Before I left for the good ol’ barren wasteland that is Pullman this year…*cough* I mean, the wonderful and beautiful landscape that is the Palouse, I had to stock up on the apartment essentials. In other words, everyone gave me free stuff. It was awesome…mostly.
What is it about going back to school that makes everyone feel the need to give you their old housewares? I’m not complaining, but do I really need an ancient, half-broken toaster that burns bread more often than it toasts and that you forgot about 15 years? Ermm, no.
So, when my oma (grandmother in German) called me and said, “Hallo Ana! You come to my house and I give you zings for your apartment, okay?” I had my doubts.
Before you get any ideas, I have to say I love my oma, she’s great. She’s just a bit…different.
Blame it on the language barrier or the fact she’s hardly over 4-feet tall, but she has never quite known what to do with me, her awkward, tall and entirely too word-obsessed granddaughter who decided major in English instead of doing something useful with her life, like sewing.
Alas! What is that granddaughter to do?
Any-who, after the necessary small talk and the obligatory handshake from my opa (he only does handshakes, which may be a German thing - I'm not quite sure) we got down to business.
First, I was bombarded with a multitude of tablecloths. I have absolutely no use for red-checked tablecloths, considering I don’t own a pizza parlor, but I took them with a smile and let my oma continue babbling along about, “Ze vunderbar tablecloths zat you von’t need to iron before you use zem!”
It’s not as if I could say, “Uhhm thanks for these tablecloths, but my name isn’t Luigi and I don’t operate The Daily Pie.”
From the tablecloths, we moved to pots and pans, a fairly uneventful affair unless you think receiving a massive sauce pan is an experience.
And finally, the pièce de résistance: the maple chair.
She lured me in with the promise of furniture, which was not a hard-sell, considering my apartment at that point was furnished with, well, my mattress and a table. Little did I know what was to come.
“And here Ana, a chair for your table, ya!”
Cue the Jaws theme.
Me: “Ohh a wooden chair! I’ll just paint that black and it’ll match my table!”
Stop Jaws theme with a resounding squeak.
Oma: “But…but zis is a maple chair! A maple chair, Ana. You can’t paint zis!”
Oma: “Zis is a very good wood you see. If I give zis to you, no painting!”
My oma has a tendency to over-speak at times.
It was at this point my oma went into a thirty-minute mantra about how amazing maple chairs are and why I shouldn’t paint this particular one.
While I was nearly falling asleep, she finished it all off with, “And someone, not me, someone paid a lot of money for zis! … I got it at a garage sale.”
What?! She didn’t even buy the thing. I’m just going to put my butt on it for Buddha’s sake.
As I felt the smile threatening to melt from my face and reveal my inner thoughts with a violent conglomeration of word vomit, I called up a last bit of herculean strength and said, “Oh...of course. Right, no painting then. Yes.”
I got out of there as fast as I could. Pots, tablecloths and maple chair in hand. I always come out of those visits with far more than I wanted, but how can you say no to someone’s generosity? You can’t, that’s how.
So, dear readers, as I sit on my comfortable seat in my sparsely furnished apartment, decorated with a mishmash of second-hand plates, cups and tablecloths, I have one last piece of sage advice: Don’t mention the painting of furniture to Germans. Ever.
Oh, and also never say no to free stuff. Pullman isn’t exactly a housewares Mecca. Or a Mecca of any kind.
And yes, the “comfortable seat” I referred to is “ze maple chair” and no, I haven’t painted it. It’s a conversation piece now.