Particle Board Hater

After retrieving a package from my town’s post office - one that had been too large to cram into my mailslot - I passed an interesting looking furniture store. It was obviously not a chain store, but from the window I could see they had a fairly good quality selection. I had been in the market for an end table, so I entered.

Though the store took up two floors and had an immense array of furniture, I couldn’t immediately locate an employee. What I did see were the many placards spread around the store’s inventory, all proudly declaring: “ABSOLUTELY NO PARTICLE BOARD.” They were professionally printed, actually etched into plastic, but the small signs still had a crackpot sensibility about them. Under the text, an attempt had been made to reinforce the message with the circle/slash “no” symbol, but since there was no ready-made icon that represented particle board, the sign maker had just used the words “Particle Board” again, circle/slashed in red. It was a rather fanatical graphic treatment, I felt.

Eventually an elderly man approached from the rear office, obviously the owner and most likely the store’s sole employee. I told him of my end table quest, and he ushered me upstairs. As he was describing the benefits of a particular model, I saw that the bureau next to that item had the “NO PARTICLE BOARD” signage. Wanting to see his reaction, I gushed, “You have some really nice furniture here.” He smiled. “And what I like about it is, you don’t have that cheap…what is it? Particle board – you don’t have any of that particle board furniture a lot of the stores seem to carry now.” I expected I’d get a slight rise out of him, but it took a few moments before he even reacted.

“I been here thirty-seven years. Thirty-seven years in this store.” (wow) “I seen other stores come and go. They sell crap. I SELL NO PARTICLE BOARD!!!”

The old man took a stoic stance. He clasped his hands, straightened his neck. Behind his spectacles, his eyes focused beyond the room itself. His tone was calm and unwavering as he delivered his speech.

“I been here thirty-seven years. Thirty-seven years in this store.” (wow) “I seen other stores come and go. They sell crap. I SELL NO PARTICLE BOARD!!! They sell you a dresser, a bookshelf - you can punch your hand through the back. EVERYTHING IN MY STORE IS OAK, PINE, MAPLE – REAL WOOD FROM TREES!!! NOT PARTICLE BOARD!! I sell you a shelf, you have it for whole life. Then your kids have it. THEY SELL YOU SOMETHING, YOU’RE LUCKY IF YOU GET IT HOME FROM THE STORE WITHOUT BREAKING. My customers are loyal. They know quality. They know you pay for quality.” He paused before the final reiteration. “I DO NOT SELL PARTICLE BOARD!!!”

The old man was beet red at this point, and I feared my comments might have induced cardiac arrest. He was sated, though; sated and proud. I agreed – “Yes, yes, those people are bad people, with the particle board and all.” I then quickly excused myself, told him I’d be sure to return with my car, to purchase the end table, and then escaped onto the street.

A few months later I purchased two glass end tables at a less extreme store – one that did not seem to take any such radical stances on furniture materials.