Back in January, when the temperatures in South Florida were cool, the New York Times featured the Louisiane Bench on the front page of their Home Section. It was the kind of bench that resides in Parisian parks but it was a beautiful, deep red color. And for some reason, I fell in love. I don’t know if it was the shape of the bench or its color or the fact that it was made of lacquered steel and would hold up in the humidity of my South Florida world. It just felt right.
All of the homes in my neighborhood have porches and when I first moved in, over 11 years ago, I bought furniture for my porch. A white wood bench and matching rocking chair outfitted with brightly colored pillows. But over the years the pillows got moldy and the wood rotted. A few years ago, I had to throw it all away. And I’ve lived without any porch furniture since. I really hadn’t seen anything that I liked so I wasn’t in a hurry to buy replacements. The homes in my development, though attractive, all have a sameness to them. I wanted something different for my porch. Something that was more of a representation of me. Kind of like when you buy new eyeglasses.
The Louisiane Bench was the first piece of outdoor furniture to attract my attention. Beyond attract. Demand. I would have ordered it right away but the price held me back. Still, I kept thinking about it. The color, the shape, how it would look against my light blue house. I was haunted. I had saved the picture from the newspaper and kept it next to my computer, looking at it frequently. I am rarely smitten in this way.
At the beginning of March, I succumbed. And the company I ordered it from said it would take between 12-14 weeks to get it. They didn’t keep them in stock so the bench had to come from the manufacturer in France. On a boat by way of Madagascar. Okay I’m exaggerating about the Madagascar part. But at least the shipping was free. Thirteen weeks later, I got an email saying that the bench would be delivered in one week. On July 6th. Right smack dab in the middle of my beach vacation 800 miles away from my home. Of course.
I made arrangements with the freight company to have it delivered to my house without requiring a signature and with my neighbor to bring it into the house the day that it arrived. And I brought my cell phone down to the beach so I could obsessively keep track of the bench’s whereabouts. When I finally spoke to my neighbor and confirmed its arrival, she told me that the box was in very bad shape: ripped in multiple places to the point that she could see the color of the bench, which, by the way, she really liked. But still, not a good sign.
When I got home from my vacation and unpacked the bench, it was indeed scratched in half a dozen places. What a bummer. All that time waiting, all that pining over. Like when you have a crush on someone from afar for months then finally talk to them. And realize that they are not what you thought they would be. Maybe they’re boring, arrogant or damaged. What a disappointment.
I have an aversion to dealing with customer service departments on occasions like this. I always expect the worst. And usually get it. But the response from this company was professional from the beginning. It took only one phone call and one email to get a promise of a free can of special paint and a credit of 14% of the total cost of the bench to my credit card. The scratches are small and the paint will allow the bench to remain under its three-year no rust warranty.
Mr. Fowler (new moniker for my husband because I am tired of simply calling him my husband) and I put the bench together. It didn’t take too long. And the bench is everything I hoped it would be and more, even with a few scratches. Its beautiful red poppy color. Its distinct shape. Its uniqueness. The bench has a certain je ne sais quoi. And it was worth the wait. Unfortunately, it’s 90 degrees outside. The hottest time of the year when NO ONE sits on their front porches. But in a few months, I’ll really be able to enjoy it, sitting outside watching the world go by from my porch.
In the meantime, I’ll keep it inside. I think one night in the near future, I’ll pour a couple of glasses of Sancerre, sit next to Mr. Fowler on the bench, tell him “Je t’aime” and seduce him. It’ll be just like making love in the Jardin de Tuileries without paying the airfare. Because I think I’ve spent enough already.