Another weekend shifts to cargo mode as table talk turns into a plan of action


Our round, dining-room table had to be fitted into our squarish station wagon. Why? Because that is the nature of things.

Furniture exists to be hauled around. Guys exist to do the hauling. There might be other reasons for the existence of furniture and guys, but not on most weekends.

The table had to be moved from one house to another house. I am sure I was told the reason for the move, but it didn't stick with me. When you are in the furniture-moving mode, you do not ask why. Instead, you ask "where," as in "where do you want it?"

Years of rearranging living-room furniture have taught me to duck the question, "How do you think the sofa will look over on that wall?" This is not really a question. This is a request to lug the sofa over to the wall. Other people, a mom, a wife, a girlfriend, a sister, a sister-in-law, will decide how the sofa looks. You will decide how to get it from point A to point B.

Several factors figured in my decision to use the family station wagon to transport the dining-room table to its new home. One was "putting the station wagon in the cargo mode." That is owner's manual talk for folding down the back seats. There was a time when station wagons were virtually the only passenger vehicles whose seats could be transformed into a cargo mode. When I was kid, one of the treats of visiting my cousins in Des Moines was riding in the back of their 1953 station wagon. All the back seats were folded down and all the kids -- eight from their family, four from ours -- rode through town licking ice cream cones. We were ice-cream eating cargo. Now everything from a van to a hatchback can be put into the cargo mode. But it is considered incorrect, not to mention illegal, to haul kids like cargo. Nevertheless, when I fold down station wagon seats, part of me feels like a kid going on an adventure.

Other factors figuring in my decision to use the station wagon were the kind of bumpers it had and my general reluctance to spend money. Back in the days when male psyches and automobile bumpers were made of steel, you could slap a temporary hitch on your car and go barreling down the road in a rented trailer. Now if you hitch a trailer to your low-impact bumper, there is a good chance the bumper will fall off. That is what it is designed to do, as a safety feature.

My days of hauling stuff in cheap, rented trailers are gone. In their place is the era of the not-so-cheap, rented trucks. Renting a truck probably makes sense if you are hauling a houseful of furniture. But when you are only toting a table, it seems like overkill. The question was, would the table fit in the wagon. I tried to answer it by using my brain. I measured the height and width of the table and compared these measurements with the dimensions of the wagon's cargo area, which were listed in the owner's manual. The table was 32 inches wide, and the opening at the back of the station wagon was 27.6 inches at one point, and 32 inches at another. In other words, the table might fit. But then again, it might not.

Abandoning the brainy approach, I turned to muscle. I planned to take the table apart, separate its top from its pedestal, carry the parts out to the wagon and see if I could squeeze them in.

I turned the table upside-down. I saw four bolts fastened with nuts and washers. I removed them. Before you could say "call the carpenter," the pedestal and table top were asunder. Using a pencil, I numbered the bolt holes in the pedestal and marked corresponding numbers on the bottom of the table. Once the table got to its new home, these marks would help me line up the pedestal and the top. I would put them back together in exactly the same position they were when I took them apart.

My wife was not confident the plan would work. When I was methodically comparing the size of the table with that of the wagon, she was paging through the phone book, looking for truck rental agencies. When our teen-age son and I carried the table top toward the station wagon, my wife looked worried and kept saying, "We really don't have to do this."

However, not only did the table top fit inside the station wagon, there was also room to spare, maybe an inch or two. The pedestal put up a fight, but eventually it, too, complied and went into the back of the wagon.

When we arrived at the table's new home, there were expressions of great joy and considerable relief as the table parts were reunited. The table was back in business.

And I was back in the hauling business. The round table was displacing a rectangular table. Instinctively, I knew my next task. I got my sons to help me carry the displaced table down to the car. I fit the rectangular table into the squarish wagon and headed down the road. Like kindred beasts of burden, I was born to haul.

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