“Couch v. Man”

Unfurnished apartments in Germany come equipped with next to nothing. That means no closets, no kitchen sink, no cabinets, no oven, and no refrigerator. So, mostly it means empty rooms. The bathroom, however, does come with your standard European toilet, shower, and sink.

I’d never valued the presence of a toilet so much in my life until I came to live in Germany. The absence of all major appliances in my apartment for almost two months forced my unlikely bond with the shitter. Another choice was the shower. But I tend to fancy a staunch flushing mechanism over a cheesy detachable nozzle any day.

And just when I thought I was becoming accustomed to all the different rules and cultural norms of my new land, I was pleasantly surprised once again. Furniture delivery day. I had to carry—more like push, drag, pull, and cajole—a six-and-a-half foot couch up two flights of stairs alone.

A few days prior, my wife and I bought some furniture at what was presumably the cheapest store in all of Frankfurt. With only a scratch here and a nick there, we felt pretty darn good about signing ourselves up for a quick delivery on the coming Thursday. But, alas, the furniture would arrive at one in the afternoon on a day that felt like hot soup.

“This is gonna be fun,” I thought to myself while peering out my apartment window. Outside, a run-down orange box truck circled the resident parking lot. Within seconds, my sneakers were halfway on my feet and being worn like slippers. I clumsily shuffled out the door and hobbled down the stairs. Two Hispanic German guys soon greeted me outside, where our incoherent communicative exchange immediately began.

I mostly pointed in every direction and the Hispanic Germans mostly complied. They brought the couch, a solid wooden bookshelf, and three boxes of an unassembled entertainment center into the front walkway.

Nummer zwei, bitte” (number two, please), I said to one of the guys, then pushed the building door open and motioned upstairs in the most confident of manners. Neither of them came inside, though. As I stood there, carefully holding the door wide open as if it were a safe deposit box full of rare coins, I wondered, “What’s going on here?”

Now fixated on their every move, I zeroed in on the bigger guy, who was seconds away from failing my pre-judgment-based-solely-on-looks screening. But before I could stereotype any further, my suspicion suddenly grew exponentially, when I discovered that they were strategically piling all of the stuff up against the building.

“Alright,” I whispered to myself, with the notion that “I got this one, no problem.” Despite hearing the door close behind me, I held my hand out to my side as if introducing a dear friend. “Entschuldigung!” (Excuse me!) I said rather loudly, and then, clearing my throat, pointed up at the building.

“Twenty euro,” one of the guys said. (Every time you try to speak German to a German, they’ll try to speak to you in English if they know you can hardly speak the language. And these guys were supposed to be Mexicans.)

“Floor 1 … ten euro, floor two … twenty euro, floor three … thirty euro.”

“No way,” I murmured. “Only got five euros on me,” I thought. Besides, the stuff isn’t supposed to be just left outside. ‘Hello? I’m home, right here!’

I started to curse loudly under my breath, just like I’d done many times back home in America. My eyes darted back and forth at the ground, my face became flushed, and sweat began forming on my brow and at my temples. I could barely look at these two guys now. A good Charlie Horse to the arm would do the trick if I were a kid. But no. Instead, I stood there, frozen, and wearing only a polite frown.

They left everything outside, thanked me, and went on their way. And like a lonely child, I watched their truck leave the area, callously deserting Am Nonnenhof (street name) and creating a faint, yet almost cinematic-like dirt cloud in the process.

In moments of distress, I tend to pace a lot. This time was no different. Despite knowing full well that I would eventually have to deal with what laid before me, I paced the area for what seemed like an eternity. It was as if time had been suspended before I finally stopped and did an about-face, so I could sneer at the yellow concrete façade of the apartment building, with the dark-colored oak furniture and beige fabric sofa neatly lined up against it. And I remained there, an angry man—in the company of my own misery for a solid three to five minutes.

I dialed my wife at work.

“Hey, babe,” she answered.

“Get home.” I wasted no time saying things I shouldn’t have said. “What kind of country is this?” She gave me the loud-tone, nervous whisper:

“I can’t leave work."

“What if it rains? I can’t leave everything outside for the next six hours. And how are you going to help me carry a couch up the stairs anyway?”

I told her I had to go, then decided that I needed to do something about it. Immediately!

For almost an hour and a half, I methodically planned and carried out one of the most irksome furniture-moving experiences of my adult life. It was even more treacherous than the demolition job I assisted a friend on in Cambridge one summer, which involved some quirky guy collecting junk on the premises all afternoon (never did I know his association), and my friend’s reckless father, who spent half the day inside a dumpster located directly below a two-story window, from where we launched desks, chairs, and couches that came within a foot of his head.

I sweated, cursed, squirmed, and squabbled while carrying a heavy-ass couch up two flights of stairs. Propped it up, pushed it forward—with a comforter underneath—pulled it back, slid it on the floor, and did just about anything else I could do. Fortunately, nobody came up the apartment building staircase to witness my struggle with the formidable beast.

On one occasion, I swore the couch was going to bully me back down the stairs and land on my chest. As I pushed it up the stairs with all my strength on that humid day of annoyance, I could feel the blood rising again. And that’s when I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. All I could think about was my wife coming home to find a large, heavy couch resting on my frail body, as I lay there lifeless from a ridiculous one-man furniture moving experience.

About an hour or so before she came home that evening, it started to rain. Which got me thinking: sometimes, you know, we may just need those unfunny challenges. So, yeah, I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad it worked out okay.

“But what is the moral of the story?” I would go on to ask myself, as I often wondered why life throws curve balls at you when you’re not even looking. And whether or not it’s a lesson that makes any sense, I try to find the meaning in it anyway. So, for this story, I thought of a man. I thought of survival. And I thought of victory. Which leads me to the following message that I can proudly approve: The next time you're feeling down and out, try transporting a couch up a flight of stairs by yourself. It’ll do wonders for your ego.

