What could possibly be worse than walking onto a used-car lot or trying to cross a new-car showroom without the corporeal and mental assailments one usually associates with such an expedition? I’ll tell you – dealing with a furniture showroom. We recently redecorated our rec room and decided it was time for a couple of new sofas and a coffee table – nothing too expensive or pretentious, you understand – something on which we could flop around and relax. The new layout predicated that the coffee table be round – more on that later. We have many furniture outlets around us, some national chains and some local or regional set-ups. But whoever they are they make car dealers look like choirboys. It’s small wonder that online suppliers are doing so well. However, I still feel the need for the tactile satisfaction of being able to touch, feel and so on and make the decision in real time. I may be a little more reticent on the next venture, but there’s still a sense that ordering something remotely is not as compelling. Moreover, I can’t imagine the need to break into some lunatic dance, as some advertisers seem to intimate is the standard reaction to having new furniture delivered. Our first foray was into a showroom that was laid out in a rotunda with an administration area in the middle. We were greeted – no, assaulted – within five feet of the entrance by an overly dressed Southern belle with pancake makeup smelling of stale rosewater. “Well, good mornin’, how’re y’all doin’ this beautiful day? Ma name’s Doris (not really, I’m just trying to protect the innocent!) What can I hep y’all fahnd today?” The accent was shrill and nasal, a cross between Bristol, Tenn., and Belle Meade Boulevard in the poshest part of Nashville. It was put on and obviously so. We informed her we were just looking and got the Southern Kiss of Death – “Well bless your hearts! Y’all must be looking for sumthin’, otherwise y’all wouldn’t be here!” She broke into a cackle that would have done Shakespeare’s coven justice and she followed us around, hot breath down our necks, suggesting we needed everything from a new mattress to patio furniture. She couldn’t possibly see the need for a round coffee table, probably because she didn’t have one in stock – “Y’all just don’t see them these days!” She was like dog poop on our shoes and we were glad to reach the fresh air back outside. It was something like Car Sales 101 circa 1972. The next was from a similar school – an immediate (and intimidating) welcome, followed by some qualifying questions that bordered on effrontery – she then left us to “look around.” But she hovered and skulked behind dining sets and day beds like a 1960s spy. She glided from soft furnishings to sofas without so much as turning her head away from her quarry. Every now and then she would appear from nowhere, affecting an innocent look of “Oh, it’s you again”, her camouflage being a clipboard as though she were looking for something. It was uncomfortably and excruciatingly obvious. Other staff kept watch as though they had some sort of communication device like the Secret Service, speaking into their sleeves: “They’re approaching end tables.” It was getting dark outside, so we beat a hasty retreat lest Medusa turned us to stone! The next day was brighter. Fearing the worst, a lovely lady made us feel at home to wander at our leisure and to let her know if we had questions. She served coffee as we paid the bill. I write this propped up on my new reclining sofa, a libation within arm’s reach on the (round) coffee table.