ikea is like a casino that deals in (and often shatters) home furnishing dreams.

its stores are labyrinthine, designed to prevent easy escape, and impulse items await at every turn. i haven’t seen the video surveillance cameras, but i know they’re there, hidden above the björklund designer shelving units (easily complemented with expandable starkjowinterklung lighting inserts), or perhaps inside the hellström lamps. these cameras feed cables, which in turn feed black-and-white monitors; furniture pit bosses scrutinize dazed families of three as they careen from lighting into linens, through dishware and back again, in search of the perfect home improvement item.

it doesn’t matter to ikea whether or not you fulfill your dreams, because you always leave the store with something, filling the coffers of some mysterious swedish furniture conglomerate in a land far, far away…

i’m not sure if, like casinos, they pump oxygen in to keep people awake, but if they don’t, they should.
elaine and i barely escaped alive yesterday. our life energy was drained beyond reason, and we ultimately descended into that state i like to call ‘ikeatonic,’ which is close to catatonic, but has much greater potential to do harm to your pocketbook. you get to the point where you’re so bewildered by accessorizing options that you just go for the low-hanging fruit, as it were. beaten down by the ikea machine, you succumb. the dialogue is familiar to any of us who’ve been through the maelstrom and back:

“ooh, look! groovy white plastic lamps for $12.95! it looks like something out of clockwork orange!”
“but you don’t need any lamps…”
“(thoughtful pause) well, yeah…but…it’s $12.95!!!…and the bulbs are right here. it’s all so convenient!”

we went through the store, top to bottom, even though we were only in search of three very specific items (coffee table, duvet cover and flannel sheets, lamps). it’s funny how that happens at ikea – maybe there’s something subliminal in the music.

anyway, we made our table selection quickly (tables are on the top floor, right next to couches…they lure you in with the relatively easy stuff first). with our confidence boosted, pick-up aisle noted, and our purchase satisfaction guaranteed, we allowed ourselves a diversion into the chairs section. i’ve been eyeing one of those poäng armchairs for some time…hmmm….(no. can’t afford it. must not divert from primary mission).
no sooner had we ventured on than i got distracted again. cd storage was strategically placed near armchairs – they know what you’re thinking (however far-fetched the connection). needless to say, we wasted about 15 minutes before i admitted defeat and moved on.

it just went downhill from there. linens. lighting. you name it. it was just one distraction after another, each promising to do something to your abode, although what, one cannot say…

after another hour of zombie-like meanderings, we eventually made it out to the gargantuan warehouse space where the self-service furniture pickup is located. we’d made some headway with smaller items throughout our journey, but the real payoff was coming – a new coffee table for elaine was waiting patiently in the stacks.
or was it? let’s see here…aisle 5A…eksjö coffee table…oh yeah, there it is. as i pull it off the shelf, a feeling of triumph coursing through my veins, elaine utters words straight out of my worst shopping nightmare:
“hey, wait a minute. that’s the eksjö side table…where’s the coffee table???”


sadness enveloped us like a winter storm in sweden, only there was no vodka waiting to lift our spirits (the cinnamon rolls and hot dogs by the checkout stand were a weak substitute).

oh well…it’ll be easy enough to pick the coffee table up when i go back to return that home office accessory i couldn’t live without (you know, the one that’s too big for my desk?). but now i know the key…in through the out door, bypass the cinnamon rolls and hot dogs, and head straight for the self-service aisles.
i hope one of the pit bosses isn’t watching…

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