Measure Twice, Buy Once

A few Saturdays ago, just before closing time at the downtown Salvation Army, I found three interesting bed frames. This was my lucky day, because I’ve been wanting a bed frame for my guestroom; something more fancy than my current metal Hollywood frame.

One was a curved maple number that I knew was a twin day bed. Another was a big wide thing with horizontal slats, which I figured must be a king size, because the third one – a really cute four-poster bed frame – was smaller than the king, so it must be a queen.

That queen bed frame would be absolutely perfect. It’s bugged me that my guestroom queen bed lacked a proper bed frame. This sweet bed at the Salvation Army was HEAVY, even for me, who works out with weights. But it was so cute. It needed work, but it was all cosmetic. Sold!

While I was there, I also bought a little espresso machine for $9.99. Save the receipt, the clerk said, in case it doesn’t work, so you can return it Monday. Will do, I said.

Having no truck, I arranged some help from sister Shelly and her roomy Element – which she uses as a truck – to pick up the bed on Monday, since the Salvation Army is closed on Sundays. Shelly said sure, and man, you always get the best deals. I should do a better job of shopping thrift stores, she said. You’re right, I said, slightly smugly.

Over the weekend I cleaned the little espresso machine, plugged it in, and it didn’t work. Oh well. I had the receipt. I could return it.

Monday at the Salvation Army, the clerk said no cash refund, just a store credit. What? Hey! Oh well. So I passed on my $9.99 credit to Shelly who found a cool raku hand-thrown bowl and a set of white stacked dessert plates, and a tiny bride-and-groom figurine for my granddaughter, for her box of fragile collectibles.

I schlepped the foot board and side rails to the front of the store. But I heaved and struggled with the headboard, a beast in size and weight. Two men walked by and commented that it sure looked heavy. (I KNOW that if either of my grown sons were in that situation, they would have offered to help. That’s the way I raised them.) Another customer, a friendly, petite woman named Tina, who Shelly recognized from art class, offered to help me carry the headboard to the front. We did it. She said she used to lift weights. I believe it. (Thank you, Tina.)

Outside, a nice gentleman named Richard volunteered to help us load the heavy-ass bed into the car, and in return, Shelly gave him fresh chicken eggs as a thank-you. The eggs Shelly gave Richard she’d just gotten from Rosa in Happy Valley, who took Shelly’s rooster, Laddie, because roosters aren’t allowed in Redding city limits.  Richard was happy. I was happy. Shelly was happy. That’s what I call a win, win, win situation.

Once home my sister and I unloaded the heavy bed outside in my courtyard under the patio cover, a place that’s been my official painting station since I bought this house in July.

The next day I cleaned the bed frame and sanded it and painted it a pretty celery color -“oops” paint I’d saved for a project exactly like this. Twenty-four hours later I brought in the dried bed frame, mostly by dragging the headboard using a floor mat to slide it through the house and inside the guestroom. I’m resourceful that way.

But first I took apart the former queen bed, including the heavy mattresses, which I leaned against the wall — sheets, blankets and all — because I was just going to flop them down into place in their new frame and make up the new bed in no time.

I could picture exactly how it would look. It’s an inborn knack I’m blessed to possess. My always-churning imagination is what drives me to do these kinds of projects. The work is so worth the awesome outcome.

I removed the Hollywood frame to clear space for my new queen bedroom set.

Oh, but wait, I said to myself. I really should do this right (for once). Get bed slats, so there’s no risk of the box spring coming off the rails, especially being as though it’s a guestroom. So I stopped everything, went out in the driving rain and drove to a hardware store where I know one of the guys there and asked he could pretty please cut three fence boards for me – 60 and 3/4 inches exactly.  He did. (Thank you, Richard.)

At this point Patrick Buckley, who owns the furniture store where I’ve bought my beds and couches for many years, will see the problem that I wouldn’t realize until hours later.

I assembled the bed, which was no small feat to get the metal prongs of those bed rails to fit firmly, perfectly, super snugly into the accompanying slits in the head and foot boards. I used one of those rubber mallets to bang, bang, bang those side rails into place. They were stubborn, but I was stronger!

Nailed it.

