Chapter 9 – The sofa man & his Mercedes Luton lwb (2007)

You’d think they’d plan it really…..measure their sitting room, look at how wide the front door is, see if the windows can be removed, actually put a bit of thought into it, but they just don’t.
We arrive, unload the sofa and then there’s this pause and someone always says
“It didn’t look this big in the shop”
Well, of course it bloody didn’t……the shop’s the size of an airport hanger and then we all stand there, me, Mikey the lad, the buyers and maybe a friend who’s come to help and if we’re really really lucky and its that sort of a neighborhood, we might get a helpful neighbor too.
To an extent,these, the spatially challenged, are not really a problem, well only one of logistics and a bit of paint scraping, furniture rearrangement.
At least they want the sofa, are motivated to get it into the house. We may be defeated, but its not through lack of trying,just their complete inability to operate a f – ing bloody tape measure.

I can usually tell by the time we’re parked up if there’s going to be a problem, weirdly shaped front doors, narrow staircases, steps going nowhere in the middle of houses. I’ve got a bit of a nose for it really, I can spot an issue before it happens and sometimes i can even have the solution all planned out before i even leave the cab or I know its a non-runner, put on the corporate Sofas R Us face and tell Mikey not the take the cellophane off.

Its the ditherers and deceivers I don’t get,I mean, why go to all the hassle of driving to some out of town shopping experience, trail round a furniture warehouse, bounce and climb over 30 sofas and then when finally after a 3 month wait on the very day it arrives, stand on your lawn,the ditherers always have lawns and usually nasty little yappy dogs, look at your husband, best friend, whoever and say
“I’m not sure about the beige stripe”
For Fucks Sake… have that conversation in the bloody warehouse, not wait till you’ve watched a fat sweaty bloke and a white lad with half hearted dreadlocks wrestle your sofa out of the van.
Company policy is clear at this point,mostly because our company is run by a mad ex-hippy who wants to give a new age shopping experience to the confused of middle England. so, we get to your door way or even beyond and you decide you don’t want it, well, we’ll take it away and just charge you the delivery fee.

Which in real terms translates into me & the boy lug the bloody thing out of the lorry, let you dither about a bit and then we lug it back on the lorry and then , tip=less, we drive off, a stupendously f- ing waste of time.

The deceivers are something else, the woman and lets face it, its nearly always the woman, has bought the sofa and neglected to mention this or the credit agreement or the real price. We turn up, bloke sees the paperwork or the surprise sofa and goes mental
“that’s not f-ing coming in here”
“I’m not f-ing paying for that”
“Over my f-ing dead body”

Sometimes, me and the current lad, wander off, cuppa and a sneaky smoke and when we come back, they’re still at it and these situations can get really ugly. we’ve had women lie on the sofas, refuse to move, blokes try and pick then up single-handed. You can’t always tell how those ones will play out, but more often than not, the sofa stays and we get off.

Today, we’ve got one delivery, back to the depot and early finish. The band are playing tonight, need to get home, get my head down, get set up for a big night.

We’re parked up in a Sainsburys car park, bacon cob, latte and kitkat for me, vegetarian sausage for the lad. He’s reading a book, he reads a lot of books, but I don’t hold it against him, makes him a good conversationalist , he knows a lot and he’s pretty good at lifting sofas.

I’m staring out of the window of the cab, sort of aimless, not really with it, watching this bloke, this learner driver make a complete pigs ear of a reverse park, in, out, in, out. It sort of reminds me of a really old joke, something about up and down more times than somebody’s’ nightie, but I cant remember the punchline, so I don’t bother sharing it with the lad.

