Like the pink velvet sofa, the bed and the mattress were ordered last November from a giant furniture store on the never-never. The bed was the palest, most delicate pink. Like the sofa, it was vast and velvety, a king-size upgrade from our humble double. It had a plush headboard and side panels that curved, hugging the mattress in what I fancied was a nocturnal embrace.
The mattress we chose was “eco-friendly” too, our sales assistant, Sofie, told us. She confided that a woman who had just taken delivery of the exact same bed and planet-saving mattress loved it so much she emailed a rapturous review after her first night’s sleep. We signed all the papers. And we waited.
Every so often we would email Sofie to inquire about the bed. “Any sign of the bed?” “Story with the bed, Sofie?” “Do you think the bed might come before Christmas? “Any chance it might arrive by the St Brigid’s bank holiday?”
“It’s in the warehouse,” Sofie emailed a few weeks ago. Then last week: “You’ll get a call soon about a delivery slot.” Almost five months after we’d ordered it, the bed was delivered on a damp Thursday. Sofie had told me that even though they weren’t strictly supposed to, the delivery men might also assist with assembly. When they arrived toting several alarmingly large boxes full of different bed parts, I tried to bribe them with a combination of charm, desperation and cold hard cash. They had 17 more deliveries to complete that day, though. “And anyway, we’re not allowed to do assembly, sorry,” he said. “Okay, well, where’s my eco-friendly mattress?” I asked. “What mattress?” he said. The van was checked for any sign of a mattress but there was none. “See ya,” the delivery men said, driving off down the road.
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One time I begged, I think it was Vanessa, ‘Please don’t say 72 hours to me again,’ and she said, ‘There will be someone back to you in 72 hours’
I’d deal with the lack of mattress later, I thought. Meanwhile, I stood in the room with the boxes and decided, having had no previous experience of furniture assembly, to reinvent myself as a woman who could build a bed. When I wrestled my way through the cardboard and bubble wrap, the bed on the front of the instruction booklet looked nothing like my bed, but I did not let that deter me. The booklet said to “check you have the correct fittings and read through before commencing with assembly”. I did that and when the screws were lined up neatly on the windowsill, I “commenced”.
Building a bed on my own without any previous experience is probably the most difficult and satisfying task I’ve ever half-accomplished. There were several steps I had to redo, having first screwed the wrong thing into the incorrect side of something else. The instructions, I realised, were less like actual instructions and more like hints or clues. They spoke obliquely of flanged nuts and strengthening bars. Nobody had thought to run them through a spellcheck. “Tighen using the allen key provided,” they said at one point. Even so, after four hours screwing (and unscrewing and tighening), I had made good headway on the bed.
What next? “Fit the right-angled brackets to the side rails using screws.” I found the right-angled brackets but there was no way the brackets fit on to this bed. And now I looked at it, there were no instructions as to how the curvy side panels would fit to the plush headboard. Even this furniture assembly novice could see: these were not the right instructions or fittings for this bed.
My brother, when I told him about the bed saga, said after years of assembling flat-pack furniture which never lasted, he now only bought fully-assembled furniture
I rang the 1800 number of the furniture emporium which on the website claims to be expert in sofas and beds and customer satisfaction. I spoke to their representatives several times over the weekend. I spoke to Erica and Will, I spoke to Susie and Brian, who all had various Scottish and English accents and were clearly reading from a script. They kept repeating the same thing: somebody will come back to you within 72 hours. One time I begged, I think it was Vanessa, “Please don’t say 72 hours to me again,” and she said, “There will be someone back to you in 72 hours.” Anyway, 72 hours passed. Ninety hours. Nobody came back to me.
“That’s modernity for you,” my wise friend said when I spilled out the sorry tale. We were strolling through the beautiful Victorian-era former fruit and vegetable market off Capel Street in Dublin, which for the St Patrick’s celebrations had been given over to a festival called Me Auld Flower. It felt like a mini Electric Picnic. There were booze stalls and food stalls and music blaring. We imagined we were strolling through a municipal market like the ones found in many civilised cities, but a market that was free for all to access every single day, a place selling fish and meat and flowers, and also selling, my friend insisted, “piles of big underpants – it needs to have everything”.
Later, over pints in Slattery’s, my friend told me his chicken story. Several years ago when a world famous chicken franchise opened in Dublin, he went to try it out. He was waiting 40 minutes for his meal before he cancelled his order, taking note as he left all the other customers waiting for chicken. He got a sandwich somewhere else and, back at his office, went on the website for the chicken franchise to read their promises of great job opportunities, inclusive staffing policies and sustainability. “But they weren’t doing the one thing they were supposed to do, get chicken on the plates of customers,” he said.
My brother, when I told him about the bed saga, said after years of assembling flat-pack furniture which never lasted, he now only bought fully-assembled furniture or good second-hand pieces. It sometimes cost more, he added, but it was worth it. I thought of the people on minimum wage in the warehouse where my eco-friendly mattress languished, the Ericas and Wills in the call centre, the hassled van drivers with 17 deliveries to make. I thought of the corner brackets and flange nuts lying on the freshly laid carpet in the bedroom, parts unknown, designed for a different bed.
I’ve half-made my bed, I thought. Maybe someday I’ll get to lie on it. But I’m not holding my breath.