Mike Holmes, Canada’s most trusted handyman, is famous for proclaiming, “That ain’t goin’ nowhere.” His signature line is usually delivered straight into the camera as he gives a newly installed fence post or partition or deck railing a good, hard shove. Manjit Gill uttered the exact same words about a decade before Mike Holmes first appeared on HGTV – and they rang through my ears yesterday when I rode a bus between Vancouver and Tsawwassen. It was not a memory that I had wanted to dredge up.
Back in 1986 Manjit was the manager at a United Furniture Warehouse location in Surrey, BC. We met in the coffee shop at the Best Western Hotel in Langley where I was staying at the time. He said that I should look him up if I moved out of the hotel and had to furnish an apartment. I think he mentioned something about L-shaped for the price of a conventional sofa. Or was it Ultrasuede for the price of velour?
One day about a year later I did find myself in the market for a sofa. It didn’t have to be Ultrasuede, or L-shaped for that matter, but it did have to be cheap. I had just signed a one-year lease on an apartment in Vancouver and would soon be coming off an expense account and paying my own rent for the first time in my life.
Within an hour of signing the lease I was driving back to Cloverdale and right past Manjit’s store. I figured I might as well drop in and see if he remembered me.
Well, not only did Manjit remember me, he greeted me warmly at the door, gave me a big hug, and summoned a girl to make us some tea. I sat down on a nice black and white striped sofa while Manjit sat on the matching love seat and told the other salesmen that I was the guy who had given him the “guaranteed winner” at the track that time. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen, but rather than question him in front of his staff, I just played along. Perhaps he was telling a white lie. Had he confused me with someone else? Either way, he liked me and I could smell a discount.
I figured I had better act quickly before he realized his mistake. I whipped out $400 and told him that I’d take the sofa that I was sitting on. It had been priced at $700. To my utter shock he accepted my first offer. And not only that, he said that he’d have his men load the sofa and love seat onto my truck. I had offered $400 for the sofa but he was about to load the sofa and love seat for the same price.
At that point my mission in life was to hand over four $100 bills, skip the tea, and get that furniture on my truck before Manjit came to his senses.
I backed the truck up to the loading dock and Manjit had two workers place the love seat in the bed of the truck, upright, with the much heavier sofa nestled on top, upside down. When I asked how they planned to tie it down without damaging the fabric, Manjit uttered those famous: “That sofa’s very heavy… It ain’t goin’ nowehere.”
In my haste to hit the road, I told myself that Manjit was a full-time furniture salesman who did this type of thing every day. Surely he knew what he was doing, right?
I was on the highway within 10 minutes and checking the rearview mirror every 10 seconds. After a while I realized that I was halfway home and both pieces of furniture were sitting in the box of the truck like a skid of bricks. They hadn’t moved a fraction of an inch despite the total absence of tie-downs and a tailgate that was laying flat.
After a few more minutes I came to the George Massey Tunnel that runs under the Fraser River just south of Vancouver. I checked the rearview mirror just as I entered the tunnel. It was at that point that I had a vivid flashback to my Grade 6 Science Fair project on Aerodynamics and Wind Tunnels.
Seconds later there was a mighty “whoosh”. The sofa was … gone.
In the off chance that an investigator from the BC Ministry of Highways may be reading this blog, I will skip over what I did next and fast-forward about 30 minutes. A neighbour helped me move the loveseat into my bachelor apartment and we both agreed that it looked great in front of the picture window, even if the picture window looked onto the back alley and the building’s recycling bins.
It was a bachelor apartment, I told myself. How did I ever think there’d be room for a loveseat and a sofa?