Chair Meets Door

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    But I am telling you it won’t fit!”

    “Yes, it will!”

    “No, it won’t. See how wide it is? Here, look at the tape measure.”

    “What does the tape measure have to do with anything?”

    And so it goes. Back and forth. Up and down. Twist and turn. You would think there would be no problem getting this easy chair into the house, down the stairs, through the door, and into the den, where it could live out the rest of its days among the other couches and loungers big enough to serve the rest-and-recline needs of a Roman emperor.

    But as I have tried to tell my wife again and again, our Eisenhower-era tri-level house does not square with the gargantuan dimensions of twenty-first century furniture. Back in the 1950s, and certainly for many years afterward, the stuff people put in their living rooms, dining rooms, and dens took its design cues from the Greatest Generation and all those other no-nonsense folks who came before.

    The home décor we love in our overstuffed world can’t abide by the cold calculus of snooty Georgian, Federalist, and Neoclassical brick-and-slate homes. The doorways are too narrow. The rooms are too small. The hardy folks who first lived here didn’t mind sitting on hardscrabble wood covered by wafer-thin cushioning.

    And now, here I am, holding up one end of a bulbous easy chair my wife found on Craigslist and decided she could not live without.

    Holding the other end is Walt, an affable retiree who drove all the way from the next county to sell us his gently used chair for a reasonable price. Nice of him to help us carry it into the house.

    But Walt and I quickly hit a wall – figuratively and literally – after managing to muscle the chair down to the den doorway.

    We’ve turned the chair so its feet might sneak around the doorjamb. We’ve flipped it upside down, just in case we eyeballed its dimensions incorrectly. We’ve even stood it on end, hoping to outwit the stubborn space that laughs in our faces.

    But there are no two (or three or four) ways about it. The door is just too narrow.

    My wife levels a stony glare. “Look at what’s in the den already,” she says. “Everything else fit through. Why not this?”

    I get her point. Here is a couch the size of a battleship. A matching loveseat that could float you down the Mississippi River. A cocktail table so big you could lay out the plans for the Invasion of Normandy. A TV armoire so difficult to get into the room that the only way it will ever leave is by hacking it to pieces and burning it in the fireplace.

    Mysteries all – except that I do remember being able to screw off the couch legs that allowed some very large movers to get the job done. But that won’t work here.

    Walt wipes his brow.

    “Looks like we’re gonna have to face facts.”

    We had arrived here by the most circuitous of routes. Once upon a time (last year), a perfectly nice chair and ottoman sat in the currently empty and feverishly vacuumed space in the corner. But random rips and tears caused it to lose favor in the eyes of a certain spouse. Another chair – also from Craigslist – replaced it, but was judged too soft to sit in.

    And then I made the mistake of joining that certain spouse on a trip to Costco – the black vortex that pulls you in and strips you bare. We only went in to get a pepperoni pizza. We came out with a new cream-colored, fabric-upholstered easy chair that reclines, swivels, and rocks.

    For a time (three days) the new recliner – which fit through the door thanks to a back that conveniently detaches – lived happily in the den. But a new ruling came down that it would look better in the sun room. So the den space is empty again.

    But now here we are, stuck in place. And my bride is not having it.

    “Everything was fine until Walt showed up,” she says, as if Walt led a vast conspiracy to rewrite the laws of physics, density, and geometry.

    I protest, but according to her, through the many years B.W. (Before Walt), all furniture found its rightful place in the rooms of her choosing. She didn’t know or care about chair legs that screwed off. She doesn’t want to hear about dimensions or inches or square footage or how forcing the chair in any way might gouge the wall beyond repair.

    I even tell a tale of how things can go south in a great big hurry. My pal Burke, who once tried to squeeze an enormous couch into his den at Mrs. Burke’s insistence, found himself stuck on the den-side of the couch after it got impossibly wedged in the doorway. He had to rip the molding off the door frame in order to free himself, lest he remain trapped in his den for the rest of his life.

    I consider that as we wrangle the chair back into Walt’s truck and send him on his way. He laughs an easy laugh and wishes us well. “Maybe you’ll just have to head back to Costco,” he says.

    Oh, Walt. Couldn’t you have zipped a lip and saved a ship?

    Sure enough, the next day we return to the black vortex in search of a second recliner with a back that can be detached. I guess the search will continue, because they are out of that model, at least for now. I don’t recall if we came out with a pizza.