Sunday, September 30, 2007

IKEA, mööö

purposeful prose by Jack Michael

I don't like crowds, and i hate shopping. So naturally i jumped at the chance to go furniture hunting with my partner Roberto at the new IKEA in Portland. Fall came early to Puddletown. (Actually it came right on time this year, but usually we procrastinate, putting it off until later in October.) I don't know what it is about rain that makes people in this river village so insane. It's not like it's acid rain. It won't harm you. At most, it will make you wet. And with the proper clothing, even that peril can be mitigated.

Our problems started in the parking lot, or in IKEA-speak, hëll. Worse than full, it was a freak show... with wrong-way drivers and double parked vehicles. And always... the ubiquitous stealthy parking spot huntress, stopped midway down the lane, waiting... eying the shopper with the Sörum bed frame in a box... he must certainly be freeing up some nearby place to park. As for us, we drove across the street to another store's lifeless lot and hoofed it back to Sweden's Sears store.

Upon entering, one is sort of swept up in a flow. Before i knew it we were on an escalator, being pulled upwards into the great Showroom like cows into a cattle car. I'm sure many shoppers here picture their entrance into heaven to be much like this. Once deposited upstairs, all we needed to do was follow the arrows on the ground, past one efficiently appointed display "room" after another. I tried once to swim back up stream and was met with an annoyed glance from one very determined looking shopper. I turned back around...

We were on a mission as well. Having gotten rid of our coffee table earlier in the year, we were on the lookout for a smaller piece of furnishing which could pull double duty as both an ottoman and a cocktail table. We tried first at Dania (where we got most of our livingroom furniture a few years back). The advantage there would have been the ability to have whatever we found upholstered in the same purple that our sofa and comfy chairs came in. No luck.

It wasn't long before we found something close to what we were looking for; the Ectorp Bromma. The top flips to change the soft surface to something hard and flat. It also sports a hollow inside where we could store our magazines before we finally give up on reading them and toss them unread into the recycling. The Ectorp only came in red, white and leather so we grabbed a brochure for later reference and followed the arrows further.

Before long we were past the living rooms, beyond the bath and bedrooms and escaping through the kitchens. That's where something else caught our eye; a couple examples of counter extensions that would go well in our cucina. Either the Grolånd or the Förhöja would seem to do the trick. Having recently lost my "butt pen," i grabbed an IKEA pencïl and noted their respective dimensions for later research.

As we continued along, looking for the exit we came across the carpeteria. We're also in the market for something new on the living room floor, so we lingered. They actually have real Persian rugs, called here "Persisk". (I checked the labels... "Made in Iran") A bit surreal considering that we may be carpet bombing the Iranians soon. Besides the stacks of affordable floor coverings, several huge rugs hung side by side, like oversize posters in a gift shop. Two children played among them. "Don't squish your brother," screamed their mother. I waited to see if they managed. No luck. Timmy emerged unscathed.

The arrows finally brought us to the end of the show, but the beginning of the action. We decided to go with the white Ectorp ottoman and color it purple once we got it home, but how to acquire it? We retreated to a nook among the last pieces of display furniture to assess the situation. One IKEA veteran, sensing our apparent virginity gave us the rundown. She pointed out the forms we had to fill out, noting: "Once you figure it out, it's a pretty good system." I still had my IKEA pëncil and transcribed the data from the brochure to the form. Roberto, who always pays attention better than i do, took the information to where he was instructed.

I stayed behind in housewares. A particular party plate tickled Nancy's fancy. "Made in China" was stamped on the back. I've vowed not to make any impulse buys if the product in question comes from this cold war foe turned economic ally. The label surprised and disappointed me. Caveät emptör! At one point there was a mini-stampede. I wondered if there was a blue-light special somewhere. It was then that my adult onset agoraphobia set in. In the midst of a low-level panic attack, i tried phoning a friend... like a 12-stepper in crisis. I just got her voice mail.

Roberto finally returned and handed me a slip of paper with coordinates; 16-37, 16-39. Our next step was to find the hall called "self-serve furniture." It's called this because evidently "warehouse" doesn't translate well from the original Swedish. We walked past aisle after aisle of products stacked to the ceiling like offerings in a modern day temple. We proceeded down aisle 16 and found what we were looking for; #37 for the white coverings and #39, foot stool in a box. It now became clear just what was really meant by "self serve furniture." "Some assembly required" would be an understatement. We looked at each other and decided to get it anyway.

When we made it to the check-out, we again had second thoughts. The whole experience at IKEA had been akin to lines at Space Mountain. When you finally appreciate the magnitude, you figure you've been at it so long, you have to complete the mission. In for a Euro-penny, in for a pound. We hedged our bets and stood apart in two side by side check-out lines. I was shadowing a couple from San Francisco. They seemed to have all the fashion sense that we lack... designer labels, multiple earrings, etc. I didn't catch their names, so we'll just call them Adam and Steve. Steve had one of those Star Trek ear phones like Lt. Ohura. That was the only resemblance. Soon Steve got a phone call. "Use your inside voice," i wanted to tell him. Instead, i just listened in. He recently got laid off. I thought maybe he was moving to Portland and needed to furnish a new apartment. Instead, he was simply getting his closets back home organized, a Nostalgisk, two Vackers and a Skübb. Roberto and i ended up nearly simultaneously at our respective checkers. At the last moment, he joined me. It feels good to come in first. The couple behind us shot him a dirtly look. Three quick scans and a signature later, we emerged. IKEA? I hardly knew ya...

Dedicated to Michelle...


Christian said...

I enjoyed your Ikea post. A friend of mine from Constance (Germany) is working weekends at the Ikea in Ulm and he tells me (horror)stories each time we meet. Did you hear the story about the name of the Ikea bed? It's an old joke from the time this bed was actually sold under that name in German Ikeas but it still is in the German wikipedia entry of Ikea.

"Im deutschsprachigen Raum können einige Ikea-Produktbezeichnungen seltsam wirken, wie z. B. Name des Etagenbettes „Gutvik“, der zweideutig verstanden werden kann."

Mikey Golightly said...

Who's the hot woman on the train? Any chance I could get her number? I'd take her to Ikea anytime!

Chelle said...

Heh heh, geez! I may have to have a strong relaxant before embarking on the Ikea store tour.

Great blog!

Thom said...

The IKEA Wömån is also available in self service... however only in leather or blonde...

[oooo... Thom! They're gonna roast ya for that one!!]

Tam said...

I was just getting ready to embark on my first voyage to Ikea.

Upon reading this enlightening article I think I will wait and, at the very least, gather some allies to accompany me.

Perhaps a flask of whiskey wouldn't go a miss either.

Great blog!