The Mushroom Lady
After we had lived in our small ranch style house for about six years, I had painted all of the rooms except for the living room. The living room was painted a ‘60’s peachy orange that went with none of our décor so I decided it was time to begin looking for a color to paint the room. Not only had I tired of the color, but the paint had begun to peel like cheese curls crawling down the walls.
My journey began at the local hardware store where I collected color swatches. After I had chosen a dozen or so I moved my search to one of the local home remodeling centers. As I collected swatches and took them home to hold them against my wall, it quickly became obvious that none of these were going to work. Store after store and center after center were depleted of thousands of paint swatches over the next four years.
Over those years, my collection of swatches moved from a #10 business envelope to a manila envelope. As though they were breeding in there, they had to be moved to the entrance table drawer. Rabbits had nothing on my collection of unsuitable color swatches. I ended up with a bureau drawer full of unlikely contenders for the prize of coloring my living room walls and my life.
Four years into this project and I still hadn’t even come close to making a decision. Some of the stores offered small sample jars of paint so that one could try the actual color on the wall. Since I hadn’t had any real connection with a color and didn’t want to have a sort of decorative camouflage looking wall, I painted the color on under every light switch and wall socket hoping to keep my project a secret from my husband. My strategy worked well till he had to change a light switch and noticed my kaleidoscope canvas beneath the light cover. So, it was back to the paint swatches.
Then one day, it happened! Out of the blue and from all the unlikely places, it came from my computer. As I googled living room wall colors, a designer magazine site appeared. I decided to try it. It provided virtual rooms with the actual colors. What a find! I looked at magnificent magenta, persuasive purple, peacock paradise, gargantuan green, mango marvel (too much like orange), guava goodness and there it was – my color- Mushroom Pearl. Not only did I get the virtual tour, but a mouth-watering description of how this wall color would transform my life, my dreams, my décor and oh so much more.
Mushroom Pearl is a warm soft beige that promised to enhance my blues and purples, add a lift to my pinky roses and as the light hit it, it would subtly change colors as a fragrance wafts in the breeze. This was what I had waited for and it was so worth the wait. The site even had a color swatch (can you believe it?) that you could print out. My hands were shaking and I began to glisten (ladies aren’t supposed to sweat, but I was pretty sure I was nearing that point) as I printed out my swatch.
I ran to the phone and called the local hardware store and asked them if they could match a color from a computer generated swatch, and I was crestfallen when they told me that they didn’t have that capability. Oh well, I waited four long years, what was another phone call to a home remodeling center? Nervously, I dialed the next number to a center that I liked in a town about twenty miles away. Connected to the paint department, an East Indian melodious softly accented voice offered her assistance regarding my project. This time, pay dirt! If my swatch was as big as a dime, they could match my color. I was grabbing my things as I hung up the phone and raced to my car.
My car couldn’t go fast enough and there weren’t enough green lights. I envied the jets I saw blazing across the sky. Miraculously, I made it to the center and hot-footed it to the paint department.
What was this? The counter at the paint department looked like the gift returns desk at Macy’s the day after Christmas. People were four deep as the two counter clerks moved swiftly and deftly to provide for their customers’ needs. As I watched the proceedings, I could clearly see that the soft spoken efficient man behind the counter was the man in charge. Quietly, he would delegate a task or direct his assistant to a particular customer. Oh, I had a good feeling about this.
Finally, it was my turn. I produced my larger than dime sized color sample. The man took it and began holding it up to the light and turning it this way and that. He turned the paper over and back again. Handing it back to me, he said that he was sorry but his computer would not be able to match a computer generated color sample because the color wouldn’t be true. Since I was just coming to pick up my paint and rush home, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He couldn’t conjure up my mystical, magical color wafting paint? I was incredulous and clearly heartbroken. Kindness rushed to his face when he saw my devastation. He asked for the paper back and said he would try anyway. Well, he put the paper into the computer and the computer began to spit out a formula NASA probably couldn’t interpret, but the man seemed to be able to understand it clearly. He moved to the paint developer and began to place into a gallon of paint, a dollop of brown, two dollops of red and smidges and pinches of other colors. I was just so sure he had it. He took my sample and applied some of the color to the color on my paper and it was….purple. How could this be??? Disappointment now ruled my entire countenance, but the man was undaunted. He moved me to the giant Technicolor wall of paint swatches and picked a warm gray to start with. Needless to say, he had already mixed up not one, but two gallons of premium paint that didn’t softly say Mushroom Pearl, but screeched some kind of purple. By this time, all of the other people had filtered away and now the assistant was also on the job trying to get satisfaction for me. Back to the paint developer and now a new shade of paint added to my color sample that was leaning more toward my supremely wonderful color, but not quite. I really didn’t want to look unappreciative, so I took a quart of this new concoction since he wasn’t going to make me buy the two gallons he had already prepared. In all the fuss and muss of preparing paint colors, the sweet assistant let slip that she affectionately called the paint guru “Uncle Ted” and introduced herself as Apologee, the blind girl. She said she was learning the paint department, but her real calling was helping people select all types of blinds for their windows. I left that day with my rather small looking quart of unpretentious paint and went off to do other errands promising Uncle Ted I’d let him know how I had fared.
