Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ikea Hell

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.

14 comments:

AnnaC said...

hilarious...thank you ... I should have gone to sleep hours ago; instead I sat up planning a ridiculous class for tomorrow, um, today.

Somehow, I am sure that the portrait of hell you painted will give me sweet dreams!!

Gigi Pandian said...

Here's my Ikea Hell story: Just like the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is on a list so that no doctor will see her, I am on Ikea's "list" that I am not allowed to return another Ikea product. Ever.

This is all because I once bought a glass lamp there. When I brought it home and opened the packaging, it turned out to be broken. Back at Ikea's returns room (a whole kind of Hell on its own), after waiting for what seemed like an eternity I was told that they don't exchange glass items. Because how are they supposed to know if you broke it yourself. Seriously, Ikea?

But since I work with lawyers, I know enough to read a return policy. Nothing about glass items. When I said as much, a high-up manager was consulted. They agreed to exchange my lamp. But only after adding me to their master list that acknowledged I now knew their real policy. You made the right choice that day, Rachael!

Lisa Hughey said...

LOLOL - IKEA is known as the fifth ring of hell in our house. I've only been once. Jim's been twice (most recently with College Boy to look at furniture and they literally couldn't find their way out for about 30 minutes)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hahahaha! I have an enduring fondness for Ikea: when my son was an infant I used to drive my husband to Newark Airport--*often*. It was at least an hour drive, and by the time we arrived I needed to breastfeed my son and use the facilities...but Newark Airport wouldn't let you SIT unless you passed security (had a ticket). I kid you not. No restrooms, no sitting.
But then an IKEA opened in Elizabeth: they had CLEAN BATHROOMS! And PARKING! And MEATBALLS! And a PLAYROOM (by which I mean toys my boy could play with, since no one who works there cares if you move in).
So they've never made much money off of them, but back in the day they sure came in handy with their revolutionary ideas of providing restrooms, food and drink. 'Course, they do that because you're lost in there for hours!

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh gracious. the first time i ever went to an ikea, i did what you did, rachael. cart full of....things. i had some of those things for YEARS. favorite: a set of tin canisters that cost perhaps 5 dollars...printed with cheery primary-color floral...that held my sewing notions. big things in the big canister. tiny things - thimbles, buttons - in the small canister. that alone is enough to merit my grudging fondness, though i think that hell is actually the ikea parking experience in emeryville

Toni Finley said...

Thanks for the laugh, Rachael! And for the warning.

Martha Flynn said...

I can't even laugh at this because of the PTSD flashbacks I get when I read it!!!!!

Poppy said...

Ikea will always have my love for their maple-colored Billy bookcases. Pretty, and so cheap it actually is possible to have a shelf for ever book.

Lee Ann Dalton said...

I feel far less alone now.

Kristin Miller said...

I knew we were kismet! I knew it! You had me at Ikea Hell. I hate that place, but to say such blasphemy around friends would suck me into a vortex of "Oh, it's the best!", "You just had one bad experience!", "Come on, let's go, it'll be great, you'll see!"

Great company around these parts.

L.G.C. Smith said...

My introduction to Ikea came in Switzerland, and I was so poor that it was like heaven. Plus, the lines weren't that bad. I carried glorious fantasies of, as you said, the life I could create with my Ikea stuff back to the states with me. I had the great good fortune to live in Philadelphia when the first American Ikea opened in Plymouth Meeting. I went on opening day. Dear God. The zombie apocalypse will not be more daunting.

Ikea=Hell. On wheels. With bells on. I still love the idea of Ikea. They have great stuff. But the buying experience is, as you so eloquently detail, soul-sapping.

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