Sunday, April 11, 2010

In search of the Holy Grail

Rod and I were on a mission to find the ideal patio furniture on Saturday. He defined the
qualities of the perfect patio chair and they were:
  • he will never have to sand or stain another wooden chair for the rest of his life
  • he will never have to go shopping for another chair, ever in his life
  • comfort — it would allow for just the right degree of slouch-age as he drifts away basking in the rays of the morning sun
  • its arms are broad enough to hold a cup of tea while he reads the Sunday paper
  • it could be left outside throughout the year as our storage space is at a minimum
He finally saw his elusive prey inside the pages of a brochure buried amongst a bazillion others that arrives tucked in the local paper (which, itself comprises about 10 pages, more or less, of local items considered newsworthy)...


There they were gleaming off the page all shiny, bright and cheery in candy colours of orange, candy floss pink, sky blue and sunny yellow. "Make sure you pick a colour you like — you're going to have it forever." Made of recycled plastic, the ad further guaranteed "pure distilled awesomeness" and a "zero maintenance product". No warranty is needed as there is "no disappointment."

It was as if he had found God.

But, there was no price listed, so as he always does, he researched to find more of a similar design and found a $20 version at Canadian Tire. I feared a frighteningly low, unmatchable baseline was being established so I brought him back to reality. "Remember the first patio chairs we bought way back when; the plastic ones that disintegrated and stained to a yucky streaky grey. That's what those are made of. These are a lot better than that."

He thought for a moment and agreed. "How many chairs do you want to get?" he asked me and personally I really don't care, I am comfortable sitting on a rock, but our friends are not rock sitting people.

"It depends on the price and their size as the yard's pretty small." We live in a townhouse and I don't want to see fence to fence furniture blocking my view of the garden.

"OK", he mentally juggles figures and options, "I am willing to spend $50 to $75 tops for a chair. So we'll get 2 or 3 depending on the cost."

They were truly all that the brochure advertised and more because, without realizing it at the time, we fell i
n love with the higher quality, recycled plastic version made by a different manufacturer. "I call this the 'GENERATION' chair," the salesman said as he waxed poetically about it. Oh, oh I was beginning to smell the big sell — this a perfect line aimed to appeal to the '60's generation with "disposable" income (we are the former, not the latter). We couldn't give away my folk's quality, antique furniture so you think the next generation is going to be interested in hand-me-down patio chairs? Times, and styles change. We live in a throwaway culture where "NEWER IS BETTER". I don't think so.

This is what we could afford to get in our $50 to $75 dollar range. I'm not talking about the whole chair, look closer and to the left of the arm of the chair. Yup, that's right...A CUP HOLDER. A frikin' CUP HOLDER!
"No disappointment" my ass, I was stunned and Rod was numb. Not only was his dream smashed to smithereens but it left me wondering what the hell our values are around here. One chair
was $459. The price of 2 chairs would pay for one return ticket to Vancouver Island. "So we can either sit in our backyard or go for a trip" Rod concluded.

Our hunt intensified. His resolve weakened. As we visited store after store and scoured the town in his van (cleared of his tools precisely for the purpose of delivering his prize home) he began to question his mission. He began considering:
  • Iron chairs which would leave "grill-like" imprints on our flesh from the blazing sun (but would last forever). We could get seat pads and replace them every year (uugh a yearly quest, don't think so).
  • Bouncy ones with steel frame and plastic webbed backs; they're bouncy what's not to like? But their arms were spindly and anaemic, not suited to hold anything.
  • Crappy tire's "ergonomically" friendly, plastic $20 specials would take us back where we started about 18 years ago and put us back on the road in 2 years in search of their replacements.
"Don't get sidetracked" I urged. "What do you really want? Focus on that." I encouraged in my best hypnotist fashion.

"I don't want to have to do any maintenance or look for chairs again. I like the Adirondack chair, but there's no way I'm paying that price." (Actually, I found out a day later that the ones in the brochure that captured our attention initially are made by CRP in Stratford, Ontario, and run for $299 with $20 cup holders but are "cheaply" made with rough edges and exposed screws; no comparison to the Element Squared ones made right here in Burlington, that had captured our hearts.)

The bottom line was no maintenance. Mainte...nance; mainte...nance. Could it be more clear?

Our prize was to be found standing on a podium of boxes just inside the entrance at Costco, which just happened to be the last store we were going to search. It rose above us like a beacon in answer to our prayers. For $57.99 this is what we got.

The compromise aka reality:
  • Some assembly is required and though I can do it, as of this writing Rod has put one of them together. When I asked him how long it took. He said, "Four hours while watching the Master's". The production area is on our living room floor in front of the TV. As long as he's happy that's all I care about.
  • We're not quite back full circle as the chairs we are replacing were weather worn wood with much thinner and more numerous slats — bigger and fewer slats = easier in my book as I will be the maintenance person.
  • So every year, when the season is heralded in by the chirping of birds at 5a.m., I will be called upon to slather the water-repellant preservative over their gleaming, natural wood surface.
  • They will become a garden sculpture in the winter, stored under a cheery, blue tarp.
  • Since they don't have the bright, appealing colours I'll just have to plant more flowers.
Now we just have to replace the nasty little BBQ...

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