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Monday September 12, 2005 // By Sandy

Somewhere, Thor is laughing

It’s true—trips to IKEA rot my soul. It’s tough for me, because on one hand I admire the essence of IKEA, as the world’s foremost purveyor of highly functional yet cheap houseware. Yet on the other hand, it’s the worst example of conspicuous consumerism, and actually enduring a shopping trip there puts me into a state of anxiety that degrades by the minute.

Last weekend’s trip was supposed to be easy, though, since we knew exactly which items we wanted, and promised not to stray at all from our list. Ha. It’s not that easy. The storage unit we sought to buy, in all its many components, turned out to be the most popular item in the store. On top of that, buying one required solving for a host of variables—height, depth, type of wood, type of door, type of internal components, type of handles—that we hadn’t fully planned out in our prep work. Choice is good, until the number of permutations possible exceeds the number of fingers and toes available to count on, at which point it becomes very, very bad.

So, one hour later, we finally decide what to get, and put our order in with the IKEA staffer standing by at the computer station. This woman is incredibly patient. I can imagine the interview for this job involving standing for long durations in a stuffy room filled with whiny, crying, inconsolable five-year-olds who all need to go potty. With our order firmly in the computer’s system, I assumed it meant our merchandise would be guaranteed to be in stock. Ha, again. My trip through the self-serve aisles, where normal people like you and I exhibit the superhuman strength necessary to carry boxes of highly irregular shape and width, proved amusing but not entirely successful. Our storage system was going to look pretty from the outside, but prove awfully hard to use with several of its shelving components missing.

Whatever. We were leaving with what we’d gotten, and come back later if we needed to. Next step: stuff all this crap into That Which Will Break Down Any Day Now, i.e. the Neon. Tough, but a surprisingly straightforward task. Sure, we hurtled down the highway with our trunk half-open and held together with string, but through a complicated system of counterweights and cantilevering, those irregularly shaped suckers weren’t going anywhere.

Step 4: Assemble. Ha, ha, ha! The gods that watched over us on the highway chose this moment to take a coffee break. Not only were we missing many of our components, but upon opening the ones we did have, we found two of them—two!—to have a piece missing. Other than that, things went together more or less like they were supposed to. There was one scary point when the instructions required me to measure and align, in order to install the door handles. Anytime that happens, we’re given a good reminder for why there hasn’t been a good Jewish carpenter in a long, long time.

Finally, on Saturday, Sarah took matters into her own hands and shipped off to IKEA by herself to collect the remaining parts and return the defective ones. A few hours more of assemblage, and a few more of reorganization, and voila! We now have a clean, organized, vaguely Swedish-feeling sun room. The lesson here—which I’m sure to forget time and again—is that the simplicity of IKEA-bought goods is often outweighed by the effort needed to get the damn things off the shelf, in your car, and standing upright in your home. If you’re around the next time I suggest a trip out there, you’re welcome to repeat that line back to me until I either change my mind, or fall down weeping.

Posted by Sarah // Sep 12, 10:23
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