In the summer of 2015, I laid on my couch as I perused craigslist furniture for sale. We had just moved to a new spot and, as it always goes, the entirety of moving had made us feel as if we had been hemorrhaging money for a good month or so. I was in no mood to continue parting with my dough. Problem was, we still needed to fill our space up with a couple more items. In an effort to minimize that on my wallet, I had been searching craigslist daily for any unique home steals that caught my eye.
Sure enough, I soon saw a chair that I knew we had to have. It was a lacquered slate grey with tall wings and bolted divets running up and down the tips. The second I saw it, I knew it was mine. A few emails and texts with the owner later and there we were, standing at this man's door knocking loudly to grab our new-to-us chair.
I don't suppose I'll ever forget this very mild experience. I was like a week new to this big city so I was fervently noticing the shift from the type of people here vs. the type of people in Portland. It was all so fresh on my radar and I was like an urban sponge as I absorbed every new thing. As the door swung open, it instantly revealed a very successful man. I made this judgment by a quick assessment of a few things: His home was fashionable, masculine and organized. He wore a thick, expensive suit with horn-rimmed glasses and had his hair styled to OCD perfection.
After exchanging a few pleasantries - Jay, the man and I walked over to the living room to get the chair. I had now learned that he was selling it because he was moving to NYC for a job transfer. He was in finance and his company wanted him to oversee an investment project in New York. No denying this man was a catch: masculine, friendly, handsome, worldly, professional, successful and outgoing.
Within seconds, Jay and I had the bold grey chair in hand and were about to leave the premises of this pale grey house. As we neared the door, we lurched to a halt unexpectedly. So we pushed again. And again. And then we realized we were stuck in the frame. The tall wings that I had loved so much were far wider than the opening. Shucks.
No matter, the man took my spot on the front lines of this holding gig and together Jay and him did acrobats with the heavy recliner as they pushed, pulled, lifted, rotated and shoved. No such luck. It soon became clear that this wasn't going to happen without a little elbow grease and some tools.
"I think we should take off the door really quickly," - Jay suggested.
"Oh yeah, I remember that's how it got into the house in the first place, I had totally forgot." - man replied.
"Great! Do you have a tool kit handy?"- Jay.
"Uh..." he wavered, "I think so".
The man shot off into his bedroom and came back with a few lonely tools that had somehow been separated from their pack. As Jay assessed what we needed to do, the man was standing at ready to assist.
Jay asked for the Phillips screwdriver.
The man stared at the 7 tools over and over and reached for the flathead screwdriver. I grabbed the Phillips instead and handed it to Jay.
Jay instructed that they should both start to remove the hinge pins.
The man had no idea what that meant.
With each step, I watched as this successful and well-groomed person stumbled his way around every inch of the hardware. He didn't know what to hit, he could only barely use a hammer and he certainly had no idea what any of the tools in front of him were. In fact, I caught him again trying to twist off a screw with the wrong screwdriver.
And I immediately thought - how funny is this? Here is the portrait of "success" proving himself to be utterly useless to this task at hand.
It has served as a good reminder to me of what it does mean to make it in this world.
The man selling his expensive chair from his SF home as he made his way to NYC for a big titled job certainly made it.
But so did the guy who works with his hands and can easily help anyone with a jump start or renovate a bathroom. He made it too.
Both would shine at different times and both would dull at others.
There's not one way to be a great success story.