furniture \Furâ€ni*ture\ 1: that with which anything is furnished or supplied. 2: articles used for convenience in a house or apartment.
I have tried to beat FLARKE to a pulp. I have attempted to master all that is ENETRI. I have collapsed while reading the instructions for JARNA and have (I think) caused a blood clot on the left side of my brain while trying to screw together FAGERUM. In every single instance and experience with the foreign-furniture-food serving-amusement park they call IKEA, I have ultimately ended up in the corner, shaking with fear.
Normal furniture stores have certain characteristics you can count on. Friendly overweight salesmen, small homey living-room like showrooms, germ-free mint dispensers and furniture that is so sturdily assembled that it takes two huge men in uniforms to put it in a huge truck and drive it over to your house. Aah, the old world of furniture. Those were the days when a bookcase could fall on your head from a second story window and crush you while still remaining intact. These days, the comforting end tables and bookcases have taken a backseat to furniture you have to forage for in a labyrinth of blindingly happy colors, dead-end corridors and hard-to-pronounce furniture.
I am afraid of making it out of IKEA alive, and they know it. Because of it, they have hired their hucksters and wordsmiths and clever advertising executives who are really good friends with some clever designers who as a crack-team of specialists can turn a barren warehouse into a happy, fun experience. You are about to go on the ride of your life! Please make sure your hands and legs stay inside the cart at all times.
The ride begins as you enter IKEA, where youâ€™re welcomed by very happy people bearing yellow-supermarket carts who stand in front of a huge glass box filled with multi-colored balls. There, children (who I believe have been hired through local casting agencies) play endlessly in the hill of balls. For what sells furniture more than children playing in a sea of plastic orbs? â€œHahahaha,â€ they laugh. â€œI love plastic balls,â€ they scream. Sadly, it is the last English I will ever hear as my cart and I am latched into a rollercoaster-esque escalator that will take me to the top, leaving the real world far, far behind. I hope the children will be okay without me.
IKEA has seen fit to plop you into the middle of their own amusement park, show you their wonderful pieces of hip/elegant/comfortable furniture and then expect you to try and order them by name when the names theyâ€™ve given them make no sense to everyday English speaking citizens.
Feel like a leather armchair? How about TULSTA or POANG or EKTORP? Or KARLANDA or LAHOLM or MALUNG? Sure, there are some medically challenged senior citizens with breathing issues stemming from years of smoking who would love MALUNG, but do they really know theyâ€™re getting a swively-leather chair instead?
From beds and bookcases to chairs and stoolsâ€¦ From rugs and lighting to tables and textilesâ€¦ IKEA has done all they can to stick you in the middle of the most incoherent, unpronounceable furniture warehouse that they can. Secretly, behind those shiny mirrors and shaded corners are a thousand IKEA executives giggling and laughing as you try to convince the woman at the information counter that you want NASTVED and not HULTET. Really, you want NASTVED. Or was it HULTET? Maybe it was RINGO. Even word-association or rhyming will do you no good (believe me, Iâ€™ve tried) in remembering which thingamabob you wanted in the first place.
And yet, pronunciation (or lack thereof) of their products is just the beginning. Because thereâ€™s one little catch to the whole IKEA model. Once youâ€™ve learned how to pronounce the piece you want to buy and are intent of paying for it at the register, youâ€™ve got to find your way out by following the colorful arrows on the floor. Hope youâ€™ve got some time on your hands. And a compass. Because, the Donner Party had it easier than you will.
In your life and death quest for the exit, youâ€™ll have to make it through what seems like an exhibit on â€œThe History of Furniture.â€ From furnitureâ€™s modest beginnings with stools and chairs and end tables to the gilded age of lighting fixtures and all the way to the â€œwe have too much time on our hands these daysâ€ age of plastic fish ice cubes.
Youâ€™ll be paraded past what seems like a thousand sit-com sets â€“ three-walled kitchens and bedrooms and bathrooms and rumpus rooms. Each and every one has windows and doors and escape hatches that, surprisingly, lead nowhere. â€œJust follow the arrows,â€ the voices will tell you. â€œAs long as you follow the arrows youâ€™ll find your way home before dark.â€
But you wonâ€™t. Seriously. No, Iâ€™m telling you the truth. Even if you do follow the floor arrows to a T, you will double-back numerous times, find yourself trapped in rooms with other famished and nervous IKEA travelers. At every turn you will see something that you think looks familiarâ€¦ With each step you will attempt to look for that furniture-mark that will help you find the exit. â€œIf I can just find the leather foot stool that was next to the pink blanket in front of the kiosk with the catalogs,â€ youâ€™ll scream to anyone who will listen, â€œâ€¦if I can find that landmark and head Northâ€¦I know the exit isnâ€™t too far off from there!â€ It is a never ending circle of kitchen stools and rugs you wouldnâ€™t never admit to buying that will slowly and methodically strip from you the will to escape. Sooner or later that Queen-sized LILLEHAMMER you keep passing at the twenty-sixth arrow on the third floor, will start to look mighty comfy.
