The ruler versus reality: Sometimes things just don’t jive

#508 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2006, Hills Newspapers

The first time we went to pick up a new four-drawer filing cabinet at Office Depot we were in Anet’s car. She’d done measurements ahead of time and had planned to use my car to bring it home. But we were in the neighborhood of the store and even if the filing cabinet had to be removed from the box, it would probably fit.

Anet and a young store helper tried but the trunk wasn’t large enough. Space in the back seat would have been sufficient but the car door wouldn’t open quite wide enough. So we went back the following day, this time in my car. My trunk is larger and the back seats fold down. We didn’t expect any problem but Anet measured everything once again. The worker brought the cabinet and lifted it into the car trunk. It fit fine, but only part way.

Inside the car the folded seats (we noticed then for the first time) don’t lie completely flat. They stick up a little. This meant that about half the filing cabinet was inside the car, the other half hung out beyond the back bumper. I would have left it at the store and figured out something later but Anet was determined to make it work. She made sure it was wedged pretty tightly inside so it wouldn’t fall out. She used twine to hold the trunk lid, then drove to the office slow and steady.

Why is it, we asked one another as we drove along with the filing cabinet hanging out the back, that measuring openings for things to move through never seems to work. I remembered and talked about the time my former husband and a friend sawed off pieces of our stairwell to get a large dresser upstairs. The moving company men had tried several times to bend that dresser around the stair corner, then gone home. The dresser had been taken apart, separated into two, top and bottom. Still, it wouldn’t go. Extensive and repetitive measuring had been done.

It should have passed up the stairs; the men kept saying that. Quite a bit of time went by before they sawed a couple of inches off a newel post. They were positive that this would definitely work; it didn’t. Later, more was removed. While the operation proceeded, I stayed where I could not see but could hear what was going on even though I had my hands over my ears.

I think it took “only” two cuts to do the trick; the dresser went into the bedroom. It was years before the newel post surgery was reversed. When we moved out of the house, the movers removed a window and hoisted the dresser out.

Anet told me another wouldn’t-fit story from her college days. Her roommate had moved out of the apartment they had shared and she’d decided she could afford the place on her own. This meant she could again have a piano to play. There wasn’t space in the living room but a piano would fit she thought in the second bedroom.

Carefully Anet measured the hall and doorway to the bedroom, then went to a piano rental company, made more measurements and arranged for delivery. The movers had no trouble getting the piano down a flight of stairs and into the basement apartment but refused to even try to move it further. They were responsible they said for delivery to inside the front door only.

Anet measured all over again and was sure the piano would smoothly move to the bedroom but she needed help guiding it to the destination so she called a friend. Together the women got the piano to outside the bedroom doorway until, it would not move further.

At first Anet couldn’t see what the impediment was; everything seemed clear around the door. And then she saw it; she hadn’t measured down to the floor. A tiny piece of baseboard molding – just a corner – was in the way, sticking out perhaps a quarter inch too far.

But Anet was’s jaw was set. She had a saw; she got it. The blade on the saw was large. Instead of cutting a tidy chunk of wood from the baseboard, sawing it vaporized it. No matter, the piano went in.

It was more than a year later when Anet moved out of the apartment. She went to a hardware store to discuss the how to of rebuilding a tiny portion of baseboard. The hardware man listened to her description of the situation, thought for a moment, then asked Anet how she was at sculpting.

He sold her epoxy filler in two bottles, to be mixed together. The product needed to be kneaded, stuck onto the wall, then shaped to resemble what had been there before. Speed was essential when handling the materials; hardening occurred fast.

Anet had enlisted the help of a friend she considered more artistically inclined than she. The friend sat on the floor next to her as she lay on her side kneading the filler. The friend had poised in his hand a small scalpel; he was at the ready.

Anet mixed and kneaded and stuck a glob onto the baseboard. She motioned to her friend who swooped to the spot to make a couple of quick, deft slices with his knife.

Anet put some paint on top. She got her deposit back.

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