(OK, yes, this post is pretty long – about double my usual length – but the experience documented below felt much, much longer)
I’ve been putting off writing about this because to do so I am forced to relive the experience, but back in early September Troy and I went to IKEA.
IKEA: a perfect blend of super store and purgatory. Even the word is a foreshadowing of injury. Look at it: all sharp edges and dangerous corners; no friendly “o” or “b”. That and the fact that they advertise at every turn the company’s Swedish origin – you know, the descendants of the brutal Vikings who stole the riches of my English ancestors and murdered innocent monks? Yeah, those people.
Just getting in is about as pleasant as navagating a combination of sporting event and Friday night rush hour traffic. The city had actaully set up blinking traffic signs to direct you to the entrance. You know you live in suburbia when we’re cutting teachers because of funds, but clear directions to a superstore is vital to our future.
Once you get in (and see no way out) you are directed by no less than a dozen parking attendants to an empty spot – somewhere over in the next county – change into your hiking gear, make sure you canteen is full, then set off. Remember how you learned in school that when the pioneers came to Colorado, each morning they were just sure that they would reach the mountains that day, but because they underestimated the size of the Rockies, it took several times longer than they expected? Yeah. It was kind of like that.
Once we reached the main entrance the suppressed memory surfaced.
Once again I was 13 years old, trapped at a New Jersey designer fire sale in a giant warehouse with no windows and only one door blocked by my mother’s lust for a deal. She would pile my pre-pubescent arms high with a variety of hard won clothing to guard, withdraw from the field to try on some of her loot, and leave me at the mercy of the most aggressive women in the tri-state area. Seeing the items I held and smelling my fear, rabid shoppers began to circle my trembling frame as I did my best to avoid eye contact. With three-inch blood-red decal-covered claws they would puff up already heavily teased hair to appear larger. Then through darkly lined snarling lips the attempt to bully me out of the choicest items would begin. Poor things learned too late that my 4’11” mother could take down any mob boss mistress when a cashmere sweater set was on the line.
My sister tells me that we went to several of these, but I only recall this first time. Apparently in subsequent forays I would leave my body like other victims of violent crime.
So we walk into IKEA and I begin to hyperventilate. Painfully clinging to Troy’s arm I get on the escalator fully believing that we are on a conveyor belt of death where soulless sales people wait at the top to slaughter us like cattle and turn our hides into cheap leather sectionals. Knowing that food is historically an effective Jamie-tranquilizer, he leads me to the cafeteria where we wind our way through a carefully constructed paddock (which does nothing to make my suspision that we are viewed as cattle go away) and orders cheap ethnic food.
Children cry in the background. You can bounce a quarter off my shoulders. I start to check out but realize that survival depends upon keeping my wits about me, so instead brainstorm ways to defend my life when the only weapons available are a fork and lukewarm spinach crepes (It’s a stab and smoother strategy). But the number of workers is comparable to that of the climax of a zombie movie, so now I have to debate just how important Troy is to me. Would I instinctively toss his body into the fray so that I can make my escape while they’re distracted in the feeding frenzy? Or would he turn dramatically at the last moment revealing through his dead, yellow eyes that he has become one of them? This is not a stretch. He has loves shopping, the freak. I ponder whether I could take down my own zombie husband to save myself from becoming one of the undead trapped for eternity in sporting goods. Maybe I should ask if I can hold the car keys…
All too soon we enter the shopping area. This is where the nightmare hits its stride. At IKEA (I need to stop typing this word. Can’t type, rock and hold myself at the same time) there are no departments. There are only floors, each with a maze and no exits – as if you are the rat in the science experiment where you have to use your sense of smell to find the “cheese,” which in this case is the check out.
Are there interesting items to look at? Yes, but these exist simply to lure you out of the maze to your doom, because once you leave the path, the stream of tightly packed humanity makes it’s all but impossible to get back on it. So now you have to ask yourself, is a funky glass bowl like the ones they use on Food Network or a reasonably priced farmer’s sink really worth losing yourself in a kind of Wal Mart limbo?
After a small eternity we come to the end. I weep a little with relief, but don’t fully relax until we are in the car, doors locked and engine started.
It is a week later that a friend tells me that everything at the store can be ordered online, so I could have gotten those stupid dining chair cushions from the comfort of my own home. This and the fact that, according to Robert McNamara, the Vietnam War could have been avoided if the heads of state had just sat down for a good honest chat are the two greatest missed opportunities to spare lives I am acquainted with.
After all this time I still have nightmares that I can’t get out. I run and run through the maze but keep winding up back in small appliances.
So, you all are forewarned. Stay away from IK – the Viking torture store. Unless, of course, you like shopping. And the crepes were actually quite tasty. Oh, and they have this very refreshing lingonberry beverage. Still, is all that worth your very soul?