On the way to do the rest of my errands, I thought “it needs a hint of pink”, so I decided to call Uncle Ted when I got home and tell him I’d be in to add the pink to my quart. As soon as I got home, I called the paint department and the softly accented Indian lady told me Uncle Ted had gone home. I gave her a message for Ted for the next day.
As I was unloading my groceries, the color swatch that Uncle Ted had been adding to, looked different. The original color of the first two gallons of paint that had been applied to the sample had baked in the car and became Mushroom Pearl. Now instead of adding pink to my unassuming quart, could actually have the elusive Mushroom Pearl that my heart panted for? I knew just what I would do. I began to chart my battle plans as carefully as any military officer would. I would call Uncle Ted as soon as the store opened the next day and get my original two gallons of paint that Uncle Ted and Aplogee had put in the bargain bin.
Morning dawned bright with promise and as soon as the sun came up, I began counting the minutes till I could call Uncle Ted. At last I speed dialed the paint department and Uncle Ted answered the phone. I told him I needed to get my original two gallons of paint back and sorrowfully he told me that some customers had come by five minutes after I had gone and taken my paint. This wasn’t looking good. Had I sinned against some unknown God or something? Ted suggested that I come in and he would mix me a quart (not a gallon) of the entrancing Mushroom Pearl to try on my wall. I had no choice. Back to the store I drove. As I stepped up to the counter, I introduced myself as the “Mushroom Lady” and Uncle Ted handed me my quart. He suggested I paint part of a wall to see how the color would look, then I was to come back and he would mix me as much paint as I needed.
I was amazed that my car could now proficiently take me from home to store and back with very little need for any assistance from me. I couldn’t wait to try my new quart on a wall, so I got out some painting supplies and began to do two doorways. As I applied the paint, I saw that it was the same color as the original purple paint from the swatch before it had baked in the car. Surely I was wrong and it just needed to dry. I had had that experience before and when paint dried, it looked very different. Not this one. This one was true to color. Can you imagine? A sickly purple smiled wanly from my doorways. “This can’t be happening!” I thought. It just isn’t possible. Fear began to creep in when I realized I was going to have to call Uncle Ted and Apologee, the blind girl and tell them that this paint wasn’t right either. I had to gather my courage before I could call the store and tell them that the Mushroom Lady had struck again.
It took me a whole day to gather up the nerve to call the paint department. Again Uncle Ted answered the phone. Unfortunately, he had begun to recognize my voice and knew me by name. I hated to announce the bad news, but there wasn’t any way around it. I was wrong again. In the meantime, my husband watched this whole process and asked to see the folder Uncle Ted gave me for the ceiling color. He looked at it and said “Why don’t we just go with a nice neutral, like the one that coordinates with the ceiling color?” All so simple for a logical mind, it’s too bad that I don’t have one – logical or otherwise.
I really didn’t see the cracks beginning to show in Uncle Ted until I returned the purple quart of paint. His steadiness had begun to falter, his ready smile was a little weakened and there were other vague little signs that showed stress. Apologee offered to help me return my unwanted quart of paint and as we walked to the returns desk, she told me that her name just sounded like Apologee. Over the store intercom, people would call for Paula G. Customers thought it odd that store employees would ask for apologies over the store intercom. One bright light in an otherwise dimly lit day.
I picked up the neutral paint my husband had suggested that Uncle Ted had been mixing while Apologee and I had been at the returns desk. Funny, I had begun to notice a little bit of nervousness in her as well while I was around. Wonder what that was all about?
I digress. I got my last two gallons of neutral paint and headed out the door promising Uncle Ted and Apologee that I would certainly let them know how my project went. I painted my ceiling first. It was beautiful!
True to my word, I called Uncle Ted and Apologee to let them know about my finished project. I was just finishing my ceiling story when suddenly my phone went dead. I didn’t even get to tell them how easily the paint went on the walls and how much we appreciated the beautiful neutral color. Go figure.
I’ve been back to the remodeling center several times. The paint department has changed dramatically. It seems that Uncle Ted had donned a Hawaiian print shirt and set out for some remote island leaving no forwarding address. Apologee, the blind girl has become somewhat of a store recluse. I don’t know how true it is, but there’s a rumor about her crying in the storeroom if she even thinks the Mushroom Lady may come in. As for the friendly East Indian lady, although she doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she sings carols to herself all year long as a way to ward off any visits from the Mushroom Lady.
My collection of paint swatches have been donated to a local senior center where a wall collage therapy group is using them to brighten up their recreation room.
All in all, I think my project turned out pretty well considering all the help I received from the lovely people at the remodeling center. It’s just too bad that people nowadays have to live such stress filled lives.