August 13, 2013

Shopping with men ... the college saga continues

Trip involves one woman, two men and a shopping cart: We were Bed, Bath & Beyond hope.

These days, I’m feeling a bit like Jethro Bodine in the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies. I’m the buffoon on the road, with a stupid grin, driving an overstuffed ve-hicle. First, the complicated back story.

In my last column, I vented about buying my high school graduate’s dorm necessities. The main problem stemmed from my being all female-like as I hit the stores with my son and husband. Picture one woman, two men and a shopping cart. We were Bed, Bath & Beyond hope.

To recap, I wanted every dorm item to be perfect and carefully considered. But the guys were just grab ’n’ go. Towels and sheets flew in the cart — whoosh — without my cohorts checking critical things like thread counts and color schemes. If something was easy to reach it was “good enough.” As I mentioned, I was horrified we ended up with a turquoise shower caddy. My men still think the thing is blue; I still know the thing is temporary.

I didn’t expect this, but now that we’re days away from the big drop-off, the shopping situation has deteriorated even more. We recently learned our son’s roommate is from far away. This in itself was awesome news — my son will have a friend from another region. But I was especially giddy that we’d be supplying the bigger items, because futons don’t fit on baggage claim carousels.

Finally, I thought, a chance to really decorate small living quarters. I was up for the challenge of gathering furnishings in a college kid’s price range. My goal was to get a sleek, Mad Men inspired, armless fold-y couch. Or maybe two smallish chairs. Just stuff that would fit in the hatchback of my non-behemoth SUV.

I should have known better. The moment we left on our furniture quest, it was Code Turquoise all over again. I wanted to do major reconnaissance, like visit at least four retailers with some circling back. The guys informed me they could only tolerate one store, for one hour, with one credit card swipe, and nothing more.

I had no choice but to visit the big kahuna, the airport terminal of furniture retailers. You know the one — that sensory overload circus with accent pillows. We blasted through the automatic doors and headed straight to the advertised student futons. Turns out they were constructed like 1960s aluminum beach chairs wrapped in cheap foam and pleather. (My tailbone hit the futon’s tailbone.) This was not the kind of Mad Men inspiration I was after.

We considered wacky bungee cord chairs or classic bean bag seating, but the way our six-footer flops on furniture, we’d end up feeding the landfill within weeks. So we headed to the clearance section. It was jammed with rows and rows of floor samples, orphaned sectional pieces, scratches and dents. Our hope was to find something sturdy, transportable and cheap.

Boom! In less than 30 seconds, my men zeroed-in on a discontinued loveseat: “This is it!” they both told me.

But we weren’t looking for a loveseat. And this thing was either battleship gray or steel blue. Or both. My eyes couldn’t decide. “What color would you call this?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Dirt blue,” my son shrugged.

I could tell he wanted it. Dirt Blue was also Dirt Cheap, so my husband wanted it, too. They were done shopping.

The loading dock guys wrapped that thing up so well and wedged it solidly into my SUV, but with the hatch remaining open. They zigzagged endless ropes here and there. Shredded carpet pieces were strategically placed to protect the auto paint. It was a packing masterpiece. My husband proclaimed, “This is staying here until college move-in day.”

I gave up. I totally gave up. Now I’ve been collecting other things like rolled up rugs and lamps and jamming them all around the dirt blue loveseat in my rope-wrapped SUV.

If you see me driving around town the next several days, please call me Jethro.

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