“This is your office,” said Gustav. “It belonged to your dearly departed grandfather, George, God rest his soul. He put his heart and soul into building this business. His motto: ‘More boxes for more furniture.’ He had a heart attack assembling a new desk.” Gustav shook his head mournfully. “Yes, your grandfather truly put his heart into the business.”
“Grand pop died putting together his office furniture?”
“Yes. You could say he died in the line of duty.” Gustav laughed and pointed to the pile of boxes. “In these boxes is your office furniture—top of the line—only the best for my son. There’s nothing better than building your own furniture.”
Jake inspected the large pile of boxes containing unassembled furniture parts. “I guess.”
Gustav slapped Jake on the shoulder. “Come with me, son. I want to show you something exciting!”
Lethargically Jake trailed Gustav into his office, decorated with perfectly constructed Kramer furniture. Pictures of the Kramer family, dating back generations, hung on the walls. His entire lineage of ancestors was displayed before him—men of ingenuity and invention posed proudly before chairs, boxes, and the factory façade. The expectations placed upon him by his family (and the entire community) were overwhelming.
Gustav flipped through a catalog. “Kramer furniture is embarking on a new, innovative line and you are entering at the helm,” he said. “See this piece?” He showed Jake a picture of a printed-covered futon. “The customers can create their own designs on the computer using templates created by your cousin Gerard. He is such a creative talent.”
Jake stepped away from the photos on the wall. “Merging with The Detroit Steel Furniture Company will surely put us on the map,” he said. “They’re really hot and growing. If we were to hook up with them now, just think of the potential profit and growth.”
Gustav gave his son a stern look. “Your great grandfather came all the way from Holland with the innovation of ‘furniture-in-a-box.’ All we need is a catalog . . .” he held it up, facing Jake, “. . . and a distribution center.” He gestured at the door from which they had entered the room. “Our goal is about taking your forefathers’ vision of reaching out to the consumer with a personal touch instead of expanding, not merging with another.”
“You know who has vision?” asked Jake. “Hansen. The craftsmanship of their kitchen cabinets is exquisite. They’re small. Maybe we could acquire their vision at a price that would be profitable to us.”
Gustav shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed, disgusted. “What is this nonsense you’re talking . . .
mergers . . . acquisitions?”
“Dad, no offense to you or our forefathers, but times have changed,” said Jake. “A man can’t stand on his ingenuity alone anymore. We need sponsorship. Kramer Furniture has established a loyal customer base. We are a good bargain for any larger company to buy. It would give us much more security and opportunity to expand our market on a grander scale.”
Gustav lowered his head. He was not blind to the new capitalistic ways of their world—ways he tried so desperately to ignore. If his son would not champion the family business, then he knew for certain what its fate would be. He tossed the catalog on the table. “So, you may be right. It may very well be true. One day they will come for us. They will come for our business. But until that time, I don’t want to give up anything.” He handed Jake a tiny wrench. “Go ahead and build your furniture—it might help put things in perspective.”
Jake returned to his own office and studied the large boxes. Building his own furniture seemed like such a daunting task, when he was eager to get started with his new job. With the wrench that was too small for his hand, Jake tried to build his office desk.
The heavy wooden pieces didn’t fit and the wrench didn’t work. He shook his hand violently to release a severe cramp. Put things in perspective? he thought, I hate this! How’s that for perspective? He kicked the box. Feeling desperate, Jake reached for the phone and dialed.
“Hello and thanks for calling the Kramer Furniture customer help line,” a friendly male voice answered.
“Please enter the model number of the Kramer furniture you are trying to assemble.”
Jake searched the box for the number. Finally he found it and pressed the matching numbers on the phone.
“Oh, this is an easy one!” the friendly male voice replied in a jovial tone. “All you have to do is take rod A-1 and smaller rod B-3 then screw on bolt 6-D and insert into board E.”
“What?” Jake attempted to identify pieces that all looked the same to him. “This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Jake, is that you?” asked the voice.
Jake hesitated. “Yes. . . .”
“Hiya Jake. This is Bob. Bob Thatcher. You remember me? Thatcher ‘Hatcher.’ The guy with the chicken coop. You used to clean up at all of our egg hunts. It was like you had a sixth sense, but then, being a big businessman, six cents.” Bob laughed boisterously.
“Ha! Yeah . . . Bob . . .”
“Right—back to business,” said Bob. “So, Jake, having a little trouble assembling your Kramer office furniture?”
“Yeah,” said Jake. “I’ll bet this happens a lot.”
“Oh no—we at Kramer pride ourselves in making furniture that a ten-year-old could assemble.”
“Don’t tell anyone about this.”
“Of course not. I wouldn’t expect a great business mind like yours to be able to assemble furniture. You’re going to do great things for your family’s business. We’re all counting on you.”
Jake sighed. “Yeah.” He looked over the wobbly desk. “I think I’ve figured it out now. Thanks for your help, Bob.”
He hung up the phone and stared at the pile of wood pieces. There has got to be more to life than this. There has got to be a job where I don’t have to construct my own furniture. Slouched on the floor, Jake tossed away the wrench. He was out of career options and had a girlfriend who was eager to find marriage sponsorship.
Discouraged by the daunting task of screwing together planks of wood with a tiny wrench, Jake turned on some music. Each song that played was a corporate jingle to a funky rock beat. “Blue Jean Girl in Jelly Jeans” was Judy’s favorite. Just as he was about to change the channel, Jake heard Jonathon Spade’s voice.
“Hello, this is Jonathon Spade. Are you in a dead-end job? Do opportunities seem dim and your horizons out of reach? Are you confined by low expectations and the lack of imagination in others?”
Jake sat back on his heels and stared at the radio as if fate were calling. Could it be that Jonathon Spade is an omnipotent genius? he thought, shifting his gaze to the ceiling.
Spade’s voice continued: “Rest assured, my friend, your horizons are just a phone call away. Call today to enroll in our Spade School of Dreams, located here in Spade’s Manhattan, a place where dreams come true. Let me, Jonathon Spade, personally guide you on a path toward success and fulfillment. Just call this number: 1-800-55-SPADE.”
Although Jake often thought of destiny, he never gave much credence to fate and pondered, Of course you can’t have destiny without fate. He reached for the phone and dialed.
Jonathon Spade’s recorded voice answered the phone: “Thank you for inquiring about my theme park extravaganza! Please press ‘one’ for crimes and misdemeanors; for lewd acts, press ‘two;’ for tickets and reservations to Spade’s Manhattan Adventure and Spade School of Dreams, press ‘three.’ ”
Jake pressed a button. “Thank you for choosing tickets and reservations to Spade School of Dreams. At the tone, please clearly state your name, address, date of birth, social security number, and financial institution, and our tourism professionals will promptly send you tickets to MY greatest show on Earth.”
With his mouth agape, Jake paused before responding. “Uh, Jake Kramer. . . .”