The Table Worth 400 Steps

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Tables can have a powerful impact on renters. In the New York Time’s series, The Hunt (about finding the perfect place to live), the December 1st story includes the following part which resonated with me:

“But Ms. Weber no longer wanted to live with a roommate. The light dawned last year when the two bought a coffee table from Craigslist. “My roommate said it was particle board,” Ms. Weber said. “We had to put on a tablecloth or else we would get splinters. It was a dangerous piece of furniture. I looked at my life and I was, like, do I want to be buying a particle-board coffee table with my roommate? My apartment felt very temporary, because I was always waiting for a reason to be more permanent.”

While Ms. Weber’s table arrived at the end of her days as a renter and roommate, my table came into my life at the beginning. This table has history. It is not a family heirloom, yet. When I purchased it five years ago, I vowed to never sell it. Not just any Ikea table, this was my first major independent purchase, and along with that transaction comes the story of how I came to be its owner.

Headstrong and on a budget, I had been cruising Craigslist for weeks in search of a dining room set. After hitting refresh every thirty seconds one afternoon at work, I found my dream table and chairs at a fantastic price. Brand new, the set would cost $250, not to mention the trip to the store and delivery. It was being advertised for $80.  Within five minutes, I emailed the owner, set up an appointment that evening, and convinced a colleague to join me (I promised to have dinner with her afterwards).

When we arrived at the apartment building, I realized I had thought of every detail except to ask if the building had an elevator. I hesitated, should I turn around now? I knew there was no way I could schlep anything down six flights. Against my better instincts, I began to climb the six flights to the top, my co-worker, followed me begrudgingly.

When we arrived at the apartment, out of breath, the owner welcomed us into his apartment. The table and chairs were in perfection connection. I had been hoping this would be one of those I situations where the items looked nothing like their photograph. The seller asked what I thought. I responded that I liked it, but honestly there was no way I could carry this down stairs. To my surprise, he volunteered to help me carry it. I looked at my co-worker who at that point must have felt very sorry for me because she shrugged, and said, okay. I offered the owner ten dollars less because I had to take a cab. He accepted.

With the exchange of cash, we began the descent to the street where I stood on the corner of 1st Avenue and 8oth Street with my hand in the air waving for a taxi (I had not quite yet perfected the method of hailing a cab like a local). My technique revealed my rookie status – at least three cabs whizzed by me.  Suddenly, I was paralyzed by fear, wondering if a car would actually stop. Finally, a driver agreed to take us the fifteen blocks, throwing everything in his trunk (the legs of the chairs sticking out) and part of the backseat (the table was on my colleague’s lap).

The entire cab ride, my stomach did somersaults in fear of being pulled over by the police for unsafe driving conditions. I called my roommate, and assertively requested she meet us outside to help. When we pulled up to my apartment, the driver helped us move the furniture to the sidewalk. My roommate was there to join us to take it to the elevator piece by piece. I tipped the driver generously.

Unlike the particle board table of the featured apartment hunter in the New York Times, this table’s smooth fake wood finish fit perfectly on its own. Six years later, every time, I swivel one of the leaves to expand the table, I recount my table’s history. It reminds me of my first purchase, and when I make a much larger one in the future to have a place of my own, it will come with me.

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