Its a bit weird seeing someone that old learning to drive, he must be 50ish, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that age, well actually, that’s pretty near my age, but not to be able to drive. I watch him for a bit longer and then I lose interest, give my attention to the bacon cob instead and its a good one, plenty of bacon, butter not marge and proper ketchup, not some budget wannabee. I’ve eaten a lot of bacon cobs over the years, first with the band and now of course with the bloody sofas, reckon it could be my specialist topic on mastermind, mind, you’d have to posh it up a bit
A history of porcine portable catering…. I get a sudden picture of me, sitting in that black chair, Levellers t-shirt, head freshly shaved and I actually make myself laugh out loud. The lad looks at me and he laughs, cos I’m laughing and we sit there, both laughing and neither of us really knowing what the other is laughing at and that’s when i get the idea, cos I want to keep this warm happy bubble and i just happen to have the exact perfect thing to keep it all going in a little plastic bag in my jeans pocket and yeah, I know its stupid and dangerous and could probably cost me my job, but fuck it…. its Friday and whats the worst that can happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some skag head, I work hard, pay my way, but sometimes you just need to do something a bit mad, remind yourself you’re still alive and I am currently in possession of 4 tabs of very good, very pure MDMA, old school E, a gift from an old friend who’s coming to see the band tonight.

I look at Mikey, I know he’ll be up for it, he thinks I’m an old git, that I don’t recognize the stink of super skunk off him some days, he’s in for a bit of surprise, there’s still some life in me.

I get the baggie out, rustle it to get his attention, he’s like suddenly very alert, he knows what comes in little bags, so I show him, don’t say anything and just smile and hand him a tab. We look at each other, grin and neck them.

And then we get business like, pull out the dispatch note, check the address, fire up the satnav. I reckon we’ve got 20 minutes to get there, drop off another bloody sofa and find a lay-by before we are seriously shitfaced.

We pull out of the car park and we’re off, miss satnav says the journey will take 10 mins, its all good. I dig around in the pile of CDs, find some Aphex Twin, good trippy stuff, pump up the volume………..two tracks later and I’m starting to come up, fingers tingling, mouth dry, I look at MIkey, see he’s with me…..we’re off……

Miss satnavs voice is beginning to mix in with the tune, i’m looking at my hands on the steering wheel, white fingers against black steering wheel, I’m having to really concentrate on driving now, body swaying as the truck moves, I’m feeling at one with the wheels….I could drive forever and ever and ever.

Mikey’s leaning out of the cab, waving at people, it’s nice, some of them are waving back and I’m letting the swat nav take charge, control the journey, we’re in her hands and that’s how we arrive at 21 The Copse, it’s magic.

We sit in the cab for a few minutes, gathering ourselves and one part of me knows that this is the strongest E I have ever had and that actually we are in big trouble, trolleyed with a furniture van half in, half out of the very neat graveled drive of this very neat 5 bed roomed executive house, but the other part, the E’d up happy smiley shiny side is thinking give these people, these lovely people their lovely sofa, make them happy, share the love.

I send Mikey up to the front door cos he seems to be more together than me and I, with an enormous effort, go round the back of the van, I get a bit sidetracked looking at my reflection in the mirrors and really reading the little sign stuck on the back of the lorry, for a few minutes I wonder how courteously I actually drive and I start worrying, but I’m an old hand at this……………….not going to let this trip go bad.

The hydraulics make a lovely whooshing noise, its so good that I have to press the button again.
Mikey shambles back, huge grin on his face
“yeah” he says “they want the sofa and their front door is really, really wide” and he laughs.

We rely on body memory now, moving the sofa off the lorry, lifting it carefully, so, so gently onto the lawn. It seems to sink into the grass as if its always been there, looks quite perfect. Mikey begins to unwrap it, lovingly, draping the plastic and gaffer tape over himself, a rustle y toga. I run my fingers over the sofa, warm, soft, it’s a big furry cuddle bunny and I need to wrap myself in her, feel her embrace. i lie down, careful to remove my shoes, and rub my face against the cushions.

Mikey is entranced by the swirling colors and for a while or maybe forever we stay with the sofa, keeping her company.

The lovely people who will be her new family are standing in the garden now while Mikey tries to explain how the sofa wants to live outside, the conversation becomes quite complicated and I tune out, I can still hear the Aphex twin underneath the shouting and I’m trying to stay with that……….

Time passes and the people go away and its just me, Mikey and the sofa, actually, that’s not true because when I look up, there’s a little old lady, really bent up and frail and she’s staring at us through the gate, so I smile and Mikey smiles and after a little pause, she smiles back and we lie back on the sofa and she stands at the gate and we’re all smiling at each other.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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