The story of my Mobilia couch has ended not with a three-seater in my living room, but with my money back in my pocket.
Last Wednesday, I was at last expecting my couch to be delivered – and in the right color, this time. But, in an instance of total déjà vu, what I got instead was a repetition of that first episode, of waiting and vague promises. It started with a call from Mobilia themselves, informing me they’d be a day late with their delivery, and followed with three days of my having to call them to ask whether they were still going to come, and being reassured that the delivery would certainly take place – tomorrow if not today.
Me being incapable of getting verbally angry – let alone doing so in French or Arabic – Farid got involved and called the store. When, interspersed by a lot of hshouma alikoums, he told the salesman we’d come and get the couch ourselves, the truth came out: the couch was still in Casablanca and, once again, was the wrong color. Farid told him we’d come and collect my money the next day, and angrily hung up.
I did not get my money the next day. Farid and I arrived at the store and were met by a very apologetic salesman who, nevertheless, persisted in telling us he couldn’t give me my money, that I’d have to wait until Monday. Farid yelled at him in French and Arabic; and I, for the first time in my life, found some words of my own to yell. In a combination of French and English I asked him how the hell he had the nerve to ask me, yet again, to be patient. How he was going to compensate me for all the hours of work I’d missed, waiting for a delivery that never came. Why he thought it was somehow better or easier to have me go through that charade of supposed delivery for days at a time – twice – than to be honest and open with his customers about the status of their orders.
It is now Monday, I have just been to Mobilia to collect my money, and I am back at square one – with a modest sum of money, and no couch. On my way back to work I stopped by Kitea, the other budget furniture option, where the couches are slightly less attractive and slightly more expensive. I made a choice for their cheapest couch and got ready to place an order, only to hear that this model was no longer disponible, in any color.
There are other options – I can buy a pricy couch at the upscale furniture store in my neighborhood, or I can have something made to order (a process I will have to figure out, first). But I am sitting here, and for a moment I am letting it get to me. This little episode of frustration has added to a number of other work- and research-related developments that have left me feeling utterly suffocated, incapable, and powerless. And as a result, I’ve let it happen: I’ve given into unproductive wallowing in homesickness.
It’s not just the big things that I miss – the system, the structure, the familiarity, the natural ease of communication. It’s mostly the little things that keep popping up in my head. Like driving my car down University Avenue while listening to Weekend Players, or like walking across the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue with a Starbucks latte in my hand. Going running through the streets of North Park. Perusing books for hours at the Borders downtown. A glass of Chilean wine on my parents’ back porch. Warm brownies. The squirrels in Hyde Park. A smoked turkey sandwich. The New Yorker. A Chicago style pizza. Good sushi. DSW Shoe Warehouse. The number six bus. Real chocolate chip cookies. The beach in La Jolla. Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline. A huge glass of 2% milk. Barbeques on the point. Trader Joe’s. The Art Institute. A real Italian meal. Twiggs. The Living Room Café. H&M. Lake Shore Drive. Showtime. A hot dog. Banana Republic. HBO. Legitimate DVDs with movies in English. A good summer thunderstorm. The AMC at River East. MSNBC. Walgreen’s. NPR. The Sunday New York Times. And above all, my friends and family.
I’m going home for a week at the end of this month. Right now, it couldn’t come soon enough. And I just hope that that week of comfort will make a difference – that I’ll retrieve or recover a bit of the energy I long for.