Hurricane Sandy, the behemoth of a storm that recently slammed into the eastern seaboard and inflicted untold damage from Virginia to Maine, coincided not only with a full moon, which caused higher-than-normal tides, but also with our own longstanding plans to refinish an old coffee table. This essential piece of living room furniture has made its home in front of our sofa since 2003, when my wife and I married, and I can attest to its unswerving ability to hold up my aching feet while I watch ballgames or read the Sunday Times.
Its physical appearance, however, long ago lost its charm. The arrival of children soon after we married forced us to encase the entire perimeter of this table in an inch of soft foam in order to keep the little ones from losing eyes or teeth. Now that they are old enough to lose eyes and teeth on the soccer pitch, it seemed like a good time to remove the foam and give the table new life.
My wife took on the thankless task of boiling off the old finish with eco-friendly products, which made but a dent in the double-sided “tape of the future” that had kept the safety foam in place. I then swooped in heroically with my power sheet sander and the little bit of elbow grease that I still possess to grind the table down to bare wood. We fussed with it here and there for another couple of weeks, wasting precious time, and finally deemed it ready for new coats of finish just as Sandy was angrily making her way up the east coast.
When storms of this magnitude approach, shoppers are meant to participate in panicked runs on bread, milk, and eggs in case they want to make a hearty breakfast at 8 at night. They are not, I’m sure, supposed to ask the grocer how to deseed a pomegranate, or if there are any jars of unground cardamom pods “back in the warehouse.”
Similarly, I discovered, upon visiting the local hardware store on Saturday as the hurricane raced up the coast, that one should leave questions of polyurethane-to-naphtha ratios and the pros and cons of synthetic vs. natural steel wool to those rare moments when the store owner isn’t looking to unload the last of his power generators and sump pumps. He will appreciate it, as will the long line of your fellow hardware consumers.