Something to do on a Sunday afternoon … Rain in the forecast … Remodeling projects in various stages of completion …
Perfect setting for the four words every red blooded male longs to hear, “Let’s go to Ikea!”, dear Carol exclaims.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Ikea was founded by a 17-year-old (which explains a lot) in 1943, and is renown for it’s architectural designs of furniture and appliances and an eco-friendly approach to interior design.
This was the First Time for me, although Carol insists I had been there once before. But no, I would have remembered this experience had I lived through it.
The store was inviting; painted in bold Blue and Yellow – the national colors of Sweden, the visuals reminding me of a favorite U.S. icon, the Blue Angels. What could possibly be more inviting?
Yet something was gnawing at the pit of my stomach like a yellow worm with teeth (Ween). What is wrong here? What about this makes sense? Didn’t the Swedes also create Systembolaget, a government-controlled alcohol monopoly?
We walk into a bright but spartan lobby that invites you to ride the escalator to the retail floor. This was an oddity in the Land of Good and Plenty. Nothing to sell while rendering first impressions? No impulse-buying enticements? Primary retail space on the second floor? Not even one store greeter … no Nordic blondes playing Abba music on nyckelharpas?
But they do have plenty of these over-sized eco-harmonizing shopping bags. And they’re large enough to fit a Volvo …
My shopping psyche is a strange amalgam of wonderment and an anxiety of what lies beyond … I was in Limbo.
And violà! We arrive on the retail floor!
Immediately you realize the Swedes ain’t no dummies!
Did I mention, I’m not a big fan of Quests?
And just then I see the store map …
Rule of Thumb: Any store that requires a map for you to figure out where you are and to find what you want, can use the same device to make sure you can never leave!
I’m struck by the resemblance the Ikea store map has to those primitive maze tests used to measure the learning habits of lesser species. This causes one to wonder, who exactly is the “lesser species” in this Nordic inspired ecosystem?
We push on with our journey, moving right into Gluttony as we peruse the quirky, imaginative shapes and functions of the Artichoke Pendant Lamp, Befintlig candles, Smörboll bedding, and Ödmjuk coffe cups. Hours seem to have passed in minutes, I am aware of a foggy, detached feeling like a balloon floating through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, barely tethered to the Earth.
When I am able to roust myself from this peculiar state, Carol is nowhere to be seen and the cart I am pushing is overflowing with abstract Swedish home appointments. I must find her before we descend any further into the bowels of Scandinavian home furnishings Hades.
And then I see her! Not Carol exactly, but that head looks familiar …
She appears from out of the flimsy veil of the Åderblad window treatments. She appears to be unclothed with what looks like the tail of a cow. When I ask her name, she replies in a foggy voice that sounds so very far away, “Tallemaja”. She beckons me to follow.
An overwhelming sense of pressure and heaviness … When I look down I am holding three of those enormous Ikea saddle bags crammed full of sheets with artsy patterns and ingenuously designed table lamps. I absently reach for my wallet …
The Circle of Greed!
I fight the urge and set out once again to find Carol. Tallemaja is not a happy nymph! I find Carol sorting through a clutch of Gräddig wall decorations, semi-catatonic and mumbling incoherently. I warn her not to fall for the charms of Tallemaja.
She looks at me, her head cocked to one side. “Who the hell’s Tallemaja?!? I was talking to some guy named Nykkjen. I don’t think he’s an Ikea employee; but he seemed to know a lot about this place!”
Cue the spooky music …
We need to get out of here … Now!
“Heresy!”, she shouts in Anger. I look around embarrassingly at the shoppers nearby, all mumbling and displaying those same blank stares, speaking gibberish …
No one here can hear you scream …
Desperate to escape this madness, I prod Carol along. We manage to move but a few steps when Carol calls over her shoulder to a figure bent in appreciative study, “Hey, Nykkjen, let’s go! We’re outta here.”
So of course Zlatan Ibrahimović – Carol’s tricked out psyche version of Nykkjen – unfolds slowly to his feet triumphantly holding his latest acquisition … a Bild poster!
Stunned momentarily I stumble in confusion, the Home Furnishings Department spinning dizzyingly. I reach out and steady myself against the Norwegian soccer nicker’s shoulder, and he – true to his Euro fùtbol tradition – collapses like a gunshot victim, grabbing at his ankle in fairy tale agony …
Fraud and Violence in the blink of a referee’s eye … And stand perilously close to the boundary of the 9th – and final – Circle de Dantè!
I convince Carol that we should concentrate on the table and cabinets she wants for her craft room and leave this Den of Temptation before it’s too late. She agrees and we race through the remainder of the retail floor, heading downstairs to the furniture warehouse.
By now I’m a nervous wreck, with my wallet shoved down the front of my pants and a terrified look on my face. Carol – always quick to pick up on this sort of thing – asks me what’s wrong. And I tell her we were oh-so-close to joining the lost souls in Hades, crossing 8 circles out of Dante’s 9.
Treachery – I tell her – was all that remained.
She rolls her eyes and glances around almost seekingly. I swear she’s really searching for Zlatan that hunky Nykkjen. “Well then, let’s get out of here, Mr. Treachery.”, she says, “You know you have to put all this crap together when we get home.”