Oberlin Blogs

Impromptu Couch Amputation

September 23, 2023

Sean Norton ’25

I recently moved into my off-campus housing for this year, an utterly dogwater apartment graced with some probably illegally narrow doors. Now, despite both the landlord and the previous tenants telling me it would be completely unfurnished upon our arrival, we discovered that in fact we had been left a variety of gifts, including: a semi-functional yet very stylish minifridge, a squat table bearing the scars of what I can only assume to be decades of puffy-paint abuse, four red leather chairs, a nice pile of trash, a nasty patch of black mold underneath the kitchen sink--which I can only assume was fueled by the presence of just an open hole down to the cabinet below the sink where one might install a soap pumper--a shower/bathtub combo with no lower faucet and a showerhead that was so thoroughly calcified as to render it completely unusable--this is the shitty apartment bit I get by far the most milage out of, because of this great eight-second video I have of its full blast producing only a trickle of water--and the creme de la creme, a strange little rose-pink velour futon, sitting so lonely in our lightless living room.

In the process of working to remediate these delightful presents, we decided that our little pink futon could use a friend, and lo and behold, several days later, we spotted a darling and presumably antique dark wood and white paisley cushioned couch perched upon the curb of Pleasant Street. So of course, we pounced.

I asked my boyfriend if we could borrow his car to transport it, and he replied, "A couch? No."

So we were left to carry our slightly soggy friend the five blocks back to our house on foot. Fortunately, my housemate and I have a friend who likes to boast that "you can fit any piece of furniture through any door," and he lived right across the street from the couch! So after what was supposed to be a little gathering before Tank Folk Night (a delightful open-mic style folk and bluegrass music event hosted periodically at different OSCA coops, would definitely recommend!) turned into a bunch of people in his living room not going to Tank, we plied him away to help us carry the couch by promising him one PBR and a magnetic knife rack.

The three of us took rotating shifts at the bow, midships and stern of the couch as we hiked it down the street all the way to our doorstep while deciding whether or not to measure any element of the couch or the hallway, whether or not we would be solving once and for all the sofa problem, and whether or not this experience qualified us as math cranks.

Now, let me describe the layout of my aforementioned dogwater apartment: it's the top floor of a duplex, above a very sweet family with a small child--did I mention this great bout of furniture moving and associated wall and floor banging is taking place far past this poor child's bedtime?--and has a shared entryway with stairs leading up to my aforementioned illegally narrow door, which we quickly discovered we were gonna have to remove if we had any hope of fitting this couch through the doorframe. Thankfully, I've got a drill, and we've had to take off the door to move basically any piece of furniture in or out of the house, so that part was a breeze!

So, door removed, back to the layout. This apartment has the most closed possible floorplan for the space. The narrow doorframe opens into a narrow hallway, which makes a 90 degree turn into another long hallway, which has another narrow doorway to the living room halfway down. In other words, bad for couch moving!

Our first idea was to just turn the couch at an angle to the doorframe and slide it through, which provided us with some initial success, and caused us to adopt an attitude of "we'll just push it!" until the skinny little legs extending from the bottom of the couch started to catch on the walls. Fortunately, given that this apartment has been utterly neglected by the landlord, and presumably every previous tenant also had to try to raft their furniture through the treacherous dimensions, it was already in possession of an incredible number of drywall gouges, so we didn't worry too much about the fresh ones we were making. Which led us to just keep pushing, until we realize we've just completely jammed this couch into our hallway. Totally wedged, free floating a couple feet off the ground, as you can see below.

A shot through a doorway with a couch clearly floating in the hallway beyond

This was both terribly amusing and a bit of a problem, as it blocked entry or exit from our house. At this point all we could come up with was, "well, I guess we have to cut the legs off." Unfortunately, I had lent away my saws when I left for Greece, and the person I left them to wasn't picking up their damn phone (Liam!). So I called my former roommate--a known saw possessor--who graciously offered his pull saw if only I'd come get it. So I wiggled and squirmed my way under the couch, hopped on my bike, and pedaled across most of the town of Oberlin to my friend's house on Union Street.

Much to my delight, I also participated in a little neighborly communion building, as my friend Clark, the only other Oberlin person on my program in Greece last semester and whose American phone number, I recently realized, I sadly did not possess, turned out not only to be living in the house right across the street from the destination of my saw-based journey, but was actively out and about on her porch hanging up lights with her housemates. While we were catching up and I was explaining my couch predicament, Emerson--my friend with the saw--came out of his house in crocs and a bathrobe, brandishing the heavily toothed object of my desire, so I got to introduce two neighbors to each other before skedaddling back to my apartment!

Upon my return I found the other two couch movers sitting in the kitchen drinking stout out of crystal glasses and eating a block of gruyere. They declared that I was doing the A arc of this story and after offering me some cheese, set about chopping the legs off.

Quite a sight it was to see my housemate crouching in the empty doorframe of our house progressively sawing the legs off this presumably antique couch! And, miraculously, it worked! We managed to un-stick it, after removing only half the legs, and improbable though it seemed, turn it completely vertical, get it around the corner and into the living room, due almost entirely to one of the few nice things about this apartment, the nine-foot ceilings.

Jubilantly triumphant as we were, the couch no longer sits flat--on account of its brutal kneecapping.  We had to rather jankily screw the legs back on and try not to sit on it too hard, but goddamn does it look good next to that sad little pink couch! He is sad and lonely no more :)


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