Comments

Do the unfurnished apt's that you speak of have hook ups for people that can get there own appliances? No kitchen sink? No cabinets for food? Is this the standard?
That’s right, just the hookups and a completely bare kitchen. Most people go to IKEA to buy cabinets and install them themselves, like we did. Then of course a fridge and oven/stove are bought. It’s not uncommon for people to sell their kitchens upon moving, like we did, disassembling everything!
 
Sofas I've Gotten Rid Of Thankfully

There was a time when I owned no sofa......young and limited income, I moved too often, and lived on used furniture far too long. But I have upgraded. Right now, the used sofa I am lying on was handmade and its grey linen.

A sofa became available, in my early thirties, in the long ago. My father called. He was emptying out the house of an older person, something was called an estate sale and I abruptly now had a sofa, and an odd device from the 1950s you put cartridges into, which makes bubbly water.

More moves occurred.

After any number of moves, I was now finally in spacious house, but revenue was only just coming in.

Another rumor of a free sofa.

"You pick up"- thats the catch, the warning. If you gotta pick it up.....you were warned.

It was around this era, that I started to put my foot down over this quest for free stuff. But my husband insisted, and got his six foot five weight lifting baby brother to come by, they took my work truck, and came back with the sofa. It was up some stairs, and ropes were required.

Now in my living room, I discovered the classic ugly brown plaid hide- a- bed sofa. The kind you cannot sit on, or look at, ever. And no way can you sleep on one, and the bar hits your back in this perfectly flawed design way.

A conversation transpired, and I made it clear I could not grasp that this sofa liability was retrieved and inserted into our living room.

For five years, that was in my living room and I gave it to the Hound Dog.

Upon discovering that my beloved mother in law had passed away in our home, during her hospice visit, the funeral home was called. I had all the family there, and we'd just lost Eddie. We were so very very sad. My brother in law, the one that retrieved that sofa...my father in law, so very lost.

The funeral director men arrived, they were invited in to my living room, and they were heading straight toward the brown plaid sofa.

"No, no way," I was thinking. These men are in black suits. They are in front of the sofa. The one the dog sleeps on.

No no....I'm internally aghast.

But I"m also processing something that has followed me around for many years.

"Say something".

Is my husband going to say anything? Is my brother in law?

No, they aren't. They both know fully well the dog ended up with the sofa.

Flabbergasted, I leapt up and said very loudly "DO NOT SIT THERE".

The funeral directors, three of them, were bending their knees, and their rear ends were poised to land when my urgent pleadings were heard.

Things like this lead to other things, which in marriages are called brown stamps.

Your hoard them, for some future time, when they might come in handy, if redeemed.

That sofa is a major brown stamp, and redeemable at any time.

Meanwhile, a new sofa arrived. Brown plaid finally found a route to the landfill, and my parents 1962 olive green living room sofa, arrived for my continued use and enjoyment.

The one from the room that was mostly roped off. The one I made out with my boyfriend on?

END of PART 1
 
Its a real burn to inherit your parents 1960s furniture collection.

But my parents did have alot of cool stuff, so Beacons was sent.

Part 2 would likely continue with the inconvenient free sofas.

Having stored the three bedroom house and 1960s Parent collection (full size storage unit) and being homeless for 18 days, we moved in to a partially furnished mountain cabin.

Downsized, and with some wildlife residents as well. The cabin was very leaky.

The landlady's futon sofa, and landlady's ugly big puffy dark red sofa, are stored in the rental. Then you charge somebody else for that same space. Thats how its done. It seems we rented a shed, too. Only somebody else's furniture, had been stored there, for a small fee.

Her adult son sure got mad when I put his king sized mattress out on the deck: please remove.

This brown fold-a couch- yes it was brown plaid too, but not quite as ugly- well that one had an underneath area to store blankets. My friend from Australia loved this free sofa and kept insisting I should get it re-upholstered.

But the wood rat found that and decided to store Prunus branches and leaves there, for later dining.

So we ditched that sofa. The wood rat kept coming back with more twigs (don't ask me how he got branches and twigs inside the house).

At sixty eight years of age, I fully considered purchasing a new sofa. I now am finally in a civilized place. I seem normal.

My daughter found this hand made custom used sofa, grey linen. And now its here.
 
I should write about homeless. I mean, why not? I know what is like to have to decide, whether to pay the rent, or buy food but not both. Guess which you pick?

My Dad's best friend was a "hobo". My father, was what we call a Good Man. He was grateful for his blessings, he appreciated this success he had, but he knew full well what struggles are like.

Frank would come often, for Thanksgivings, and Xmas dinners. There is my little daughter, happy on Frank's lap. Frank, beaming.

I can't explain Frank. Thats the sad part. I regret I fully failed to entirely grasp what this hobo business was about. Trains, moving around, taking odd jobs, being a person leading a simple life. Down on your luck, or your luck is short lived. Living in hotels, the old ones that every town has, wait, its that past tense now? Upstairs in the old buildings.

So there is a story I'd like to tell and can't. But my father- there was going on with my father's inner life, something he did not share with me.

My father helped somebody named Frank.
 
My husband remembers more about Frank!

He did some boxing. He would travel the rails, pick up the odd job. He was not "a bum"..an old fashion perjorative.

My husband hopped onto some moving trains himself, so he paid more attention to that part of Frank's stories. He preferred to avoid Sacramento, the big train hub, and just go grab one, up around Marysville, instead.

My husband said he thinks my father was a little envious of Frank, and this life.
It certainly was nothing like my Dads', going to work six days a week, raising a family. Hanging with my Mom.
 

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