Hell is Ikea.
Really, Hell is any space occupied by:
1) a lot of people I don't know and probably wouldn't like if I did know and
2) large things for purchase piled the ceiling in dizzying quantities and colors with
3) open, echoing space in between these things.
So therefore, Hell can be defined as Office Max, Costco, or any other big box store.
But Ikea is a special kind of hell. I mean, really, what kind of store purposely confuses you? It's like they rub their hands together in glee and say, "Yes, we are trying to turn you around and around like the lines at Disneyland but there is no magical ride at the end! There are no fireworks! There is just you and a cart full of things you never knew you wanted and a line that winds almost all the way back to your house!" Then the maniacal laughter starts and it doesn't stop until you cry.
Or until you buy a car.
The first time I ever went to Ikea, I went alone. I was excited! A twelve dollar nightstand? Sure! I threw everything into my cart: pots and glasses and plants and tiny clear magnets I couldn't imagine using, but with the life I was creating with my New Ikea Things, I knew they would come in handy.
It wasn't until I standing in the back of of the interminable line, totting up the purchase price of my now-towering cart, that I started to panic. The child in line behind me, whom I'd seen entering the store, a cherubic blond with blue eyes, had taken on a demonic appearance. He gaped and screamed at me, all red-faced with bulging eyes. The demons were entering him, and I was next, I knew it!
I didn't need a single thing. Not one hanging photo frame or fuzzy floor pillow. But I was completely stuck. Once in the line at Ikea, you sign their contract: You are theirs. They own you. Look at everyone else's faces; admire the portraits of bleakness and despair. You must shuffle forward, always forward, fumbling for the credit card they will demand in exchange for your stuff and your soul.
There's no way out. You can almost feel the flames, can't you?
That day, I ran. I ignored the sticking-out tongue of the child-devil behind me, and I pushed my way past a man who was chuckling diabolically over a set of pleated polka-dot valances. I left my cart right where it was, in the middle of the line. I didn't care.
I ran out into the lot, got in my old beater Ford Fiesta and drove away blindly, still panicked, trying to calm my heart rate. I drove past the water into the heart of Oakland. Then I passed a used car lot. In the front row sat an older white convertible with a low sticker price. I pulled over, and within thirty minutes, I'd purchased a new-to-me car and had left my old car as a trade-in.
Let me repeat: Buying a used car was easier than buying popsicle sticks at Ikea. Less stressful. More fun.
So I know this: if I'm a bad person, when I die I will be trapped on aisle K-16 trying to lift pallets of porch swings with a broken forklift for all of eternity. The back up beep beep beep will never end. Therefore, I try to be as nice as possible. I'm hoping for the top-down on the convertible kind of afterlife, if you know what I mean.