My assignment was to fly to Los Angeles from Sydney and sell the furniture in the apartment we'd been renting out for several years. I was also to get the place spruced up for the new owners, take some time to recuperate, and return home.
"Well, someone's got to do it," I said to my husband, restraining myself from jumping with joy. "And you are much too busy."
I had three weeks to prepare. By 9 a.m. the next morning I was all packed.
Once in L.A., I set to work. (Actually, I hibernated for the first two days. After 14 hours of no sleep, two movies, and too many meals I needed some R&R.) On Day 3, I bolted out the door. The sooner I got the furniture sold, the sooner I could get together with my old friends.
First I placed ads in the Times and neighborhood newspapers. "Everything Must Go" read the bold headline. That'll make them sit up and take notice, I figured. I posted signs on supermarket bulletin boards. I faxed notices to friends who hung my signs in their office lunch rooms. Then I returned to the apartment, opened a John Grisham novel, and waited by the phone.
My first call came at 10 p.m. "Good evening," said a male voice. He apologized for calling so late, but he'd just gotten off the late shift at the Los Angeles County Airport. "Do you still have the black lacquer coffee table?" he asked. "Oh yes," I replied, "the one with the lovely brass trim." (What a saleswoman!) "Can I get your opinion?" he continued earnestly. "I've got a black carpet and a black sofa. Do you think the table will go?" I said I had a sneaking suspicion it would.
Good friends took pity on me and bought pots, pans, a toaster oven, and all sorts of sundry items they probably didn't need. For every purchase I threw in at least one freebie. But no matter how much I sold, there always seemed to be another box under a bed or up in a closet. Then there was the storage room downstairs!
The pressure was on. I had a week to get the place cleared out before the new owners descended upon me.
One night I got a call from a prospective customer lost on the freeway. "What's the best exit to take to get to your place?" she asked. There was something so familiar about her voice. Turned out we'd worked together 15 years ago in Beverly Hills. We caught up on old times, then she went home with a stereo and a vacuum cleaner.
Sometimes the sales came easily, and sometimes folks had to go home and think things over, take measurements, talk to relatives, then come back and haggle.
Things gradually began to move. But I could see my biggest challenge was the king-size waterbed. It was a beauty, but it was massive. It was set in an oak frame with drawers and a headboard. "I can always give it to the Salvation Army," I told a friend who advised me they were kind of picky about what they took these days.
The next day I called the Salvation Army. "Good morning," I chirped. "I have lots of nice items to donate." He took my name, address, and particulars. "And what items will we be picking up, lady?" I rattled off a whole list, then added rather quietly, "I also have a lovely big waterbed in perfect condition." Silence. "Hello?" I queried. "Sorry, lady, we don't take waterbeds. Nobody wants 'em."
I had to get this three-quarter-ton leviathan out of the apartment.
I found someone named Waterbed Bob who promised to empty my mattress and dismantle the entire bed for a reasonable fee. He attached a hose to the mattress and emptied 168 gallons of water without spilling a drop. He promised to keep his eye open for a buyer, but he wasn't optimistic.
I dropped the price three times.
Enter my friend with the black living room, the one who worked for the airline that would fly me back to Sydney. By this time we'd become pretty good friends. I'd sort of become his interior decorator. "My boss at work says he's happy to take the waterbed off your hands if you can't get rid of it," he announced one day while considering one of my chairs. Then he added, "At least you won't have to pay someone to have it carted out of here." He had a point.
I was so happy to get the bed out of the apartment that I threw in the linens free.
My friend's boss looked very pleased with his acquisitions. I couldn't actually recall him saying thank you. But never mind.
Sitting in the airport, daydreaming about my experiences, I almost didn't hear my name being called over the loudspeaker. "Mrs. Worrall," smiled the representative waiting for me at a desk across the terminal. "You must have friends in high places." With a flourish he handed me a new boarding pass and announced, "You've been moved up to business class."
The man from the airline who'd taken my waterbed had said "thank you" in a way I never could have imagined.