I am feeling tired and achy from some ill-advised yoga and a healing foot–much like any normal human feels after a trip to Ikea, and I is for Ikea, so…here we are.
Wow, this A-Z challenge gets harder each day because the ALPHABET IS SUPER LONG, APPARENTLY. I guess that’s why they call it a challenge, huh?
In any case, here are my elevent steps for shopping at that most holy and yet despised of all big box stores, Ikea.
Step 1: Get super fed up with whatever stained area rug/chipped coffee table/disintegrating bookshelf you have been contemplating replacing for six months and prepare to go to Ikea. This is, in some ways, the hardest part of the entire process, because you are voluntarily deciding to go to Ikea. It’s like saying, “Hey, why not visit Hell and/or an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet today?” You have to book your zipcar, which is inevitably a forty-five minute walk away from your apartment because you waited until the last minute, beg a strong-ish friend to come with you to help wheel those giant shopping carts and load unwieldy boxes into the trunk, and pledge not to eat seventy swedish meatballs or a pound of Ikea fro-yo while you’re there. This step is greatly improved (at least before you GET to Ikea) if you have a strong family member (parent–probably dad, usually a male sibling or cousin) with a free car who can drive you there and do all the heavy lifting.
Step 2: Drive to Emeryville, the Land of Opportunity. This is probably the best part of the process because Emeryville is like the Emerald City of the Bay Area. Not only does it have an Ikea, Target, Best Buy, and every large big box store you can imagine, it also has a Panera (broccoli cheddar soup FTW), PF Changs, and some other Cheesecake-factory knockoffs where you can eat your feelings after the inevitable breakdown that you will experience at Ikea. The hardest part of this step, however, is the drive itself: you have to cross the Bay Bridge, and if it’s not 10:45 am on a Thursday this will be a complete fucking disaster. Bonus points if you somehow manage to take that weird exit onto Treasure Island on the way there and end up driving in circles around the most pointless island of all time trying to get back on the bridge.
Step 3: Enter Ikea and feel a sense of momentary awe followed by dread and cold sweats. The first moment of entering Ikea is great. The vastness of the building seems like a wonderland, a place where anything can happen. Will you find a Bjorkendfjord armchair for fifty dollars? A green plastic Odinthor spatula for fifty cents? WILL YOU BUY SOME GENERIC YET APPEALING CANVAS PRINTS OF MAJOR US CITIES FOR YOUR LIVING ROOM WALLS? Then, as you enter the labyrinth of pristine faux kitchens and lofted bed-and-desk combos, the dread sets in: will you ever find the one thing that you need? What if it’s out of stock? What if you spill your meatballs all over your yoga pants in the cafeteria? What if you find Satan in a frozen wasteland chewing Judas, Brutus, and Cassius for eternity behind the dining room sets? WHAT IF YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE?
Step 4: Cry.
Step 5: Choose your items, mark their Swedish names and numbers on the miniature golf score card thing they give you, and go to…THE MARKETPLACE/WAREHOUSE. The Marketplace/Warehouse is the tenth layer of hell Dante never wrote about. Suddenly your four chosen items from above turn into thirty. Who knew that you suddenly needed five new dish towels in various geometric prints? And of COURSE your bedroom needs string filament lights, and a breakfast in bed tray looks nice, and OMG WHAT I HAVE DONE?
Step 6: Have the inevitable tearful argument (or full-on screaming blow-out) with the friend, relative, or romantic partner you brought with you. Please note that the timing on this step is flexible; some people begin their quarreling in the car when they’re lost on Treasure Island, others while choosing their items, and even a few during the loading procedure. No matter when you have the fight, however, be aware that it WILL HAPPEN. IT IS YOUR DESTINY, AND YOU CANNOT ESCAPE DESTINY. If you are alone, substitute a solo mental breakdown during which you are silently derided by the underpaid employees in the bathroom section who augment their meager earnings by feeding off the deep desperation behind your tears.
Step 7: Roll your giant-ass cart to checkout and wait for thirty minutes while screaming four-year-olds run circles around you. Make it forty-five minutes if it’s a weekend.
Step 8: Loading. At this point, you’re thinking, “My God, my God, what have I done? Have I lost my mind? Why didn’t I park closer to the exit? And why has this douchebag with the Uhaul been taking up half the loading zone for forty minutes? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH HIM! ARE YOU EVEN HUMAN? WHY, JESUS, WHY?”
Step 9: Return trip of mute exhaustion. Knowing that your lives will never be the same, you and your Ikea shopping partner sit in silence on the ride home, each perhaps clutching a paper bowl of Ikea fro-yo as if your lives depended on it, contemplating the final steps in your journey with a horror that is impossible to express. You remember that not only did you purchase three items that require assembly, but realize that you will probably kill yourself dragging those fucking flat boxes up four flights of stairs to your apartment, so you’ll probably never have a chance to put them together anyways. You accept your coming demise and consider calling your loved ones to say goodbye, but you’re too tired, and how will you explain to them that you were killed by a shopping trip to Ikea?
Step 10: Somehow make it home, drag your purchases upstairs, and assemble them. At the end of this process you will stand, triumphant and sweaty, amidst a sea of cardboard fragments and styrofoam confetti and survey your handiwork. You may never speak with your Ikea shopping partner again, but you did successfully assemble your bookshelf. The green spatula accents your faux-granite countertops nicely, and that really is a nicely photoshopped picture of NYC hanging above your fireplace. You did it. YOU DID IT. And now you never have to go to Ikea again. YOU HAVE WON, AND IKEA HAS LOST. YOU ARE A CHAMPION.
Step 11: Two years later, your Tjekfjordbjorgen nightstand collapses while you attempt to place a glass of water on it. You yell, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” into the void, and, after a few minutes of internal conflict, call the same friend or family member who helped you purchase the nightstand years earlier and ask, “Hey, so you interested in coming with me to Ikea?”
Please tell your own Ikea horror stories in the comments below. It really helps to talk about it, I promise. We can get through this together, guys.