When I started this blog a few years back, one of the first things I wrote about was the pleasures of curbside shopping. I still get a thrill from discovering a discarded treasure, but today’s story is about the other side of the equation. Like the Cryptkeeper, I will now share with you one of my darker and more frustrating journeys into junk! I like to think of it as Tales From the Cupboard–The Armoire Affair.
One beautiful fall afternoon I suddenly saw an amazing treasure on the side of the road. A giant armoire free for the taking. Its primary virtue– its sheer capacity to hold things– would also prove to be its primary fault. The thing was big, it was heavy, it was a solid piece of furniture–and impossible to move by myself. But it was also PERFECT! I had been looking for a large hanging cupboard for the crafty daughter’s room, as her tiny closet could not hold her love of dresses and skirts. This piece had been painted white, had that shabby chic feel to it, and had a shelf, a long rack for clothes, a full mirror and a tie rack. It was the score of the decade.
Assuming, of course, that I could get it home. I don’t have a truck, most of my friends have back problems, and my immediate family is not inclined to encourage my junking habits, so I would have to pay to move it. But, I figured, it was worth it for such a great piece. Unfortunately, no junk haulers were available. I couldn’t even find a hand truck to rent and time was ticking away. The longer the armoire sat on the curb the more likely it was that someone else would come along and snatch it away.
I went home and rummaged through our meager tool shed ( our basement) and found a very small wheeled base that attached to a large bucket. I ran the few blocks to the armoire, gently tipped it on its side so that it would balance on the base, and saw it promptly slide ride off. Several scrapes and bruises later I managed to balance it on the base only to find that I couldn’t possibly guide it down the street on my own. Fortunately, a group of painters took pity on me. First one came over to help, but given the size and precarious nature of my treasure, he called over two of his buddies. The five minute walk to my house took more like twenty minutes. I swear that all three of them grew increasingly fearful as they noticed that every house on my block had steps leading to the yard and then more steps at the front porch.
I couldn’t do that to them, however, since they were refusing to take any money for helping. Instead, I raided the fridge for beers and soda and wished them well. One guy said it was his good deed for the day. If only I had realized what would come next, I would probably have wished that they had refused to help!
Mind you, I was excited—I ran into the house, got some old painting tarps and draped them over the steps and began the slow process of inching the armoire onto my property. Angle, twist, turn upside down, angle, twist, turn right side up, sliding and pulling and grunting and groaning till I got the beast onto our front walk. After showing off my prize to my neighbors( I was really really proud of myself) I repeated the process, using the tarp and some muscles that I didn’t know I had to inch and turn and position the armoire onto the porch. I knew that I couldn’t get it into the house and up the steep flight of stairs to our second floor without professional help, so I situated it nicely next to the front door.
That was October of last year. My husband thought my treasure was ugly. My daughter pretended at first to like it but confessed to my mother, who was visiting at Halloween, that she hated it but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I came to the sad realization that I would have to let my treasure go.
And here is the dark side of junking. Part of the pleasure I derived from the armoire, and virtually every other find of its kind, is the story of discovery. I loved that armoire because my efforts to get it home made a good story, something that became more and more a sort of personal quest with each retelling. So no way was I just going to pay to have someone hall it off. That would mean my treasure cost me money, and my personal quest was a defeat
I tried to sell it. I tried to give it away. No one wanted it. And the armoire stayed on our front porch all winter long. I tried again in the summer– nothing. Finally, in August, on our anniversary, to surprise my husband, I reversed my slow and painful process of easing the armoire to a new place. Down the steps, across the yard, and down the steps again, to the curb. I knew someone would want it. But it sat there for days and no one took it. We could tell that a few people considered it– we would come home to find the doors open or the armoire moved ever so slightly, but still no takers. A friend suggested someone who refinished furniture. She was interested but wanted pictures
This is when it gets ugly. I dutifully took pictures from all angles but in doing so stepped back right on to a small manhole cover ( a water main access cover) which gave way,plunging me into the hole. My right leg was in the ground up to my thigh, the metal cover was jammed between the edge of the hole and my leg, while my left leg was turned at a funny angle on my knee. I was stuck, I was in pain, and it was all because of the blasted armoire.
I got myself out of the hole with no major damage–just muddied and bloodied and ultimately all for naught, as the potential recipient declined the armoire as too big and too much work to refinish. My very sore knees were a reminder each time I went up and down stairs that I had failed. I needed to admit defeat and pay to haul the beast away. Just in case, however, I did a curb alert under free stuff on Craig’s list. I mean there had to be someone else in the city who saw the beauty in this beast. More days passed, and then I received a text asking about the armoire. When I got home, someone else had taken it. In the end not one but two people saw the armoire as an object of desire.
Vindication! Jubilation! But I have learned my lesson. I will not haul something home without a specific plan. I will not haul something home if I can’t get rid of it easily. I will tell myself that nothing is free if you must pay to haul away. And, I will not become so enamored of a story that it blinds me to the ludicrous fact that I had an armoire on my front porch for 11 months.
But you know, just the other day I saw some vintage filing cabinets on the side of the road. I bet they might fit in my car and therefore none of the above applies. Right?