i recently rearranged my apartment slightly, which has led to a Crisis™.

you see, i have very little in the way of furniture. when i say “very little,” i mean i have a desk and chair, an easy chair, a futon to sleep on, two cat trees, an ikea wardrobe and dresser, and some wire baker’s racks. since i no longer live in a studio and the futon can no longer do double duty, when i have company over, they have to sit on folding camping chairs. so, recently when i decided to go back to school, i needed to find a place where i could sit and do homework. i have a desk — a rather nice, large desk, actually — but it is covered with computer stuff (a display, two laptops, speakers, full-sized keyboard, two mice, et cetera) and so it’s ineligible for study nook status. so i decided to relocate my kitchen table — a vinyl-topped card table (but a nice one) from the kitchen to the office. this choice renders my office full (i have to fold up and move the table if i want to open my filing cabinet), but at least it’s someplace to put books.

of course that means my kitchen is empty and now i don’t have any work space (or, perhaps more accurately based on recent historical usage patterns, any “pile crap up rather than putting it away where it belongs” space). so i have been searching for a table.

i have a very specific vision of what i want in the way of a kitchen table: i want a non-wood, lightweight, inexpensive table that i don’t have to take care of. i want something that i can get flour all over it when i want to knead bread dough. i want something that i can leave cold glasses of ice water sitting on without a coaster. i want a table i can carry upstairs to my apartment by myself. i have a very specific image of my Dream Table™: it’s formica-topped, has a leaf, and four legs, which come off easily so i can fit it in my car and carry it up my stairs. i want someone to find this table in their basement and sell it to me for $10 or $20. the trouble is that the intarwebs are not coming through for me on the “people cleaning out their basement for convenient prices” front. (also troublesome is the hipster kitsch revival meaning that although all i want is a table i don’t have to piss and moan about taking care of, everyone else is going to be competing for the swank retro boomerang pattern or for the “ironic” green ice print that’s so tacky it’s hip (…if you’re still in college), and so even if someone does find my Dream Table in their basement, everyone else will read the ad it appears in before me, and snatch it out of my fingers.)

despite this, i cannot find it in my soul to dedicate significant swathes of time to haunting ad sites in search of the Dream Table. i spend an hour or two a week scanning sites. the energy required to stalk ad sites multiple times daily is beyond me. at heart, i am a slacker who believes lots of people have useless crap in their basements, and so, if an ad goes by once and i miss it, there will inevitably be another later on. and perhaps then my dilettantish efforts at searching will be happily synchronized with someone’s efforts to get said Grandma’s Old Useless Crap Table out of the basement. oh frabjous day!

the only question is how long must i wait for this celestial Dream Table/Useless Crap synchronicity to occur… and will i lose patience before it does?

so far, i have been searching on craigslist (and lest you think i am not willing to go the extra mile, i have branched out from chicago.craigslist.org to milwaukee, champaign-urbana, peoria, and even indianapolis). i have been searching the chicago reader classified ads. i have searched for local flea markets and estate sales. i have joined the chicago freecycle group. and friends, i am still just not having much luck.

i admit that i do have some sort of aesthetic that i’m requiring be fulfilled in my Dream Table. specifically, when it comes to formica/laminate prints, i do not want that skanky faux-butcher’s block print. i’m okay with faux woodgrain; i just don’t want that ugly, nasty brown fake plank design. it transcends kitsch and retro; it goes beyond the call of duty for tacky. it is ugly and while my interior design scheme may in fact look like Target Clearance Chic i have at least enough good taste to just say no to “blindingly hideous.”

naturally, that is the only sort of table i am having any luck finding.

oh, i’ve found lovely dinette sets that i would happily call Dream Table candidates if not for minor problems like “For Pickup Only – Albuquerque” or “Must pick up – Nashua, NH.” i contemplated for days a $10 table in Kokomo, Indiana, three hours away; i deliberated for longer than i really should have over a five-piece set in excellent condition that i could have had for the $0.99 opening bid price and a drive to Hutchinson, Minnesota (slightly less than 8 hours according to mapquest, not counting snow conditions). but apparently people in and around chicago are selling formica-topped tables either in rickety condition (i’m not talking “slight chip on corner”; i’m talking “leg not stable so place it against a wall”) or only with that ugly freaking fake wood that i detest. of course i could use a tablecloth but i would know that under the cloak of fabric lay shameful ugliness, and my soul would wither.

for now, i am continuing the cheapskate hunt. i don’t want to buy new. i know someone has my table in their basement or attic. i want to rescue it and give it a loving new home; i want to save it from the landfill. but, dammit, i just didn’t think it would be this much effort to buy someone’s crappy old kitchen table. sigh.