Several months ago I took advantage of the nosediving economy and bought a 50 inch plasma television on the cheap at a soon to be defunct Circuit City store. I had initially planned to get a 42 inch screen but techo-lust overwhelmed my better judgement and now I have my own personal 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith dominating my living room. It’s a huge, scary thing. As a result, large thigh bones are banned from my house.
What I hadn’t planned on, however, was buying a new television stand. My old “entertainment center” was strong enough to support weight of the new television, but, next to the smooth black lines of my new toy, the old stand I purchased in the mid-nineties looked dated, broke ass, and ugly. But the real reason the stand need to be replaced is embarrassing. It smelled bad.
You see, my joint custody dog Buster had a housebreaking problem when I first got him. For reasons I’ll never comprehend, he was fond of “marking his territory” on my entertainment center. As a result the cheap particle board soaked up the urine and, even though Buster eventually stopped peeing in the house, the damage was done. Over the years, despite my best efforts to fix it, the urine enzymes slowly decomposed the board back into particles and the TV stand began to slough off a foul smelling dust. Occasionally, on a hot day, you could catch the interesting bouquet of five year old dog urine floating on the wind. Since you couldn’t really see the damage, however, I never replaced the stand. Nice huh?
My roommate has hated that entertainment center ever since he moved in four years ago The moment I bought the plasma he began a psychological warfare campaign to make me replace it. Not content with leaving IKEA catalogs on my desk, he began nagging me every time we passed a furniture store on the highway to “at least look.” I successfully resisted my roommate’s efforts for months and kept my wallet shut tight. Why? I get cheap concerning the weirdest things.
“I refuse to buy a television stand that costs more than the actual television,” I say to my roommate as we browse though yet another Pier One store. “That just doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Your TV stand is ugly,” my roommate counters. “And embarrassing. If you have a girl over, how are you going to explain that smell?”
“That only happens in the summer,” I reply. “And only when the A/C’s off.”
‘How old are you?” my roommate asks. “The poor chic thing only works when you’re twenty-five.”
“It’s not poor chic,” I say. “The stands I like cost a grand and the ones in my price range are ugly.”
“What’s your price range?”
“Two hundred bucks.”
“Are you kidding me?” my roommate exclaims, shaking his head. “You’ll never get anything nice for that. Remember, you get what you pay for.”
There’s some truth to what my roommate’s saying. He doesn’t have many material possessions, but what he does own is top notch quality. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe.
“Okay then,” I say. “I’ll spend three hundred bucks.”
“Better,” my roommate says. “But you’ll still be lucky to find something.”
Sure enough, as we stumble through Pier One, my roommate finds a television stand that’s the perfect size, shape, and color for our apartment and has been marked down to three hundred dollars. I’m screwed.
“When will it be delivered?” I ask the cute salesgirl as I reluctantly hand her my credit card.
“Delivery is extra,” the salesgirl replies. “You can pick it up at the store if you want.”
“My brother has a truck,” I say. “I’ll call him and pick it up here.”
“Great, sir,” the salesgirl says, handing me my receipt. “We’ll call you when it arrives.”
As my roommate and I walk out of the store I turn to him. “Are you happy now?”
“You have no idea.”
“Well,” I say. “After all the bickering she witnessed between us, that cute salesgirl probably thinks we’re a couple. Should we register our china patterns here?”
Two weeks later the television stand arrives and my brother meets me at Pier One with his truck. We load up, bring it to my house, and haul it up the stairs. My brother’s the mechanical one in the family so he unpacks the stand and sets it up. My roommate’s the technical one, so he rehooks up the miles of cabling modern television requires and gets the plasma working. What did I do? I drank a vodka and tonic and kept Buster from getting in the way. I guess that makes me the alcoholic one.
“Ugh,” my brother says, pointing to the putrefying old entertainment center sitting forlornly in a corner. “You’re on your own getting that thing out of here.”
“Oh c’mon,” I say. “I need your help.”
“I’ve got a sick baby at home,” my brother says. “You’re lucky I could even take out time for this.”
“Dude. It’s heavy.”
“That thing’s a HazMat site. I should call Homeland Security on you.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Later man,” my brother says, making his escape. “Call me when my son’s fifteen. Maybe I’ll have time to hang out then.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“He threw up over both couches.”
“I take it back. It can be that bad.”
My brother leaves. Since my roommate has a bad ankle I have to haul the old entertainment center out to the curb myself. Since it’s trash and I don’t care about damaging it, I haphazardly slide it down the flight of stairs to the “lobby.” I should’ve cared. As the unit bounces down each step, it snorts out clouds of smelly decomposing dust – as if its angry that its going to the dump and is exacting its last bit of olfactory revenge. By the time I reach the street, an orange trail of dust can be traced from my living room to the curb. The stench in the stairwell in indescribable. After a couple of minutes spent sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and Lysoling, however, the foul odor finally goes away. Finished cleaning, my roommate and I flop down on the couch to observe our handiwork.
“Man,” my roommate says. “The living room looks much bigger.”
“It does,” I reply. “Doesn’t it?”
“You see? The right furniture can make or break a room.”
“When you’re right you’re right roomie,” I reply. “Thanks for picking it out. I have no eye for that sort of thing.”
As I look at the monolithic television on top of it’s new altar, I mentally kick myself in the head. The living room doesn’t look better – it looks more adult and sophisticated. I should’ve junked that juvenile eyesore of an entertainment center months ago. Then I realize something. I didn’t replace the unit because I was cheap, I didn’t replace the unit because I didn’t want to make another change. This may sound strange, but so many things have changed in my life over the past six months that I wanted to keep something constant – even if that constant was smelly and ugly. Hmmm. I wonder if I’m doing that in other parts of my life? Maybe it’s time to cut more dead wood – not less.
“Now we just have to get rid of that old bookshelf,” my roommate says, interrupting my armchair psychologizing.
“My bookshelf?” I say. “But I’ve had that since college.”
“My point exactly.”