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Portable posessions
Nov. 23, 2015
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by Ivan Raconteur

There wasn’t much I enjoyed about my living arrangements during my college years, but as I contemplate my next move, it occurs to me there was one practical thing about that period in my life: the furniture.

I’m not suggesting the furniture was especially comfortable or stylish, but it was portable.

In my first college apartment, there were two lawn chairs separated by an empty beer keg topped with a board for a table in the living room.

There was a bean bag chair in the corner that wasn’t much better than sitting on the floor.

The TV rested on a stack of beer crates, and the nearby shelving consisted of boards and borrowed bricks. It was adjustable, simply by adding or subtracting bricks.

Empty milk crates also figured prominently in the general design scheme.

In the kitchen, there was a cast-off patio table – yellow, with a border of strange-looking flowers – and a couple more lawn chairs.

My bed didn’t have a frame or box spring, because those can be difficult to move. It was simply an old mattress on the floor.

I had a beer case for a night stand.

Window treatments consisted of old sheets. When it came time to move, they could be thrown in a trash bag and easily transported to the next place.

While I was considering these things recently, I consulted my advisory panel, and it seems others had similar accoutrements in their college apartments.

Girls have more of an eye for style than guys. One stylish colleague said in her college apartment, they used a box covered with a piece of cloth as a night stand. When in use, no one could tell it wasn’t a table, and when it was time to move, she just flipped the box over, filled it with belongings, and was ready to go.

Some people had those inflatable chairs, but I was never a fan of those. I spent too many nights sleeping on the hard ground after an air mattress let me down during my Boy Scout years to have any faith in inflatable furniture.

Most college furniture was extremely portable.

We traveled light in those days. For years, I could carry all my worldly possessions in my old Chevy Impala.

Another benefit of college furniture is that it was disposable. We got most of it from garage sales or dumpsters, so if there were things that didn’t fit in the available transportation when it came time to move, we simply deposited the excess in another dumpster.

Not all college students were that practical, though. I recall one friend who had got her hands on one of those ancient couches that had a bed built in. They were (and perhaps still are) optimistically called “hide-a-beds,” but what they really were is instruments of torture.

First of all, they weren’t very comfortable when used as a couch.

Second, as anyone who ever had the misfortune of trying to sleep on one knows, they were more like back breakers than beds. They were specifically engineered with metal bars strategically situated in a pattern to make it impossible for a human being of normal proportions to sleep on one without spending a night in agony.

The torture continued any time they had to be moved, because they weighed about half a ton. I hauled more than my share of those stupid things up and down flights of stairs, and I never even owned one.

I also recall a sort of wooden sofa that was once the property of a certain sister who shall remain nameless.

I don’t know why anyone would want to build a wooden sofa, but someone did.

The back and seat were more-or-less flat, and the arms were rounded and consisted of thin sticks of wood fastened around a curve.

Even with cushions on it the thing was uncomfortable. It was also awkward to move, the weight being distributed all wrong for carrying purposes.

I have a lot more “real” furniture now than I did when I was young.

The bachelor pad has bookcases in nearly every room, and the tables and shelves are wood or metal, not refugees from the recycling bin.

It is one of those perversities of nature that as we get older, our furniture becomes more substantial, while our conditioning and enthusiasm for moving heavy objects tends to wane over the years.

Looking around the bachelor pad, I like the furniture I have accumulated, but I can’t say I am excited about the prospect of moving it.

Just the thought of hefting all this stuff makes my back ache, and the prospect of packing and unpacking it all makes me want to take a nap.

I confess there are times when I can’t help thinking it would be nice if the furniture I have now was as light and portable as the stuff I had years ago.

I can’t go back in time, so I suppose the best I can do is load up on Aleve and ice packs, and make sure my supply of fermented muscle relaxers is adequate.


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