My mother doesn't buy a lot of furniture, but when she gets a vision, watch out. "What we need is a microwave cart. That would free up the counter and solve all of our problems." "If I had a desk in my room, I could put all that stuff in there and it would solve all of my problems." "If we had wheels on the coffee table, we could move it out of the way and that would solve all our problems." (Let me tell you -- wheels on the coffee table was a stroke of genius. And making my hope chest -- or, as I like to refer to it, my hopeless chest -- into a mobile hope chest/coffee table hybrid was super genius. I can't believe we beat IKEA to the punch on that one.)
I don't remember what it was exactly that my mother was hunting for last fall when we went to the furniture store, but rest assured it was something we couldn't possibly go another day without. (Except we didn't buy anything that day, so I guess we could.) It was a slow day at the store, so the minute we walked in, the owner was on us like flies on honey.
At first, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Furniture Store Guy tried to sell us furniture -- pretty par for the course. My mom perused her options, but was ultimately uninspired by their offerings and unswayed by Furniture Store Guy's sales pitch.
Sensing that we were ready to leave made him desperate. "Let me tell you about the remodeling work we've done in here," he started, not really giving us the opportunity to "let" him do anything. Ten minutes later, when we saw an opening, we made a break for the stairs and got back down to the main showroom...only to be cornered a second time before we could make it to the door. "Hey, let me tell you about what's under the suspended ceiling in here..."
My family attracts these people. You know the type. The type that can't stop talking. And they don't want to talk with you, they want to talk at you. Wherever we go, the talkers find us. Grocery stores, bus stations, public restrooms. I don't know what it is that draws them to us -- do we look especially friendly? gullible? lonely? -- but once they pounce on us, they talk us into submission and we're too meek and polite to just walk away. We nod, smile, respond with variations on "that's interesting," and wait for it to be over.
So that's the tactic we took with Furniture Store Guy. Just let him spout off about the original light fixtures and the water damage from that rainstorm a few months ago until he's spent, then dash out the door. We knew the drill. It would all be over soon.
But then, my mother made a critical error.
Furniture Store Guy: "Hey, want to see my apartment in the back?"Apparently the hundreds of hours she's clocked watching Dateline: NBC and 48 Hours over the years have taught my mother nothing about the folly of following weirdos back to their apartments.
Mom: "Oh, sure, that sounds interesting."
Grimacing all the way, I followed my mother as she followed Furniture Store Guy back into the bowels of the building, winding past the water cooler, the break room, and the teensy-weensy model rooms crammed with too many ottomans and davenports. Finally we came to a couple of rooms that had pretty clearly just been built in the last few months -- the place still smelled like drywall and fresh paint. "Yeah, me & my ol' lady are splitting up, so I'm spending some time here now," Furniture Store Guy told us as he led us around. The place was the very picture of a depressing, forty-something-guy-in-the-process-of-divorcing man cave: nothing on the walls but a Sports Illustrated poster of a chick in a bikini, an unmade king-sized bed in one corner, a drum set in another, a hastily-erected bar with empty pizza boxes on top and a mini fridge with a half-empty carton of beer cans next to it filling up the center of the main room.
It wasn't giving off a serial-killer vibe -- it was more like the loneliest dorm room ever.
Then things got weird.
"So, what do you do for fun?" Furniture Store Guy asked me. I knew he was asking me, and not my mom, because he was staring at me like Toivo the Wonder Cat stares at his food dish.
"Uh...not much," I responded, half out of not wanting to give away my general whereabouts, and half because my definition of "fun" probably didn't mesh up with his. "Hang out with friends, make stuff, nothing too exciting."
"What about the nightlife? Which bars are the best?"
"I honestly have no idea -- I don't really go out."
"Come on, a young thing like you -- you must go out!"
By this point, my skin was crawling and I was having a hard time suppressing a bad case of the giggles. I looked over at my still-somewhat-oblivious mom and made a big deal out of gesturing at my watch -- "Yeah, well, we should probably get going..."
"Well, if you're ever looking for something to do, I'm up late -- just knock on the front doors and hey, bring your friends by, we can hang out. I can play my drums for you!"
"Okay, I'll keep that in mind." I headed for the door and my mom followed, still chattering away. We wove our way back out to the main showroom and had almost made it to the door before he got us again.
By this point, I just wanted out of there. He kept talking, and my mother kept letting him go on -- I kept inching toward the door. I looked down at my watch and we'd been trapped for an hour. An hour! This had gone on long enough.
And then: he put his hands on my shoulders.
I don't think he had ill intent -- I would hope he was just attempting to be friendly and not a perv, though the way he came at me, I think he was going for a faux-neck rub maneuver -- but holy shit, nobody touches me. Especially not random strangers in the furniture store. Anyone who's known me for a long time knows I'm not at all comfortable with that -- my personal bubble is the size of Montana and if I'm cool with you getting inside of it, I'll let you know. But there came Furniture Store Guy, barging in with his creepy hands and his creepy goatee. Not cool.
Finally, my mother caught on to what was happening and why I'd been acting so uncomfortable. "The expression on your face was priceless. PRICELESS!" she said after-the-fact. "I wish I'd had my camera along."
I wiggled out of his clutches and grabbed the door handle. "Oh, you're leaving? Well, if you need anything else, come back anytime!" he called after us.
Needless to say, I haven't needed anything else, and haven't gone back. Like I said in the beginning -- the furniture store is supposed to be a place where we solve problems, not a place where we acquire new ones.