Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Didn't See This One Coming

I spend a lot of time in thrift stores. They are an excellent source for materials to be refinished and up-cycled at prices that allow me to make a bit of money, but not have to charge my customers an arm and a leg. Now while thrift shops may be exciting to me, especially when I find a true diamond in the rough, they generally do not max out my tolerance for mayhem.

Enter last Thursday and Friday.

Last Thursday I was D-O-N-E with everything. With artists, with my life, with the barn sale -mostly the barn sale- so I decided, "That's it! I am outta here today" and I left for Maryland. Isn't that where everyone goes when they are sick of being in charge of their barn sale?

source for flag pic

My particular reasons for this state being my choice involved it being the location of a particularly intriguing thrift shop, whose ads I had been watching on Craigslist all summer as I searched for pieces for my dining room. One of their most recent postings showed a short wooden filing cabinet, just perfect for my office desk redo.

That's right! I am making myself an office! It sounds so official, doesn't it? The office of CM Shaw, Artist and Director of Branches: the Barn Sale Without a Barn. Woot. My parents even "invested" in my company and sent me money for a new computer!

Here is what I am currently working with. Don't you love the phone books added to level the different heights of the filing cabinets?And the dent that makes it hard to open the rickety filing cabinet? And the floppy disk era computer that I am currently using?:

Hence the need for a new filing cabinet. And a new computer.

Still, I digress. The need for the filing cabinet was my excuse, These guys always have great deals on furniture, the good stuff, antiques, mid-century pieces, you name it. So I went up to check it out.  I walk in the door and the first thing I see is this:

(Obviously, I had to retake these photos. I had big plans to use the Craigslist photos taken in the shop, but due to technical difficulties, you'll have just pretend these first few are in a thrift shop)
Pretty isn't it? Solid wood, obviously well made, gorgeous lines, classic style that will never be outdated. This table is the reason that I go to thrift shops. There are just gorgeous, well made things there, things I could never afford otherwise, waiting to be discovered and taken home. There was only one problem here. I have a dining table. Now granted, it's not the one I want it to be, but the Amish have that one right now. At least until I can cough up the $2700 it will cost to have them make it for me. And the one I do have was a freebie hand-me-down from a friend who felt bad for me when we moved into my house and didn't have any furniture (or money to buy any furniture) in my dining room. And it works fine, even if doesn't match any of the new stuff I have added this summer.

So, I did something unusual for me. I used my "pause" button. You know, the thing you develop after years of getting unhappy looks by your husband for doing all kinds of insane things that no reasonable person would ever be tempted by? Like bringing home 6 bags of used and antique books and 6 lamp shades because you suddenly decided that you wanted to build book lamps? You know what I am talking about, right? So after years of my husband giving me his "Really?" expression as I walk in the door with totally unreasonable amounts of stuff, I have developed a "pause" button. I stop and think, " this purchase going to get me the 'Really?' look? And if so, is it worth it?" This usually pulls me far enough out of my fervor, that I can make a more rational decision about the whole thing.

In the case of the table, I thought of a hundred reasons why I shouldn't do it, bought a pretty federal style mirror to chalk paint and my filing cabinet (for $7! after a buy-one-get-one-half-price deal), and quickly left, before I weakened.

Aren't you proud of me? I was SO proud of myself. I even called my husband when I got home and bragged about my "pause" button induced self control. And then I started to crack.....

I told my friends about the table. What it looked like, how much it cost, what I could do with it...

And then I pulled up the listing on Craigslist. It was even better than I remembered.....So I sent the listing to my sister and my best friend, both of whom live in other states, (but neither in MD), just so they could see what I'd left behind. And I went to bed.


My first thought when I woke up was "I have to have that table!" I checked my email and saw that both my sister and my friend had said, "Ummmm....You need that table. GO GET IT!" So I gingerly walked up the stairs and asked my guy what he would do if he happened to come home to a new dining room set.

He looks at me with this very patient expression and, thinking out loud says, "Now you know that you are going to be talking to all your friends about this table. And then you'll want to tell me all about the table again, and then, if it sells, you'll be all sad about someone else getting 'your' table and this will all go on for weeks.....So it seems that I will suffer far less if I just tell you to go get the table. Frankly, I really don't have an opinion one way or the other. Happy table shopping Honey." My sister's comment on this conversation was "He has obviously lived with you for a very long time."

So I immediately called the thrift shop in MD and asked them to put it on hold, which they agreed to do, for 1 hour. Well, it takes almost an hour to get there if traffic is even marginally slow. And DC traffic is always at least marginally slow. So my business partner, Sharon and I took the seats out of the van at lighting speed and blazed up there as fast as our little tires would take us.

