Monday, March 14, 2011

Chris goes to IKEA for the first time.

Over the weekend, I went into an IKEA for the very first time. There, I said it. I was carrying that Swedish albatross around my neck for too long. What a relief! I can dance again!!! Below, I give a detailed account of my journey.

The Preparation:
Oftentimes, at a casual get-together, the conversation will segue from Arcade Fire to misquoted NPR stories to recent IKEA purchases. Imagine my embarrassment, reader! I would nod my head, mumble a Swedish-sounding word and wait for the conversation to take its natural course (quoting of Coen brothers’ movies). This was not a sustainable lifestyle. I wanted to talk about overly-stylized futons, too!

Ingvar Kamprad

To prepare for my first visit to IKEA I did a little research. First, I checked their Wikipedia page. It turns out that IKEA isn’t just a Swedish nonsense word. It stands for Ingvar Kamprad (the store’s founder), Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up) and Agunnaryd (his hometown). Fascinating! Also, I learned that Ingvar Kamprad started IKEA in 1943 at the age of 17. Pardon me? Some teenager started this multi-billion dollar operation in the middle of World War II? In Sweden? Wikipedia tells me that Ingvar Kamprad is still alive, has a net worth of 6 BILLION DOLLARS, and is a noted philanthropist. Perhaps he is but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is also a Bond Villain. Prove me wrong!

The Experience:

I arrive at the store on a blustery Sunday afternoon. The building stretches to the horizon and appears to bend slightly with the curvature of the earth. There are very few windows and everything is blue and yellow (a nod to the Swedish flag…I am a FONT OF KNOWLEDGE). To blend in with the chic Swedish clientele I am wearing a thick wool turtleneck and a yellow Speedo. Many shoppers stop to admire my dedication to Swedish culture. My girlfriend pretends not to know me (again, because of the admiration).

The Road to Perdition.
As I approach the building I notice that there is one entrance and one exit. This is not an accident! All IKEA stores are specifically designed to herd customers past every square inch of merchandise. Do you want to pick up some new silverware? SCREW YOU! YOU WILL LOOK AT THESE BOOKSHELVES!!!

Upon entering the store the first thing I notice is a play area called Småland. Parents leave their children in Småland where, I assume, the children are forced to write the assembly instructions for all IKEA furniture. I can hear a lonely harmonica. God bless you children of Småland, this is not the life you chose. After a short escalator ride to the second floor I am in the showroom. I consult a map at the top of the escalator. The approved path leads through Living Rooms, Wall Units, Work IKEA, Kitchens, Bedrooms, Bathrooms, and Children’s IKEA. Any deviation from this path will result in death (if you’re lucky). I hoist up my Speedo, screw my courage to the sticking place, and enter the fray.

 Each area showcases several furnished rooms, each decorated in a different style. The “apartments” that we walk through are modern looking and extremely Europe-y. I am expecting Jason Bourne to pop out at any moment and fight me. After the first few rooms it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate the furniture from the art. EVERYTHING TURNS INTO A BED. EVERYTHING HAS A WEIRD, OPAQUE DOOR ON IT. NONE OF THE TABLES HAVE FOUR LEGS. I overcompensate and try to sit on everything. I lay out placemats on the mattresses. I pee in a desk drawer. This is too much.

What IS this?

Let’s pause for a moment to discuss the names of IKEA products. Apparently, our friend Ingvar Kamprad had trouble remembering item numbers so he started using whatever batshit name popped into his head. To use an ACTUAL EXAMPLE: lighting fixtures are named using terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, and nautical items. This is completely insane. The best selling bookcase at IKEA is called BILLY. THE BOOKCASE IS CALLED BILLY. People are called BILLY. Bookcases should be called BOOKCASE. I imagine that most products were named when Ingvar locked himself in a room with an assortment of Dr. Seuss books, a furniture catalog, and 6 sheets of LSD.

After 3 days and 3 nights I make it out of the showroom…now to take an escalator downstairs. There is even more stuff down here and it isn’t even arranged nicely. It’s just in boxes…so many boxes. I expect to see the exit but it never appears. I can smell meatballs but I can’t see them. Are they a smell mirage? I make the decision to eat my shoe leather before resorting to cannibalism. You might kill me IKEA but you won’t make me a monster! Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. I befriend a lampshade named SPORG. We understand each other. Finally, I stumble upon a great warehouse. Towering shelves are stacked high with boxes and (I can only assume) the lost Ark of the Covenant. Dead eyed men shuffle past me…all of them talking to lampshades and chewing on shoes. But I can see light! Natural light!!!

I run as fast as my emaciated body will carry me. A friendly employee asks me if I’d like to look through the clearance section. I punch her square in the face. I stagger past the cash registers and the siren song of cinnamon buns and make it to the exit. I’m free. Dear Lord, I’m free!

Final Thoughts: All in all, it was a very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I bought a wastebasket for $1.99.

1 comment:

  1. Good story! An old friend of mine calls IKEA "the devil's playground."