To those of you who have been to IKEA before, you know it can be a mad house. And to those of you who haven’t had the
torture pleasure, the store is a uni-directional eternal labyrinth of hell that cunning Swedish architects use as a psychological weapon to disorient their customers into impulse shopping like no other store has done before. Jussayin’.
You first grab a yellow-bagged shopping cart with its independent little wheels that are a fun and refreshing change from your typical shopping cart. IKEA then dazzles you with its airy model showrooms and tantalizes with endless Nordic possibilities. This area gives you an initial burst of energy fueled by desire and the denial of instant gratification…all to lure you in where you cannot escape. You think, this is not bad at all! I can totally do this. I never knew I needed that side table. But I do.
IKEA herds you through their marketplace where the incessant flow of people makes you realize you have just one chance to wade over to that stack of place mats or you will get swept away forever. The current of the crowd pulls you along and you grab onto whatever is in reach at that point to satisfy an unidentifiable, disoriented need.
As your cart gets heavier you notice its preference for the left and begin to slide into your fellow herded livestock. Rather than look like an idiot trying to fight it, you decide to just turn the cart sideways and push on. You reassure your introverted self that no one will notice.
The promises of an exit are starting to become cruel and you look around for those shortcuts you can’t seem to find. The fear of accidentally short-cutting yourself back to the beginning makes you shudder and you stay focused and plow forward.
Once you arrive at the children’s section, you foolishly decide to let your toddler play with the only mini kitchen in the whole store, which has been touched by a million snot-smeared hands. And while you are no helicopter, you watch her like a hawk because you know the other 500 cattle who also thought they were brilliant for arriving at 10AM on a tax-free Sunday are about to stampede through in record time. Peripherally, you notice the yellow and blue striped cowboys lazily monitoring from their saddled stations.
You don’t want to experience your worst fear (losing a child), so you continue to follow your toddler as she explores each little bedroom and then slips harmlessly through a child-sized tunnel into the adjacent section. You drag your obliquing cart around and realize this is the storage section where rows of wardrobes obstruct your expectant view. You look once, twice down a different row, call out, and nervously laugh to yourself because surely you can’t lose a kid you had your eyes glued to in a mere second. You call out louder. You try to speed-walk your gimpy cart against the current but don’t get very far, politely excusing yourself in between louder and more panicky calls.
Fear and bile rise up from your gut. Because she is nowhere to be found. You curse yourself for letting her wander–she is a runner after all, but was deceptively compliant at the time. What you don’t know is that she had a plan the entire time. With only one chance of escape, she honed in on the shortcuts that she took mental note of while her mother was busy hoarding things not on her list.
Full-blown hysteria ensues 60 seconds in and you can’t understand why the IKEA cowboys just stand there ignoring your bovine cries. The livestock, however, realize you are holding up the flow and several cattle ask if you are looking for the giggling little blonde girl. “Yeah, she’s over in the bedroom section now.” “Oh, the little hysterically laughing girl? Yeah, I just saw her in kitchenware.”
Oh. My. God.
Other parents understand your distress and like a ramp agent to a rather large plane, they marshal you around corner after corner. You finally see her in the distance in bedding (probably on her second lap) and your heart leaps with relief. She sees you in the distance and her bare feet leap to escape. She squeals in delight. You squeal her name with all the blood-curdling passion you can muster. You barrel through the herd, orbiting cows into flight left and right, and glancing back as the cart takes out a few more in its sideways wake. “MOOOOOOOVE!!!”
You finally catch her and hold her close. Through gritted teeth, you force out your reprimand in a way that finally gets her attention and you wipe away both her tears and yours. You turn around after a tap on your shoulder and you hear, “Your is child missing her shoes, right? I think they’re all the way back in the showroom.” How is that even possible? Such is the sorcery of IKEA.
You are no longer under the store’s spell, but nevertheless remain a pawn in its sadistic game. You sail through the remaining rooms on your damned sideways cart looking like an effing idiot only to screech to a halt in their mile-long, vertigo-inducing warehouse. You still try to salvage this shit-show of a nightmare and when at last you reach the bin you are convinced is named after a Finnish armpit, you realize it’s not the side table you wanted and never knew you needed. But you’ll learn to love whatever it is anyway and you wedge it under your brimming yellow-bagged cart. Such is the sorcery of IKEA.
You’re not the only one either. Everyone else is panting from exhaustion and cow-eyed bewilderment, dreading to discover what’s in their own yellow bag. All are about one Swedish meatball away from implosion. But you eventually break free, leave depleted of energy, devoid of hope, and lacking a soul or anything on your list.
At home, you put up your three plates, a napkin ring, a 200-pack of straws, a toy rat, a dog bowl for a dog you don’t have, some sort of wall mount for maybe curtains, and an orange nightstand so bright it appears to radiate heat. As you cry yourself to sleep (warmed by your new nightstand), you silently curse IKEA’s business plan, your stupidity, and the perfect storm the combination of the two creates.
Such is the sorcery of IKEA.