As we walk in the door-and I am not making this up- one of the store employees is eating their lunch on MY table. She is sitting about 18 inches from the shop's glass front door, eating something out of a bag and some Tupperware. She doesn't even budge as I start climbing under that table to look for cracks and damage. And two little ladies were sitting in MY chairs, sorting scarves at the other side of the table. Keep in mind, the store manager knows we are coming. Right on cue and to his credit, he walks up and says, "Um...someone has this on hold until 12:30." I smiled brightly and said, "That's me. Thanks for protecting my table" and continued climbing around, turning over leaves and sitting in chairs, just to be sure this table was worth the fervor it was putting me through. "Lunch lady" still keeps eating as if no one else was in the room.

The manager finally had to tell her to move when I asked to see how the leaves fit and to see how smooth the table mechanisms worked. Oh baby! They were like butter. And worked off a gear and teeth made of steel. Love it! Obviously, this was the table for me. And then I looked at what was written on the wood below the gear, "Ethan Allen." Score! Beautiful, functional, well made and originally expensive!

So we close everything back up and the little ladies look up and go, "Are you going to buy the chairs?" I said, "Yes, I think they are included in the price of the table." And the ladies went back to sorting scarves. I wandered around the store for a few minutes, as it was "buy one get one half price," to see what my half price item would be. When I walked back by the table again, the ladies asked me again if I was going to buy the chairs. "Um....yes, they go with the table" I replied, for the second time. I smiled politely and went to find Sharon and to keep looking at stuff. I thought long and hard about this gorgeous Wedgwood dish set and an empire dresser. But there was damage to the veneer on the dresser and I have no idea how hard dishware is to resell, so they stayed at the shop for some other lucky girl. The only thing I could find that I could justify getting was a $4 turned wood candlestick. What a waste of a good buy one get one deal, but it couldn't be helped. As I am walking up to pay for my candlestick and table, one of the little ladies walks up to me and says (and I am totally not making this up), "So will you be taking the chairs?" At this point, wondering if I am being punked, I smile at the lady, assure her that yes, I would be taking the chairs momentarily, and quickly sprint to the register to pay and tell Sharon that I am loading up the stuff.

The table weighs a ton, so they had to call the a guy from the back room to help bring it out to my car. As I pull the 20 ft or so to the loading area, I hear this odd grinding noise and notice a slight tilt to my car. I get out and go around to the side where I heard the sound, and my rear tire is completely flat. I'm talking "down to the rim" flat. This what not what I had expected would happen.

The manager quickly pointed out that right next to us was an Advanced Auto Parts store and talked about "fix a flat" in a can. I had never heard of this product, but was game for anything that would get us back on the road, so I bought a can to try out. Sharon and I took turns holding the knob down for the 10 minutes it took the stuff to empty into my tire. Then we started talking about our options. This whole time, Table Guy is trying to impress Sharon with his private DC high school education and his dedication to the Redskins, rather than helping us with the flat. Ultimately, we decided that while, this spray stuff would be good for short distances on local roads, we had to go 60 miles on high speed, high traffic freeways, and would be better off using my full size spare.

Just as we found a lug nut we couldn't seem to get off, up walked a friend of Table Guy's who happened to know his way around a car. He popped that last lug nut off in 2 seconds and put the spare on for us. We thanked him profusely as he helped Table Guy load the huge table into the car. He disappeared before we could tip him, like magic, when we went in to get the chairs. 
 Once everything was all loaded up (and thankfully, it all fit!), we headed for a gas station to give the spare just a little more air. The road we took was a different one than we had come on, and while we did find a gas station with an air pump, we also managed to get lost while trying to find the freeway. Lucky for us the neighborhood we were in was full of all these grand old houses. So we enjoyed the view while looking for the freeway. Just as we found the road we needed and headed into the turn lane for the freeway on ramp, Sharon at me and said, "Where are the leaves for the table?" We quickly got out of the turn lane, and headed back to the store. Thank goodness we were still only about 5 minutes away.
As we walk into the shop, the manager, who is in his cubicle on the phone yells, "Thank you so much for coming back!" Obviously he has been stuck with other people's leaves before. The little old ladies had found themselves some other chairs and were sorting again. They looked up and said, "Oh, we were going to remind you to take those." I wonder if that was their subtle vengeance for me taking away their chairs?
By this time, Sharon and I were bursting out in maniacal laughter intermittently. It was 1:30pm and way past our lunch time, so we stopped at a local kabob place and chowed down. During our meal, between uncontrollable fits of laughter, we decided that this was the most mayhem we could have at one time and still think was funny while it was happening.
You'll be happy to know that the drive home was completely uneventful.
And the table looks amazing in my dining room.


  1. So, just to be clear, you took the chairs, right? ;) What a fun adventure.

  2. Your table is beautiful! It totally fits your "new" room!