unloading a used bed: manners matter

Posted: June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

Team Buchanan is currently on a mission to reclaim our garage.  It’s a tiny thing, old, with a saggy roof and one wall being slowly bowed by the white oak growing at its corner.  It desperately needs a new roof and a paint job; we have plans for both, hopefully before winter.  It is juuuuust barely big enough for our car and a few other items placed neatly and carefully. But it hasn’t been neat at all for some time.

We first displaced our car with a used bed we’d gotten for a friend who was amidst a move.  The friend’s situation changed, and the bed sat there on sawhorses, wrapped carefully in tarps to keep the wet out, waiting to be claimed by someone…anyone.

Then there was the small, dirty mattress we got with the house, propped up against the back of the garage.  And the big box springs we brought from our previous residence, but couldn’t fit up the attic stairs – we propped it back there too.  That was fine until the City made a sweep and wrote us warning of an impending ticket; G hastily hauled both into the garage.

There was the old tire we got with the house, that we kept moving around.  Can’t put those out with the garbage, and I was pretty sure we were going to have to pay to get it out of our lives.

We hadn’t figured out how to get rid of all these things, so we parked on the street for most of winter, working the business of defrosting the car into our morning routine.  Parking outside in inclement weather is a violation of my personal laziness policy, but we somehow survived. Friends had mentioned that the City would do a pick-up, but they intimated it would cost, and as I calculated the value of a truck and two workers, I supposed that expense would be prohibitive, so for 10 months I did nothing about it.  Finally, I decided to do a little research; within 10 minutes I had learned that our city provides one free pick-up per year, and had called to set it up; they’re coming next week to get rid of the junk.  They also do free tire pick-ups; that’s already complete.

That still left us with a perfectly good bed, the mattress and box springs pristine in the canvas.  I didn’t have the heart to just throw such a useful thing out.  I advertised it repeatedly on my local Facebook buy and sell page, first for sale and then for free, without a single bite.  Complaining at a party (yeah, I’m a fun gal who complains at parties), I was advised to give Craigslist a try.  Yesterday morning, I finally got around to composing my ad there, promising myself that if the bed wasn’t gone by pick-up day, it would just have to go then.

If you ever want to give something away for free, do it on Craigslist.  I posted the ad, complete with a photo and clarification that the bed showed some wear and tear but was solid and the mattress in good condition, and within an hour had half a dozen inquiries, a firm appointment, and a waiting list of people who wanted it if those above them on the list did not.  The first asker seemed enthusiastic and earnest on her texts; we agreed that she’d come by when we got off work.

I worried that the crappy little mattress and the big box springs that had sat outside so much might freak out potential takers, so G and I took the time to haul the good bed out of the garage and shut the door.  We waited.  And waited.  Twenty minutes past appointment time, the couple rolled up in their big fancy truck, hopped out, and started inspecting the bed.  We rushed out of the house, smiling and greeting them enthusiastically.  They did not respond.  The hostile body language of the wife was unsettling.

Still, we made nice while they inspected the bed, unsmiling, unspeaking, unintroduced, pushing up some kind of unspoken barrier that seemed to forbid us to speak.  The woman finally indicated they wouldn’t be taking it, grousing that, “Even for free, there is too much wrong with it.”  With nary a smile nor a single pleasant word, they got back in their fancy truck and drove away while we stood there with our jaws hitting the ground.  The impulse to make a rude comment as they left was powerful even for non-confrontational little old me, but I stifled it.

Still, their rudeness left a residue even after they were gone.  We were offended.  We told each other the story and asked each other the questions and shook our heads over and over.  My stomach was a nasty pit.  I imagined creative things I could’ve said.  I noted aloud to G that it wasn’t so much that they didn’t take the bed – they didn’t owe us that.  It was that they couldn’t do basic civility.  That they treated us like we were trying to hustle them with our free bed.   I stayed mad clear to bedtime, despite coaching myself continually not to take offense about people whose problem was clearly their own and had nothing to do with me.

In the end, though we fantasized about crappy ways we could have acted in response to their crappiness, we agreed that we were glad we hadn’t.  What if the couple shows up at our church some day?  What if they bring a parent to tour our (senior housing) workplace at some point?  We represent both of those organizations, like it or not.  We were glad that God’s grace had enabled us to not return yuck for yuck.  We won’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed if we encounter these uncivil people in another setting.  That’s a good gift.

All this to say:  people, manners matter.  It’s easy to forget that in the heat of a moment.  It’s easy to be so much about what we want or are trying to get that we forget the niceties of introductions, smiles, and saying thank you.  When I am on a mission to get a task done, I all too easily forget to stop and make people feel noticed along the way.  THAT MATTERS.

You and I get a choice every day, over and over, to leave a residue of peace and encouragement or a residue of offense.  This little episode was a great reminder to me that I have to be intentional about it all the time – I’m just as able to be uncivil as our visitors were.  We often think changing the world has to be a huge, epic, expensive, difficult thing.  But I submit that we change the world every day all day, as we choose to interact with people in affirming, life-giving ways.  I’ve been reminded.  Consider yourself reminded as well.

And if you’re wondering:  the second person on the list did come, and did take the bed, and remembered more about graciousness.  The world has not gone completely to hell in a hand basket, no matter how many people try to say that it has.

Today, may you and I be spreaders of joy.

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Comments
  1. As I read that description, boyyyyy did that ring a bell with my work a day world. It has been a very tough stretch at my employment due to changes in business practices. Civility from the top Leaders interacting with the minions is much like how you describe. It is shocking when witnessed and of course the barbs hitting the target is felt.

    Nice reminder of the fact we – or rather I – as stated in Corinthians stink. I am the aroma of life or death, but make no mistake – I smell one way or the other. I find that applies to all people. It just ramps up in the awareness when I call my self a follower of Jesus. The “Ouch” effect is much quicker and stings when I get busted on the smell I emanate.

    We speak life or death with actions, words, countenance, and body language. Good Good reminder after another stellar day of changing business practices in the office.

    Thank you.

  2. jillvaile says:

    A lot of people who come out for freebies try to resell them. That would explain her not-so-nice comments. Don’t take it personally.

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