Yesterday, after much deliberation, we carried a cushion back to Victor’s Upholstery. He’d made it the week before, two cushions for the bench on the back porch. An extra job we added to the main job of having him re-upholster the Danish moderns from the living room. A main job that shouldn’t have been necessary because Dave had had those reupholstered less than ten years ago. However, the upholsterers he’d used made the cushions too small so they never fit the chairs properly. I still remember when they delivered the not-quite-right chairs. It was just before Thanksgiving, which Dave was hosting. They had come highly recommended and were very expensive. These factors somehow blinded us to the fact that the cushions were the wrong size.
Even now I can remember the guy setting down a chair and trying to arrange the cushions so we wouldn’t see the gap in the back because the cushions were too short. There was a weird energy in the room, maybe because Dave was paying almost a thousand dollars, and the guy was smiling a lot and in a hurry, and it didn’t seem possible that the cushions couldn’t be right, and just too awkward to look too closely. In fact, I think it took us about six months to admit to each other, “They don’t look quite right.”
So when we brought the chairs to Victor, who runs a little shop on Montrose, no delivery that I know of, an ancient adding machine on his desk that he still uses, we checked and double-checked the measurements. I didn’t want him to even see the old cushions, although also I did. “These are the old ones, see how wrong they are?”
Victor laughed. “Yes, it’s no problem.”
“So you won’t go by this size.”
“I make them fit the chair.”
On the way home, I said, “We shouldn’t have shown him the old cushions. What if he forgets and goes by that size?”
“It’s fine,” said Dave. And it was. For half what the other guys charged, Victor completely reupholstered the chairs, made beautiful, sturdy, perfectly-sized cushions, and even cleaned and re-lacquered the wood. We are now in love with Victor. So we asked him to make new cushions for the back porch bench. “No problem,” said Victor. He made two beautiful cushions which are almost perfect except that they’re about an inch and a half too long.
At first we were going to let it go. He’s so reasonable, and maybe we screwed up on the measurements. Except Dave is pretty sure he didn’t screw up. Except he’s already erased the note from his phone, and we can’t find the quote Victor wrote up on his carbon-paper form. So we have no idea who screwed up, us or him. And without knowing who screwed up, how do we know what we’re asking for? Are we hiring him to adjust one of the cushions? Is he going to charge us? If he says it was our fault, will he get his copy of the receipt and show us the measurements and then we’ll need to bring in the second cushion too, so that we can prove that it was him and not us, or maybe it will turn out to be us, which will be slightly embarrassing but we’ll just ask what it costs? Should we just forget it? “I think I could live with it,” Dave said. “It’s one of those things that will always bug me, but only a little.”
“No, you went through that with the chairs.”
“I should have said something as soon as that guy set them down.”
“It’s a matter of principle.” So we grabbed a cushion and walked over with the dog. As we neared the shop, Dave said, “Who’s gonna be good cop?”
“I’ll be bad cop,” I said. Though because of the dog I’d need to stay at the door and not really be able to get in his face and threaten his adding machine.
We walked in, and Victor came out from the back and saw the cushion. “Ah, what it is?”
“It’s a little too long,” Dave began. “I don’t know if we maybe, or…”
“Too long?” Victor took the cushion. “How much?”
Dave said, “About an inch and a half?”
“I shorten it.”
“Sure. Come back tomorrow.”
“It’s not a problem, with the zipper or anything?”
“No problem. Come back at this same time.”
“Thank you!” Victor took the cushion back to his machine and that was that. No long discussion about who was at fault. No long discussion about how it might have happened. We walked back home a little stunned. Now we’re wondering how much to pay him, even if he doesn’t charge us anything.