PONTIAC, MI—During a routine crosstown job Monday, Triple S Transfer And Storage mover Ron Estes informed client Ward Buell that Buell's bedroom dresser was remarkably similar to one that Estes encountered "about five years ago."
"I've seen one of these before," Estes said. "This one is stained a little lighter and has different drawer pulls, but otherwise it's the same make."
Getting on his knees to look underneath the dresser, Estes added: "Yeah, you can tell by these slats down here."
Instead of wordlessly moving the dresser out to the truck with a coworker, the barrel-chested, T-shirted Estes leaned against a windowsill and placed a hand on an upturned mattress to tell Buell about the dresser similar to his own.
"I remember the day," Estes said. "We took all the drawers out, of course. Then I lifted it the way I normally would: with one hand on the upper back and the other on the front base edging. But then you couldn't angle it, because they had pretty narrow doorways in that place."
Said Estes: "You had to hold it straight."
According to Buell, Estes examined the back of the dresser before resuming his tale to the man who was paying $25 an hour for his services.
"The lady who owned that dresser had another unit with these sort of curvy, puffed-out drawers," Estes said. "She called it a bomb. I thought she was joking, but they really are called bombs. Pretty crazy."
"It was in her living room," Estes added. "We brought it out through the kitchen."
Estes then requested some water from Buell.
"Everything else in that house was short work—even their sofa was less heavy than we expected," Estes said. "But I really nicked my middle finger getting that sucker through the doorway. We unscrewed the legs from the bottom, which is pretty common with sofas like that one, but it still wasn't fitting. I thought for a while there we were going to have to remove the door frame. That would've been tough."
Estes continued: "But I said, 'Let's give her one more try,' and we got her through."
Estes then apologized for the digression and announced that he would bring his remarks "back to the story of the dresser."
"It wasn't hard to get a solid grip on that thing. You had short legs, and solid central struts between where the drawers go that you can grab onto. Basically, whatever part you wanted to grab on that was convenient, really," Estes said.
He continued: "Mike [Steinke] and I, that's the guy I was with, we brought that particular piece outside the house and I had adjusted my hold and was carrying it with one hand on the central strut and I heard this little 'whr-whr-whr.' One of those pieces, it'd started to turn a little bit."
"No permanent damage," Estes said quickly. "No damage was done to the piece. But it turns out those planks were only held in by one nail on each side, which a lot of these types of dressers are. And it could just spin around if you got the wrong hold on it. I didn't know this at that time. We were both pretty new on the job. I've handled a lot of furniture since then, and you start to get a feel."
"Mike was killed in Iraq a couple years back," Estes added.
Apparently sensing Buell's growing unease, Estes turned the conversation around, asking Buell a series of questions about the dresser. Buell said he didn't remember where he bought it, but it might have been at an antique-furniture store across town. He also denied staining the dresser himself.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Estes characterized the similarity of the two dressers as "a funny coincidence."
"You see a fair number of these types of dressers, and when you're a mover and see stuff like that, the alarm bells go off," Estes said. "I believe K & L Furniture was selling these up until a couple years ago, at least. They probably still are."
Representatives from K & L Furniture-4-Less could not be reached for comment.