I laughed to myself at the thought of when I’d ever dismantle that bed again. Oh gosh, probably never! Or probably after I’m a very old lady and I die in this house and am carried out feet first. After that my kids will hold an estate sale, and all I can say is I pity the poor soul who buys this celery-colored queen-sized bed and has to take it apart. LOL.

I can hear my kids now.

“Mom was so strong then that she probably used a hammer to pound those rails into place. No wonder we can’t get them apart! Ha ha ha!”

Everything was set. The rails were eternally bonded with the head and foot boards. Next, the bed slats ($5 each) extended over the expanse of the rails, ready for the box spring.

As I said, ready for the box spring. I’d just push it over and it would fall into place, followed by the mattress, still dressed in bedding. I wished I had an audience, because this was going to be so cool. I should have set up my phone to do a video. It would probably go viral.

I gave the box spring a little nudge. Go ahead. Fall into place. But the box spring didn’t fall over. Instead, it was stopped by the headboard. I got out a tape measure, something I should have done days earlier. The mattresses were too big for my bed. How could that be?

Well, it could be that my Salvation Army bed frame wasn’t a queen, but a full-sized frame, which is exactly what a little piece of paper said that was glued to the inside of one of the rails. Full.

Not queen.

I had to disassemble the entire #$&*!@ bed. It took me more than 30 minutes JUST to detach the stupid, super-well secured rails from the head and foot board. At one point, in the middle of the cussing and the rubber-mallet pounding, I channeled my inner Nancy Kerrigan. WHY ME?!

My guestroom was left with a Hollywood frame that somehow was all out of whack and slightly crooked from when I hastily hauled it out of the room and somehow lost some hardware, so it looked as if it had scoliosis.

And because of that, I couldn’t just flop the box spring on the frame. Not by myself, at least.

My celery-colored bed was out in the living room, waiting for someone to buy it.

Impulsivity is my enemy. I carry a tape measure in my purse at all times. Did it occur to me to measure the bed frame at the Salvation Army? Not for a second. Why? Because it just looked like a queen set. I pride myself on my dimensional super powers. In fact, my sense of dimension is so acute that my ex-husband, a furniture-maker and contractor, used to marvel at how I could tell if something was even 1/32 of an inch off.

In retrospect, perhaps marvel isn’t quite the right word.

Anyway, I sold the celery bed on Facebook in no time and rushed to the Salvation Army to get the remaining, bigger bed, since obviously, because it was bigger than the full that I bought by mistake, it must be a queen. I bought it. I made arrangements with a friend with a truck to meet me at the Salvation Army to pick up.

When my friend arrived, the woman at the Salvation Army commented at what a fine king-sized bed I’d bought. I corrected her and informed her it was a queen. Gosh, I get so tired of having to educate people about everything.

She brought out a tape measure. It was a king. I couldn’t get a refund, because the Salvation Army doesn’t do refunds, even for something bought just five minutes earlier for merchandise that’s never left the store. It’s their policy. I got a $45 credit.

Across town, at another thrift store, I found a pine sleigh-style bed that I liked a lot. Normally, I’d be tempted to paint the raw wood, but I liked the rustic look of the bed. I bought it. I paid to have it delivered. I’m running out of people with trucks, or cars that act as trucks.

Once home, the guy who delivered the bed assembled it for me. I didn’t protest. I was exhausted. To my horror, the bed hogged up pretty much the entire room. This meant I could only invite extremely thin guests to spend the night, and even then they would need to suck in and crab-walk to reach the side of the bed near the south-west wall, which, if it’s not the best according to feng shui, then I don’t want to hear it.

This bed is a queen, technically. But it hogs up a room like a king.

I have posted this bed for sale. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of just getting a headboard, skipping the idea of an entire queen frame and just going back to the metal Hollywood frame. (If I can get it back together.)

I seem to remember seeing a queen headboard at another thrift store last week. At least I think it was a queen.

In the meantime, my guestroom still has the giant pine sleigh bed monopolizing all the space, waiting to be sold. The box spring and mattress are still leaning against the wall. The room has also turned into a cluttered place where I stash things, like tools and empty boxes. Frankly, it’s kind of a mess.

I’m just not feeling the love for that room anymore. Maybe it would help if I tried to find a queen headboard.

And absolutely, next time I’m not just bringing my tape measure, but I’ll use it.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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