Friday, January 07, 2005

Misunderstood Desks (part 1)

If you wanted to rough somebody up, you could send Tony Soprano. If you needed some muscle to make your point, you could maybe send Lucy Lawless. If you need someone sweet-faced to deliver flowers to your grandmother, then you could send my brother Ben or me.

Physically imposing, we are not. We’re both tall enough—Ben’s just under 6 foot—but people tend to mistake us for smaller and younger than we are. Scrawny-armed and narrow of shoulder, we’re often described as skinny, lanky, or slight. We are freckle-specked. We are baby-faced. We are, in the words of an elderly friend, “a couple of tall drinks of water.”

We also do not care to be underestimated.

My brother Ben is my kindred spirit. Although he does not like to be told so, he is the sister I never had. I’ve adored him and felt totally connected to him from the moment he was born, and there is no other family member who means as much to me. So I was pleased as can be when, just after my divorce and his college graduation, Ben came to Minnesota to live near me.

Ben has few material needs. The joke in our family is that if you give him $300 in June, by December he’ll still have $250. He moved to Minnesota with a minimum of possessions — just a futon and a suitcase of clothes. All he really needed was a proper desk. So we began scouring the city’s thrift and antique shops, in search of the perfect piece.

I would not have picked it out. (Probably I had been imagining older and darker wood.) But Ben recognized it as the right desk right away. It was a ‘60s-vintage, and was in some ways quite traditional, with one over-the-lap drawer and three vertically stacked drawers on either side. But each of the drawers was outlined in three-dimensional, faux-bamboo accents, as were the legs and back of the matching chair. And the entire desk had been brushed with pale-white paint, flecked with the occasional highlights of lemon and gold.

We had never seen anything quite like it. And that, of course, was part of the desk’s charm. It had been marked down from $200 to $120. The price tag represented an enormous splurge, but Ben decided it would be worth it. The desk was sturdy and well-made and, after weeks of searching, Ben was feeling very committed to it. Delivery would cost us an extra $40, which was irksome, but necessary. We blanched a little at shelling out that kind of cash, but were otherwise giddy, the desk mission accomplished.

I wrote the check. I remember that because, as I signed it, the antique store owner informed us that we would owe yet another forty dollars – this for a “truck loading fee.” I thought at first he must be joking. He and his assistant had just lugged the desk to the front door, and had exclaimed about how heavy it was. The desk was a great deal heftier than it looked. Ben and I had briefly tested its weight, and quickly assessed it as both solid and unwieldy. But yet another forty dollars? Eighty extra dollars to transport a desk just half a mile up the street? I felt we were being suckered, and said so, as politely as I could.

“If you want the desk, you’ll pay the fee,” said the shop owner. “Because, obviously, you can’t carry it off on your own.”

Okay, that sounded like a dare.

If only we hadn’t parked the little Jetta right outside the shop’s plate glass window. Ten minutes later, Ben and I were doing our best to play it cool while the shop owner and all five of his employees gaped at our progress. Fueled either by indignation or pride, we’d managed to hoist the desk, upside-down, to the roof of the car. The many drawers and chair we’d tumbled, Testris-style, into the trunk and back seat. Now we were placidly (or so we hoped) lashing the desk in place with rope. “Tie the knots tightly,” Ben smiled through clenched teeth. “The last thing we need is for this thing to come crashing off as we make our getaway.”

Ah, the getaway. Knots in place, Ben and I grinned triumphantly at each other across our upended treasure and each grabbed for a door handle. Alas, in securing the desk to the roof, we’d tied all the doors shut. Through our frozen smiles, we may have managed a curse word or two.

Fortunately, the two tall drinks of water knew exactly how to salvage the situation. We are children of the 80s. We know our Dukes of Hazzard. We leapt blithely through the car’s open front windows and drove away, cackling at our own surprising aplomb.


At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AWEsome. I'd start practicing that move myself, but my car has frameless windows (so I could open the door anyway). Actually, I did succeed in loading nearly half a ton of composted soil into my car at Home Despot last year, much to the amazement and admiration of the entire nursery staff (I drive a MINI Cooper). Don't know if I could manage a desk on the roof, though. Good job!

-- Victoria

At 9:38 AM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger What Now? said...

Lovely--these are great desk stories! Does Ben still have that desk?

At 11:10 AM, Blogger jo(e) said...

Oh, what a funny story. And you tell it so well. I laughed aloud.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Nels said...

And then what? And then what? More!

At 2:37 PM, Blogger anbruch said...

Ah, the old rope-the-doors-shut trick—one of my favorites. This was great. I about died laughing.


At 7:19 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

If anybody needs YelloCello's little sister, she'll be on a barstool trying to reclaim her masculinity.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Manorama said...

Ha! I love it! You really do have a special knack for telling stories :)

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Quit Smoking said...

I am looking for ideas to start my own blog about ebooks and you have give me a few ideas. Thank you. Good blog. I will check it each week.


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