Have you ever had one of those days where everything seemed to just go wrong? I have, but that day was not yesterday. It was one of the other kind. Not that everything went well, it just sorted of all worked out in spite of itself. AND it had nothing to do with Walter Matheau.
While the entire rest of the US was busily preparing for the Super-bowl festivities, there I was driving down I405, my wife in the seat beside me and our son singing nursery rhymes in the back. You see we were out on a shopping expedition, and not for beer and munchies. We were shopping for furniture.
Now you might be thinking that somehow, due to some lack of manliness on my part, I was hoodwinked by my wife into setting out on this journey on a day that no man ought to by law be required to do anything but sit in a recliner and shout obscenities at the television. If so, you’d be wrong. The shopping trip was my idea.
How, how could I do such a thing? Easy, I needed a couch. AND not just any couch, a specific couch for a specific purpose, only I didn’t know which couch or where to buy it. If you really want to understand, let me take you back in time a few years. Back to my first days at Microsoft, when I first set foot onto campus and finally realized the Utopian vision to be true; a campus with deep green lawn and pleasant coworkers enjoying a summer’s day; volley ball, soccer, picnics and large water fountain. It was like a scene out of Star Trek TNG. Did I get whisked four hundred years into the future? All that was missing were the sleek unisex jumpsuits. This is the time when I learned that life at Microsoft was going to be something far different than I had experienced before. Work was not going to be days filled with backstabbing government employees that sour at innovation or anyone willing to roll up their sleeves and actually do work. And it was not going to be a warehouse room packed with card-tables and folding chairs, old PCs and bad lighting.
Microsoft just seemed to care about its people. There were new PCs, free coke and offices; offices with doors and at least half with windows. This was so different. Employees decorated their offices, a not just with empty cans and pizza boxes. Back when I worked at the University, any such decorations were extremely frowned upon. It was unprofessional. What if someone where walking down the hall? They might think we don’t do real work here. They might complain.
Some offices were very distinct. There were ones that were decorated up as if for Halloween; Dark tombs with glowing argon, others had painted walls, expensive rugs, lamps and couches; giving the office a comfy homey feel. I liked a lot of them. I always admired the offices with couches the most. I told myself, one day I will have a couch in my office too. Wouldn’t that be great? BUT, I tend to procrastinate.
Well, after nearly nine years the day had finally come. I had recently moved into a new office after my transfer into the c# compiler team. This was a new space, and a new opportunity to think about decorating it. Mostly my attempts at decoration had not gone over well in the past. Somehow, a tiny toy Gumby does not brighten up a room too much. This time I was going to go for the couch. I took measurements. I knew that there was not much space, but if I found the right one, a small two seater, it might just work.
So, there I was on the freeway, heading for Greenbaum’s, my wife’s favorite furniture store. She figured she would look for other items while we were out, so we started there. We arrived during a rainstorm, but we were not deterred. Getting my son out of his car seat was difficult and I got drenched in the process. We hustled through the parking lot to the front door. They were not open yet. It would be another 45 minutes. We should have called ahead. No worry, we hustled back to the car. I got drenched again. We got back on I405 and went in search of another store.
We came to the Costco Home Store. My wife had been wanting to take a look, we’d never been there before. I went in with my slip stick and started measuring anything that interested me. We went through most of the store. There was a lot to like in that store, except not in the way of couches. Surprisingly enough, most of the two-seaters fit my requirements. However, I just did not like them; they looked odd, or they were too hard or too soft, etc. Then near the far corner of the store I found it. The perfect couch. I sat in it. It felt right. I measured it. It measured well within the constraints. I checked the price. Not too bad. Except, there was this one problem. It was out of stock. They only had the display for sale.
Well, I figured I could always just rely on this one as backup. We headed out in search of another few stores. We hit many. I looked at a lot of couches. Strangely, I could not find any couch anywhere else that I liked, and none of them where small enough to fit the space. So, after a lot of hand wringing, I finally decided to go back and get the display model from Costco. It was scuffed, and sat on my who knows how many thousands. But it just seemed right.
We got back to the store. It had already been a long day. Charlie was misbehaving. It was a miracle he lasted as long as he did. I found the couch. It was still there. For a while, I got to worrying that someone else would buy it out from under me, but it was there. I found someone to help me. They checked on the couch. Everything was going well. I took a slip to checkout. They guy at the register did not look pleased.
“That’s not in stock,“ he said.
“I know, its the display model.“
“Well, its not showing in the computer. It must already be sold and waiting for delivery.“
I was shocked. Could this be true? It was the perfect couch, and now someone else owned it. I tried convincing him that it was not sold yet. It did not work. So we left. At least we were trying to leave. I got to the door, and then I thought to go back and find the employee that had helped me on the floor. Luckily, I found her. I smiled when she told me that the register clerk was wrong. It had not been sold. She wrote a note on my check-out slip and sent me back. When I got to the register, the clerk was disbelieving, but she wrung me up anyhow. They sent me to the pick-up desk.
I knew I had to run home and get my SUV in order to haul this couch away. So I need to let the guy at the pick-up desk know that I’d be back in 30 minutes. He looked at my paperwork and tried to convince me there was no such couch. The computer showed nothing. I explained that it was the display model. He shook his head and said that would be in the computer too. I was worried. No one wanted to believe me. Then I heard a noise. Someone was wheeling the couch over for me. It was mine.
I rushed home to get the SUV. I had a plan. I’d get the couch and then just swing by work and drop it off. It was sweet. Id be home and done in under and hour. While I was preparing the car, I had the sudden fear that maybe there was not enough space. I pulled out the measuring tape from my pocked. The clearance was only three feet. Was that enough? I did not think so. What would I do now? I could borrow a friends truck, but that would take a lot of time. My wife took a look and said matter-of-factly, “it’ll fit.“ I begged to differ. There was not enough room. Now, usually I don’t have this kind of conversation with my wife.
Without any other option, I drove back to the store. A couple of stock room guys wheeled it out. I took the slip stick and measured the couch. It would be close. We lifted it up, and I winced. It went in, just barely.
Isn’t it great how things just work out some times.
There were a few more incidents like this as they day went on, and if you read my last post you will realize that my luck ran out later that night, but for just then life was good. The couch got moved into my new office. It fit perfectly. It looks good.
Now I can relax and tell you about my strange dream I had last night. There was Walter Matheau and a psychiatrist.
But I digress.