Tag Archives: furniture

Nobody wants to know about your bedbugs

One of my neighbors dragged a mattress out to the curb the other day, and he taped a big piece of cardboard to the side, a handwritten sign in black permanent marker that said: “Do not take! Bedbugs!”


All I could think about was, what the hell man, who goes around town shopping for mattresses on the side of the road? I mean, somebody might take it, and that somebody is probably going to be really down on their luck. In fact, if you’re at the point where you’re looking at a mattress that’s been tossed out to the sidewalk and you’re thinking, man, I could really use this mattress, I’m guessing that you’re not going to be curious about bedbugs, you’re just going to go ahead and assume, free mattress, bedbugs.

So it’s like, what are you doing putting that sign up? You’re not even giving whoever needs that mattress anything to hope for. Because bedbugs won’t necessarily bite you. Every once in a while you’ll run into a coworker or an acquaintance that has the misfortune of landing a bedbug infestation, and it’s always the same conversation, “I don’t know, my wife got eaten alive, but I was fine, no bites, nothing.”

And that’s assuming that whoever wants the mattress still takes the mattress. You’re not thinking about how hard it is claiming a used mattress from the side of the road. It’s like, used lawn furniture, fine, that’s perfectly acceptable. Even heavy furniture, solid pieces of wood type stuff, I’d say that’s all fair game. But couches? Anything with a cushion? No, there’s a stigma attached to all of that stuff, namely, who has been sitting or sleeping on this? What else have they been doing there? And are there bedbugs?

Of course there are probably bedbugs, you don’t need proof. If someone’s throwing away a mattress, it’s because either the springs have gotten so bent out of shape that they’re busting through the fabric, or it’s bedbugs. My aunt bought a new mattress a few years ago, and you know what she did with her old mattress? She gave it to me. I needed a mattress. I wasn’t about to go shopping for used mattresses, because most used mattresses, unless is something that you’re getting from a trusted family member, I’m telling you, bedbugs.

The street is the last place you want to pick up a secondhand mattress. Anywhere else besides that very trusted family member is the second to last place you want to look. Oh, but someone’s offering a lightly used thousand dollar space-foam mattress box-spring combo for a hundred and fifty? Bedbugs. Seriously, save yourself a trip, it’s bedbugs, and the original owners, having just spent upwards of a grand on what I’m sure is a barely used piece of expensive furniture, they’re just unable to come to terms with the fact that it’s been invaded by bedbugs. They’re thinking, “This can’t be. We just spent all of this money. Surely it has to be worth something. Maybe we can get a couple hundred off of someone on craigslist.”

It’s bedbugs. And that guy standing outside of your house looking at that mattress, putting his arms around the sides, seeing if he can carry it away by himself or if he’ll need to get some sort of a rope so he can drag it away, he’s thinking bedbugs too. He’s thinking bedbugs, but he doesn’t care, because it’s a free mattress, and like I’ve already spelled it out for you, he’s not worried about bedbugs, he’s shopping for mattresses on the street.

And so you put this homemade sign up, “Bedbugs!” all you’re doing it taking away this guy’s fleeting hope, not even a conscious hope really, but a long-shot prayer, that maybe this thing doesn’t have bedbugs. And even if it does have bedbugs, maybe it’ll be the kind of bedbugs that won’t bite him. And so when he’s sleeping at night, and those little guys start crawling out of wherever they crawl out of, and they’re walking all up and down his body, they’re not biting him, and he’s not itching, and by the time he wakes up in the morning, they’re back inside however it is they get back inside that mattress. He’s thinking, this is a nice mattress, and I don’t have any bites. Maybe this thing is bedbug free after all. Maybe I hit the free mattress jackpot.

Not with that “Bedbug!” sign, he won’t. And then think about everybody else on the block, they’re all staring out the window, they’re watching this guy sizing up your bedbug labeled piece of trash. It’s like a scarlet letter, you might as well have spray-painted the side with a giant B. The whole picture comes into stark relief, this guy, he’s going for it anyway, and we’re all watching, the pity, the disgust.

