When we walked into my apartment, everything had been taken, down to the dust in the corners. “I’ve never seen it so clean,” I said.
“It’s like the Grinch, when he puts everything in his sack,” said my friend Ella. “How does he fit it all in there?”
“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head, as if I cared about the Grinch. I didn’t. I was more concerned about who took my green couch with the holes in the cushions, my cracked plates, my wilting ficus and its perpetually shedding leaves. It was just junk. But it was my junk. I didn’t know how I was going to replace it.
And then I found out who took it. The TV show Replace your Place had taken it, and then gave me entirely different stuff. I’d never heard of the show but the idea is they take all your material possessions and replace them with equally drab and dated items. They replaced my cheap new kitchen dishes from Kmart with cheap kitchen dishes from Walmart. Everything else appeared to come from Goodwill or the Salvation Army. My photo album was replaced with photos of equally idiotic-looking relatives and former boyfriends.
Of course they were very interested in my reaction, and I’m afraid I was exactly what they were looking for. I toured my one bedroom apartment in horror, noting item after item that I had been attached to had been replaced with a different item. I had been used to my own shoddy stuff, but now that it was different shoddy stuff, it seemed to reflect the shoddiness of my life.
I fumed and stomped and threw things. The show producers egged me on by pretending not to understand what was wrong.
I was especially upset when I saw a little orange tabby run across the room. It didn’t look right. I picked her up and the stripes across the face were all wrong. “Where’s Gadget?” I asked.
“Don’t worry, she’s safe. We gave her to a rich family that gave her a room of her own, with a satin covered bed and all the Friskies she can eat.”
“Why didn’t you leaved Gadget here and give me all the Friskies I can eat? That’s how TV shows are supposed to work. You give me something better.” I pushed the camera out of my face. Another camera caught me trying to clobber the smug producer. But they have bouncer-type men and women for that very purpose, so they got a nice shot of me struggling like an overturned turtle, while the bouncers held me back with their meaty arms.
When I was calmer and sat down on my new orange couch with the cigarette burn, arms crossed, the producer gave me another option. “You may choose rewind. In this option, we return all of your things, and we keep 10% as a reshelving fee. You get most of your stuff back, and a free night at the Sheraton.”
I opened my mouth to choose rewind, since the night at the hotel was worth much more than 10% of my stuff, but then closed it. They got that little action on tape, by the way. I looked like a frog.
“I have a better idea,” I said. “The next episode, you switch my stuff with the idiot who thought up this TV show. Plus I get a 10% reshelving fee.”
They used that line in the show trailers. The show was nominated for a daytime Emmy but didn’t win. For a while, strangers stopped me on the street and told me how great I was.
Now that people don’t recognize me any more, I’m left with 90% of my things and the memories of my night at the Sheraton. I often wonder what Gadget is eating, since she would never touch Friskies.