Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Vending Machine

Yet another couch story.

After we got our sectional couch, with heat and massage and a queen sleeper and twin recliners, life was all good. It was nice to sit back in the recliner, relax, and stare at the TV each evening with a nice cup holder on the armrest.

The new sectional had a center section that was a flip-down with cup holders, and controls for the heat and massage, or a center seat. The kids loved to sit on the center seat, since they were mostly too weak to yank the recliners out and pop them open.

If the kids weren't sitting in the center section, one of our two cats (the ones that had shredded the previous two couches) would lay in this center seat, all snug and happy and purring like a buzz saw.

And Daddy NEVER sat in the center seat, because the Daddy belonged in a nice recliner, taking his accustomed throne with his many-buttoned scepter in hand, his goblet-o-tea, and his loving attendants (yeah right).

One day, not many days after the purchase of our wondrous throne of many functions, I came home and saw a strange, thick, squiggly 3-foot length of metal laying on the fireplace.

This metal squiggly item was THICK. It had SUBSTANCE. It was SUBSTANTIAL. It had PURPOSE. But, as most clueless Dads, I had no immediate idea what great PURPOSE the squiggle served.

So I summoned my loyal subjects and polled them one by one.

Daddy: "Have you ever seen this?"

Child#1: "Why no, what is it, Daddy?"

Daddy: "What is this used for?"

Child#2: "I have no idea, Daddy!"

Daddy: "Any idea where this came from?"

Child#3: "No, Daddy. I've never seen it before."

Daddy: "Wife, have you ever seen this before?"

Mommy: "No, honey, but it looks like it must have some PURPOSE."

Yes, it had purpose and function. But it took almost a week to find out what.

One day, I came home, and the CAT was in my SPOT. Yes, my throne. The sacred seat with the remote.

Not wanting a fight with the clawless furball, I decided to be a minister of peace, and I got my goblet-o-tea and took the coveted center seat. And sank to the floor.

After much struggling and quite a few invented words, I managed to get my prodigious self up and out of the hole, and inverted the couch, earning me a hiss and an ugly offended look from the furball, who had not yet forgiven me for the loss of his fingernails.

And then, AHA! There was the PURPOSE for which I'd been searching - under each seat but the center one, was a 3-foot black thick metal rod, clamped and bent into place as a spring to support my prodigious rump.

So I retrieved the rod from its place of honor on the fireplace, and with much grunting, bending, flexing of muscle, sweat, and a few more invented words, I managed to bend this heavy metal rod and place it back where it belonged. With a pair of strong pliers I managed to clamp it back in place.

Leaning over the inverted couch, breathing heavily from the strain and exertion, I assembled my loyal subjects for another gathering in the throne room.

"I found the purpose for the black squiggle. It appears that one of my loyal subjects has been jumping up and down on the couch. Now WHO has been jumping up and down on the couch!?"

It was apparent that NO ONE had been jumping up and down on the couch.

So I told them that SOMEONE was lying, and that no one should jump up and down on the couch.

Everyone assured me that they NEVER would jump up and down on the couch, and then we dismissed.

Two weeks later, I came home and there was the black squiggle on the fireplace, in its place of honor. And not under the center seat.

So I inverted the couch, and with much struggling, sweat, and a few invented words, I replaced the black squiggle, and called another staff meeting.

"Let me tell you something, I thought I made myself clear. NO ONE is to jump up and down on this couch. If I catch you doing it again, I will paddle your bottom. Is that clear?"

"Yes Daddy!" All of them gave me their brightest smiles. Nobody was jumping up and down on the couch. No one was guilty. No fear, no guilt.

Ok, so somebody was good at lying. I shrugged my shoulders, and went to pour myself a glass of tea.

Something made me stop in mid pour. I stepped backwards to look in the living room. Halfway up the steps, I saw my 3 year old son, doing a hand-stand on the balcony rail. He held the position for a moment, flipped over the rail and came flying down onto the center seat.

He sank right to the floor and the black squiggle came flying out from the bottom of the couch, flew across the room and struck the baseboard on the other side, like a vending machine dispensing a coke.

He had the most ecstatic look on his face. Just full of joy.

I stood there with tea in hand, apoplectic. I had just promised to paddle them if they did this, and it wasn't more than 5 minutes later.

It just kept playing through my mind. WHAT was he THINKING?!

I hauled him to his mother, and made her spank him. I was too angry.

All that evening, I just kept replaying it in my mind. The hand-stand, right out of the olympics. the squiggle dispensing from the bottom. His joyous look.

What could have been going through his head?? And what could I do to stop him?

I went to bed thinking about it. And somewhere in the middle of the night, a lightbulb came on over my head.

I got out of bed, grabbed a length of 3/4" plywood, and a drill and some screws. I put the board under the seat, to give support for that seat. (It's still there today)

I put my tools away and went to bed. It really didn't even occur to me to tell anyone what I'd done. I just figured I'd solved the problem and promptly forgot about it.

The very next day, I came home from work, and my 3yo son had an ace bandage around his ankle. And he never jumped on the couch again.

But later I talked to my wife, asking, what could he have been thinking?

She just said, in her matter-of-fact way, "Oh, you told him he couldn't jump up and down on the couch. He wasn't jumping UP, just DOWN."

Go figure...