Seriously, don’t worry about a bedbug sign. You want to throw it out? Just throw it out. You don’t label your trash bags, “Garbage!” on trash day. If a homeless person wants to look through it for bottles or whatever, it’s just going to happen. You’re not doing anybody any favors. And plus, now everybody knows your house has bedbugs. You think that’s good for the property value? For the other houses on the block? Keep that shit to yourself man, nobody wants to know about your bedbugs.

New furniture

I’d been meaning to get a new couch for a while now. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with my old couch. It was perfectly comfortable. But it’s been through a lot, a few moves, more than a fair share of spills and accidents. My dog came of age with this couch, meaning that a couple of times I’d walk into living room only to find that he’d torn open the fabric and strewn all of the stuffing across the floor.

I did my best to collect all of that cotton and put it back in the cushion, to sew it all up. And it was fine, from a practical standpoint, it was usable. But the lines from my repair job were an eyesore. Also, it used to have an electric chord that would make it vibrate, there was a seat heater I think. I never got to use any of those features because my dog chewed through the wires almost immediately after I got it.

So I made up my mind that it was time for something else. Only, making that decision is a lot different than actually executing a plan, picking out a couch, figuring out how you’re going to pay for that couch, how to get if from the furniture store to my living room. And what was I supposed to do about the old couch? Is it one of those things where I just have to drag it to the curb and wait for it to disappear?

I figured that before I just tossed the couch outside, it wouldn’t hurt to see if I couldn’t make a little money. It had to be worth something. I mean, yeah, it looked kind of beat up, but it was comfortable. It was clean. Maybe a hundred bucks? I took a photo and put it on craigslist for a hundred and fifty, hoping they’d try to bargain me down to a hundred.

I’d act out a little bit of reservation, “Jeez, I don’t know …” making all of these pained facial expressions before I’d cave, “All right … I guess I could do a hundred.” And then I thought, man, maybe I should have put two hundred and have them bargain me down to one fifty. But the ad was already posted, and someone emailed me back immediately.

It was two guys that had just moved to the neighborhood, they stopped by later in the afternoon to check it out. “We’ll take it,” they told me after patting it, sitting on it, bouncing up and down a little. That was way too easy, almost no negotiation involved at all, I totally should have at least tried for two hundred.

But a deal was a deal and they had the couch out of my place by evening. Wow, I thought, that was so easy. I basically went from being overwhelmed with having no idea as to how I’d go about starting this process to standing right here in my living room, no couch at all. This place looked a lot bigger with no furniture, and dusty, I guess I should try and use the Swiffer over this way every once in a while.

Then I wanted to watch some TV before going to bed, but without a couch, I tried using one of the kitchen chairs, a hard-backed solid wood piece. It was so uncomfortable. I gave up after half an hour or so, telling myself I’d watch on the laptop in my bedroom, but I fell asleep as soon as I hit the mattress.

The next day I had to work, so I couldn’t go couch shopping, and it was the same deal the day after that. Finally I had a day off and I went to the furniture store, everything was like a thousand dollars, fifteen hundred dollars. Sure, they had some stuff for a lot cheaper, but everything felt not right, like if I had spent four hundred dollars on a basic model, it would have been a downgrade from what I was using before, albeit a brand new downgrade.

I turned to craigslist, and after weeks of nothing, I found an ad for my old couch. I called up the guys, they said they liked it, but it wasn’t really meshing with their apartment. I told them I’d be glad to take it back, but they wouldn’t budge from the advertised two hundred dollar price tag. I met with them for like an hour, my best defense amounting to me standing around saying, “Really? Come on. Seriously? Two hundred? Come on.” But they were good, I caved. I paid up.

After I handed them the cash, I was like, “Can one of you guys help me carry this thing outside?” And they were like, “Yeah, man, we’ll help you get this back to your old place if you want also, we’ve got a truck. What do you think, twenty-five bucks sound good to you?” And I didn’t know what to do, they got me again, I thought about saying, “Really? For real?” again, but whatever, I just wanted to watch some TV, so I took out thirty dollars. Neither of them had a five to give me change.

