Friday, September 11, 2009

Customer Service

Here's my Customer Service model: I'll do anything for anyone.

I got a call a few days ago from a man who is interested in having a sofa recovered in leather.  Recovering a sofa is a big job, as you might imagine, and working in leather is a specialty act.  But I fear nothing, and frankly, I was feeling a little greedy.  $ure, I'd ab$olutely love to reuphol$ter your $ofa!  So I arrange to go meet this guy at his storage locker in Mayfield Heights, a particularly delightful part of town where they keep the tile shops, Meineke,  Big and Tall,  and strip mall gyms that my sister and I refer to collectively as,  Butts in the Window.

I arrive at the designated shanty town that is Storage Plus, so named because its Storage plus a very dirty feeling you can't wash off.  I drive around to a row of lockers 100-110 to meet my mark.  He is a hard man to miss weighing in at nearly 400 pounds.  His sister is with him. She's just regular fat. He tells me that his locker is upstairs.

Immediately I see a couple of problems. One, how is this man going to get up a flight of stairs? Two, how are the two of us going to get his sofa down those stairs?  Undaunted, I follow him up.

I'll pause here to give you my public service announcement:  People, eat your vegetables!

It took roughly 35 seconds per step for this man to haul himself up to the next level. 35 seconds times, oh, 20 steps, that's what, about 7 minutes? I'll let you soak that in for a minute.

I felt like I should hand him a rope or something, or push from behind.  I'm not saying that to be cruel.  I honestly wanted to help him.  I offered about five times to have him describe it for me, and I'd just run up and snap a couple of pictures. But he insisted.  He was sweetly funny about the whole thing.  Laughing about how he'd lose twenty pounds performing this one heroic act of kinesis. Bless.

So we get up there to his locker which is HUGE and filled with perfectly ordered piles of the most depressing crap you could ever imagine.  The kind of furniture that Minsk housewives would cringe at - brass based tables with smoked glass tops. An entertainment center that covered eighteen feet of wall space.  Toilet brushes in with the suitcases. Shoes on top of dishes. Chairs covered in white vinyl, marbled mirrors, too many vacuum cleaners. An orgy of bad taste and the inability to let go. Somewhere in there was my next job.

But Steve (I'll call him Steve) had to sit for a few moments to collect the necessary oxygen to continue. He did so on a chair so tiny I feared for his safety.  We chatted about the price of leather, and his pending move, a downsizing from a big house to a small apartment, how he was going to get all this stuff in there. About his medical problems and pending surgeries. Diabetes and cats. Cats!  When he thinks of them he asks if I could just take a quick look around for his cat carrier.  Should be right over there, next to the Indians blow up chair. Go Tribe!

I find his cat carrier and hand him a roll of garbage bags he'd been looking for -- for some time, it seems apparent. Then he describes the sofa in greater detail and I go looking for that too. Its black, he says, should be right over there.  I see a few sofas, and quite a few chairs, but no black couch. Are you sure? I'm pretty sure.  Shoot, it must be in the moving truck. The truck? There's MORE?

So we make our way back down the stairs, me with the cat carrier and roll of garbage bags, him with a firm grip on his cane and the railing.  When we get outside, I see the moving truck about 25 yards away.  Steve says he'll meet me over there.  He gets himself into his car and drives over.  It was like a Monty Python skit. He gets in, turns on the car, drives a few feet, turns off the car, and gets out of the car.  I've never felt so young and svelt.

I climb up on the bumper and throw open the rattling gate of the u-haul, which is filled, floor to ceiling, with more furnishings from the home of Edith Bunker. A wall of them, fitted in like Tetris blocks, this way and that, so that there were no crevices, no unused space at all. To get anything out of that truck would mean disassembling a tight cube of despair meant only for its owner.

Steve apologizes profusely. He really thought it was up there.  He feels terrible to have troubled me.  He will call me when he can find his couch.  Really, he's so sorry.

So, as part of my new list of upholstery services, I am also offering getting shit down from high places, Garbage bag retrieval and pet carrier assistance. Free of charge!


  1. "...disassembling a tight cube of despair meant only for its owner"
    wow... thanks jess!

  2. Hope Steve isn't a fan of your blog!

  3. Nester,

    If he is, then I guess I'll have lost the job relocating his banana slings. Alas.

  4. Jennifer tobin haydockSeptember 11, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    how about adding to your list of jobs: space clearer. it's very chic and very Cambridge, MA.....
    as always, love this!

  5. This needs to be worked into a novel.
    The tetris image...your mind is a wonder.