I was spending the afternoon with my good friend Donna. We had nothing in mind except for having a little mindless fun.
As we drove along a street in a heavily commercial Austin neighborhood, I noticed a store I hadn’t been to in more than a decade. An expensive furniture store that was having a big sale. Sold! I veered the car into the parking lot and Donna and I went in.
All the sale merchandise was lined up on the parking-lot level, decorated with big discount signs. We wandered around aimlessly, weaving a path through couches and end tables and lamps, strewn carpets and large vases. Salespeople were gathered there with big, cheery smiles on their faces, but it was late and the day was hot. They were also fanning their faces with some of the discount fliers.
“You see anything you like?” I asked Donna. Of course, she didn’t and neither did I; we were the salespeople’s basic nightmare — bored and haphazard gawkers who kept our purses closed.
But we were already there, unloaded from the car, so we went inside the store — up flight after flight of stairs, all carpeted in heavy oriental designs. That was when I first understood what I’d missed in my 10 years’ absence from furniture stores: Furniture has grown alarmingly in the past decade.
Couches were as big as tennis courts — massive, in fact. You could put an entire kindergarten class on any one of them and the kids would disappear into the folds. Beds, too, were massive — so tall, you’d need a ladder to get onto one, so broad you could roll over and over for days before you fell off the other side (the old kingsized bed has now become the California king, it seems). One immense number, composed of two queen beds, could have served a whole slew of sister wives.
Every horizontal surface teemed with pillows and cushions (which made me think of my husband, a man with a vendetta against multiple pillows. This has become a stress factor, given there is no way you can have a house staged and on the market without investing in an armada of pillows. “I hate pillows!” my husband screams at least once a day, hurling an armful of them across the room.)
Donna and I traipsed up and down stairs, pushed through endless “bedrooms” and “family rooms” and “dining rooms.” The more I looked, the smaller I felt. I’d come into the store a normal size, and 20 minutes later, I’d begun to feel tiny. Could that be the point? Could today’s furniture on steroids be addressing this country’s little image problem with our obesity epidemic?
“Who buys this stuff?” I kept asking Donna, who continued to tell me it was bought by interior decorators with unlimited budgets for homeowners with McMansions to fill. By this time, she and I had taken to poking each other and giggling as incoherently as two small children. What can you do but act immaturely when the world makes you feel tiny?
We traced our steps back to the parking garage, where the discounted furniture languished and the salespeople looked up hopefully. Every step closer to the car, I felt myself growing taller and more normal-sized. Goodbye to munchkin status. I was ready to rejoin the real world.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite rants about how the capitalization of a certain profession is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!