But if youâ€™re the kind of person who can learn how to live off the land like a true explorer you just may eventually find your way to the IKEA warehouse, where that hard to pronounce leather foot stool is waiting for you to retrieve it. Once you do, youâ€™re home free.
This is where our good friend â€œthe dwarfâ€ really comes in handy.
Really, IKEA should just allow you to purchase dwarves at their warehouses before you take home the flat boxes that supposedly contain your furniture. Because when you get the damn things home and pour out all the flat pieces of wood and bags of screw-type metal rods and the picture-only instructions and realize that the only tool you need to use to put the thing together is included (how great!) but that itâ€™s an L-shaped rod the size of two toothpicks (uh oh!) and there are no children in your life to bribe into handling said L-shaped rodâ€¦youâ€™re gonna wish you had some connections with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. Because you, strong American adult, will be able to manipulate this small tool-thingie about as well as you can program your VCR.
Once again, IKEA has turned a normal assemblage scenario into a game where a printed rebus puzzle is your only hope at having a chair to sit on. Here, youâ€™re presented with pictures instead of actual-worded instructions. Youâ€™re given rods and L-shaped tools instead of screws and nails. Youâ€™re given plastic doohickeys and wooden pill-shaped connectors. Youâ€™ll stare at the pieces for hours, continually telling yourself that â€œit can be doneâ€ and that you â€œare a high school graduate with keen problem solving skills.â€ Eleven seconds after confirming to yourself that you are indeed smart, you will have realized that subconsciously youâ€™ve already decided your next step in the matter.
IKEA, youâ€™ll be happy to know, is more than happy to accept returns.
And as you sign that receipt (informing you that all your funds that were once sucked from your credit-card have been graciously returned to you) and turn towards the exit doors (just past the big box of multi-colored children and balls), youâ€™ll suddenly find that youâ€™re famished. I mean, hell, attempting to put together furniture is tough work.
But as your stomach tells you that youâ€™re hungry, your mind tells you that youâ€™re going to have to wait until you get home because youâ€™re in a furniture store and thereâ€™s no sustenance to be found at such a place. Yet, just then, your eyes see the yellow and blue colored countertop. The fluorescently-lit menu boards. The rapidly rotating rods of beef. Yes, itâ€™s true. IKEA serves food. But here is where famine turns to fear.
After spending a day finding my way to the exit of IKEA, after spending hours trying to figure out what name goes with which piece of furniture and do I pronounce the two dots over the â€œeâ€ or not, I am faced with a menu board filled with items called HOT DOG and SHRIMP SANDWICH and SODA and FROZEN YOGURT.
After a day of mispronounced words, confusing directions and innocent children locked in a clear plastic box, am I to simply believe that a HOT DOG is a beef frankfurter? Is a SODA a carbonated beverage? Or are these names yet another ruse in the creative branding of IKEA? God knows, on my way out the door, after purchasing GLUNOX and its matching OOHTUP, Iâ€™d much rather sit down with a TOHGOD and a OSDA. At least then, Iâ€™d feel like my surreal day abroad was somewhat consistent. I mean, really â€“ would you ever buy something called a â€œPB&J Sandwichâ€ in Mongolia?
Thatâ€™s what I thought.
The whole IKEA experience is like being dropped into an amusement park inside of a cafÃ© inside of a foreign country whose language you donâ€™t speak. And then, once youâ€™ve arrived there, youâ€™re immediately put to work assembling furniture with toothpicks and instructions that look like Dali sketched them out. In the end, itâ€™s like a huge real-life version of a Twilight Zone episode.
Well, except for the strange rotating beef kabobs and the kids trapped in a huge plastic box. I mean, Rod Serling liked to scare peopleâ€¦ But he definitely didnâ€™t want to freak them out.
In other news, tomorrow is yet another edition of “Words For Your Enjoyment” — the feature where you supply an idea for Friday’s post and if I use it, you get a link to your site, your name in lights, and a half pound of your choice of deli meat!