Buying a couch should be simple

For the past week and a half I have looked at every sofa on Craig’s List plus visiting live stores looking for “the” sofa for the production I’m doing props for. Some things I have learned.

  • There are more ugly couches than attractive ones.
  • Brown couches tend to be leather.
  • There are a lot of ugly couches.
  • Moving a couch can triple the price.

Last week Rob and I picked up a $50 couch that we hoped would be “the” couch for the show. It was battered, already had an iron mark burned into the arm. It seemed perfect for an extremely poor bachelor’s apartment.

It was too long.

So, I started looking again. Today, I found one that the designer “loved, loved, loved.” The catch? I had to buy it today. Gah! So I took the train out to Queens to look at it.

This was, by far, the longest amount of time I’ve spent underground since coming to New York and perhaps ever. I think it took me two and a half hours to get there on three trains. No, four trains. One train had interupted service so I had to take an express past the point I wanted to be and then double back to transfer.

I arrive. The man I was supposed to meet is gone but his mother is there. Unfortunately, she speaks Russian and has about as much English as I have Mandarin.

I point. “Sofa?”

Her face brightens. “Sofa!” And then she calls her son. He talks to me, asks me to hand the phone back to his mother and he translates. She says something and then hands the phone back. He translates again. This goes for a couple of cycles.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that the sofa looks too big. He’d said it was about 6′ but it looks bigger. I foolishly forgot to bring the tape measure, so I use a sheet of paper to estimate the size. Looks like it’s over 7′. The director wants 6’4″.

I call the designer and explain.

He says, “Are you sure?”

I say, “Pretty sure but I was estimating. Hey– there’s a hardware store in front of me, want me to get a tape measure and go back?”

“Could you?”

So I go back and attempt to explain to the mother. She sees the tape measure and seems to understand. I check and the sofa is 7’2″. I sigh and pantomime that it is too big. She looks heartbroken.

The son had said that they were moving tomorrow.

I leave, call the designer and report.

“7 foot 2?” he says. “How deep is it?”

I’m caught off guard. I was expecting us to be sad that it was the wrong size and then have to keep looking. “I’m not sure. Do you want me to go back?”

He says yes, so I do, trying to figure out how to explain to the mother why I’m back. I ring the bell and a man answers the door. Hallelujah, he speaks English! I measure, talk to the designer who looks at the ground plan and declares that the sofa will fit. Yay!

Because, I’ll tell you, if I had taken that subway ride out for no reason…

The ride back only took an hour and a half.

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

6 Responses

  1. -d-

    40′ from a galloping horse: Couldn’t you have cut a section out of the 1st sofa – in less than 4 hours?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      We talked about that. Unfortunately, this is a small house and the sofa is on stage for the entire show. It’s the main set piece. It would be stationary long enough for it to look like a stage sofa.