull it apart and arrange pieces any way you want. This is a nice feature for someone who has trouble with commitment in the best of circumstances.
I sat in the corner of the Corolla and put my feet up, asking my salesman Chase about various options. As we chatted, I asked Chase about his weirdest customers, thinking I might be among them. Not even close, he resassured me.
His oddest customers were a couple in their 40s who insisted on making out on every couch that they tried out. They’d sit on the couch, start snuggling and then got busy, trying to reenact what they do on their couch at home. I guess Chase was lucky that they weren’t shopping for beds.
I wanted a chaise at one end of the sectional, but it was impossible because of the small space. So I decided on a large ottoman that could be moved around, or entirely out of the way if need be.
Chase crunched numbers, and then told me to take a seat. He told me he wanted to see if he could get more off the price, disappearing behind a glass wall. I was suddenly reminded why everyone hates furniture shopping: it’s one step removed from car shopping with the negotiating, haggling and promise: “Let me see what my manager can do.”
Chase and his manager Bruce came over and slashed an additional $300 off the price of the sectional, and then Bruce said he could take $20 off the ottoman. I told him to forget it. The nearly $400 cost would put me in the danger zone with the Curmudgeon. I could get away with a certain amount of craziness, but even I know when I’m pushing it.
I’d watched my Dad use this strategy with car dealers – replace the cloth seats with leather at no cost and we’ve got a deal. A seasoned negotiator from Brooklyn, he relished bargaining and was usually pretty successful. But Bruce just stared blankly at me when I said to forget the ottoman.
“OK, then just get the couch,” he said. “You can order the ottoman at some other time and just take it home in your car.”
So much for my negotiation skills. I guess it’s apparent to everyone that I don’t buy big ticket items too often and am a pushover when it comes to deal-making. But that’s OK.
The Curmudgeon is thrilled with the new sectional, proclaiming it perfect after settling on it for the first time. Even better, he didn’t have to spend time furniture shopping, something he deplores more than most people.