CONVERSATIONS. Max, miracles, IKEA, friendship & death.

Excuse me?

I looked up. Ten feet away, a youngish-ish woman approached me.

I said.
How are you?

I don't know,
she said,
adjusting her handbag and digging through her pockets.
Can you tell me when the next Blue Line arrives?

Let's see...
I said, hauling out my phone and pulling up the Max schedule.
Looks like it's coming in the next minute or two.

Thank goodness for small miracles!
she exclaimed, her scarf fluttering as the Red Line swooshed off a short distance away.
Perfect timing! It will be here in one minute!

I smiled.
Small miracles are good.

It really is a small miracle,
she said.
And it's the second one this week. I've had a really bad week, and I am so grateful for small miracles.

I'm sorry about the bad part of your week!
I said.
Hasn't been so good?

She stepped closer, shaking her head.
I have had a good relationship with IKEA for years, for many years, and this is the first time that I am not happy at all!

What's going on?
I asked.

I bought two bookshelves,
she explained.
I don't have a car so I can't transport them, so I arranged to have them delivered and set up at my apartment. These two men came to set them up.

I said.
Did they not do a very good job?

There were two men,
she continued.
A young man and an old man. They brought up the bookcases and worked all morning setting them up. One is going in my living room for books and such things. The other is white and going in my kitchen for food and things like that. They're identical, but one is white.

Got it.
I said.

They got them set up, and left. I was dusting them afterwards, and as I was dusting the one in the kitchen, I realized what they had done.

What had they done?
I prompted, concerned that the Blue Line would arrive before the story was complete.

There was a gouge in the shelf!
she said vehemently.
A big gouge! On the back of the shelf!

Oh no!
I said.
So...pretty noticeable?

No, no!
she said.
On the BACK of the shelf. The permanent one, not the shelves that come out. I wouldn't have even noticed it if I hadn't been dusting! I was so upset! And I know which one did it!

Which one?!
I asked,
excited to hear about the villain.

It was the old guy.
she said.
The older man in his 50s. I could tell when he came in that he was full of himself. The YOUNG man was fine. He did a good job. But the old man was just rushing things along and arrogant and he gouged my bookshelf and tried to hide it.

That's unfortunate.
I said.
Was he in a hurry?

she said.
He shouldn't have been, because their next appointment wasn't until 2:00, and they were done by 11:30. They had plenty of time to do it right. The young man did, I could tell he knew what he was doing. But the old man...he's had lots of years to learn incompetence. Lots of years.

So is IKEA taking care of you now?
I asked.
They doing the right thing? What IS the right thing for them to do? Will they replace it?

I don't know,
she said, shaking her early-70s* head.
I don't know what they'll do. They've always been good up until now. But the men didn't even work for IKEA. They're contracted by IKEA to deliver and set up furniture. The old man should not be doing it for IKEA anymore. The young man is okay though. He's a good worker. But the older man is full of himself.

I'm sorry.
I said.
It sounds like a rough week.

That's not all.
she said, her eyes starting to tear up.
My daughter's mother-in-law died this week.

Oh no!
I said.
That is awful! What...happened?

I only have the one child,
she said.
And my daughter, she married this man, and he is an only child. And his mother was a wonderful person. Only in her 80s. And suddenly she passes. It makes me sad because she was a wonderful woman. A wonderful woman.

I'm so sorry.
I said.
Will you able to see -

She jumped in.
- I will not be able to see her because in our religion the body is not kept to see. There is a process that takes place immediately afterwards and it's not a custom to keep it for people to see.

I said, returning to finish my original question.
Will you be able to see your daughter and son-in-law soon?

she said, looking up at the cloud trails.
They live in Israel. It's not possible for me to see them soon. But she was a wonderful woman. I really liked her.

It's really neat,
I said.
It sounds like the two of you had a lot of respect for one other. That's a special thing.

she said.
She was a wonderful woman.

A strip of blue whooshed behind us. I glanced at my phone clock. Running a couple minutes behind schedule.

Is this you?
I asked.

She began scurrying toward the train's opening doors.
She stopped ten feet away and turned around.

Thank you.
she said.
Thank you for listening and being a nice young man.

I waved, and hoped there will be many more little miracles ahead for her.

And do the right thing, IKEA. I know you will.


*an estimate. I did not ask for ID.