My Week 11 – The Smelly Chair

Friday: I worry that my love of a good deal can sometimes be a problem.

I love a bargain. We all know how K gives me a dirty look at the grocery store when I buy 30 rolls of toilet paper to get the extra points. And I only ever buy something from Lancome if there’s a “gift with purchase”, which means that I have more eye make-up remover and sample size mascara than I could possibly use in one lifetime. But sometimes, my love of a bargain has its downside. Well, downside mostly for Ken:

Me: I need you to go into Ayr tonight around 7 o’clock.
Ken: What? Why?
Me: I bought a 7 foot column.
Ken: What do you mean a column?
Me: You know, like a pillar. It was a really good price.
Ken: What do you want it for?
Me: I don’t know yet. But it’s awesome, and I told them you’d be by around 7. Here’s the address.

And the column WAS awesome, even Ken agreed. Right now it’s in the corner of my office, but one day, it will be used for something really cool, like a super-tall pedestal for a bust of Shakespeare, or to hold up a low ceiling or something. I do this to Ken all the time, and I’m glad he’s the kind of guy who sees into the future for this stuff. Last week, I made him go and buy a vacuum cleaner hose for the upstairs of our central vacuum cleaner. He gave me a hard time, which is par for the course, but he later agreed that for $30, it was worth the drive to Cambridge so that he didn’t have to drag the downstairs hose up the stairs anymore. See, I’m always thinking of ways to make his life easier.

I’ve gotten many amazing bargains over the years, but I’ve learned some lessons the hard way. Like, don’t buy furniture from chain smokers. About three years ago, we were looking for a certain kind of chair for in front of our fireplace. I was on Kijiji, and I saw the perfect chair: dark brown leather, tufted back, recliner—perfect for Ken after a hard day, and very match-ey with the rest of the room’s motif. So I called the owners, and arranged to go and see it. When I got to their house, I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette smoke. I looked at the chair, which was gorgeous, but told them I’d have to talk to my husband first and would let them know (because I didn’t want to buy it, but also didn’t want to be mean to this nice old couple who were, apparently, well on their way to lung cancer). Well, when Ken saw the picture of it, he fell in chair-love. “Their house reeks,” I said. “It’s leather,” he replied. “We can just wipe it down.” Well, OK then. So we drove back out, paid for it, and loaded it up. He kept saying things like, “See, it’s not so bad,” to which I would reply, “It’s on the trailer and I can still smell it.” We got it in the house, and it looked amazing. “See,” said Ken, “it’s perfect. And it hardly smells at all.” So we went to bed that night, feeling pretty good about our great deal. Then in the morning, I came downstairs. My living room smelled like a BROTHEL. I kid you not, it was like a bunch of emphysemic wenches had set up shop in front of my fireplace. The chair spent the next three days out on the front porch.
After three days, we brought it back in. It became immediately clear that the problem had NOT been solved, so out came the leather cleaner and the Febreeze. For those of you who are aware of my obsession with the wonderful world of Febreeze scents, this is where it began. Day after day, I cleaned and sprayed that damn chair with a variety of floral and geographic scent-sations. One night, Ken was so simultaneously sad about the smell, but happy about the comfort level of the chair that he spread a blanket over the entire thing to mask the odour and fell blissfully asleep in it. At this point, I realized that no matter how much the chair smelled, Ken loved it like a child—a smelly, poorly behaved child—and I could never convince him to part with it. Over the years, the smell has faded to the point where it’s barely detectable, unless it’s particularly warm and damp outside. And we still call it the Smelly Chair. But it was a great deal, and if nothing else, I’m all about a bargain. Just ask my students, to whom I was bragging the other day that the sweater I was wearing cost $129.00 in a boutique I’d been in on the weekend, but I had found it for $6.99 in a consignment store. “What’s a consignment store?” they asked. When I told them, the general consensus was that it was a little strange to be happy about wearing someone else’s clothes, but I assured them I had washed it first. And then I reminded them about the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and we all agreed that it was awesome.

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