My first piece of IKEA furniture

I always sit down to write at my kitchen table. I’m having one of those days where I can’t think of anything to write about, and so I’m just kind of staring straight ahead, past my computer, at the wall. I have this piece of IKEA furniture, it’s a big unit, I don’t even know what to call it really, but it’s like five pieces of wood horizontally by five pieces of wood vertically. So the end result is this standalone piece, with sixteen square shelves. Does that make sense?


It was the first adult piece of furniture that my wife and I bought when we moved in together after college. I felt like such a big shot, such an adult, driving to IKEA, spending over a hundred dollars on something that I don’t even know how to describe, hauling it home, assembling it, figuring out where to put it and what to keep on its shelves.

I used to have this really small two-door Hyundai Accent. My wife used to call it Porky; she came up with this because its short and stout shape reminded her of a little pig. Also she loved how much it drove me nuts to hear that nickname in reference to my car. This IKEA unit, even disassembled, had absolutely no chance of fitting in my car, and only after making the purchase and wheeling it out to the parking lot did we both realize that neither one of us had the foresight to consider how we’d actually get this thing home.

But what were we going to do, return it? Come on, I was an adult now. I’d figure this out. It’s a good thing that IKEA gave out free rope so you could tie everything to your car. I laid the flat boxes on top of Porky, rolled down the windows, and started tying. I don’t know about you, but whenever I need to make a really strong not, I just start improvising. I’ve always found the strongest knots to be the ones where you don’t have any plan at all. You just start looping and pulling and twisting. Any structural integrity defects are cancelled out by the fact that I’ve knotted and reknotted like fifty times. There’s no way that rope is going to come loose unless I cut it.

All the while my wife, my girlfriend at the time, she was like, “I don’t know Rob, we should call my dad. I’m not sure about this at all,” and I was just like, “Be quiet. I don’t need anybody’s help. I’m a man now. I just co-bought a piece of IKEA furniture. I’ll do this myself.” Yeah I was a man. I was cohabitating with my girlfriend. So what if I was too scared to tell my parents that we moved in together? So what if I had them drop me off several blocks away from our apartment in a lame attempt to trick them into believing that we were still maintaining separate residences?

“There we go,” I said out loud, putting the finishing touches on my knot, giving the boxes a couple of pushes to simulate any bumps we might hit on the road, “We’re good.” And then I tried to open the car door, and it wouldn’t open, because I didn’t think about the fact that I had strung the boxes on top of the car, looping through both open windows, effectively tying both of the doors shut.

“That’s OK,” I tried to act all casual, “we just have to climb in through the windows.” And before she had a minute to protest, I picked up my future wife and shoved her through the passenger side window. I can’t believe we made it home without a major incident. Those parking lot simulation bumps weren’t even close to matching the bumps on the road. Every time we made a turn, I had to keep my arm out of the window, providing some support to prevent the boxes from sliding right off. I’m telling you, that rope should have snapped.

We left that apartment after a year, disassembled the furniture, moved into a new apartment, reassembled it, disassembled it again when we left for the Peace Corps, and put it back together in our current residence, where I barely give it any thought as I stare right at while I’m writing every single day. Most everything else that we own is some sort of a hand-me-down. The couches and bedroom set were given to us by my aunt. The kitchen table is from my parents. The TV stand is from my wife’s cousin, the coffee table we found on the street. But this cubby-hole shelf thing, that’s ours. We bought it. We’ve hung on to it, haven’t lost any its thousands of screws every time we’ve took it apart and put it back together.

People knock IKEA furniture. It’s cheap, yeah, but this piece has definitely made up for the couple of hundred bucks we dropped on it six years ago. Right now the bottom shelf serves as a liquor cabinet, the upper shelves are where we store all of our dried kitchen goods. On the top level we have all of our photo books, our wedding album, the now-dried bouquet that my wife carried as she walked down the aisle. It’s such a generic piece of contemporary living, and I rarely if ever consider it as it stands up against the wall. But when I do notice it, when it occasionally pops out of the invisible background of my life, I still get that feeling, those first steps into adulthood. And I can’t imagine my home without it.