Yesterday I woke up, as I have for the past 23 years of my life, an IKEA virgin. Little did I know that by the end of the day, not only would I have popped the IKEA cherry, but I would find myself assembling my very first flat pack. I don’t waste time.
At 6pm I picked up my then-boyfriend from work, dressed in an ensemble I deemed suitable for perusing the aisles of IKEA. Chuck Taylors, black jeans and a khaki jacket. Casual in a way that says, “I know my way around affordable Swedish furniture”.
We used Google Maps to navigate the journey, parked and made our way through the shopping centre towards our destination. The purpose of our mission – to find a nice, cheap book shelf to house the crap currently littering my bedroom floor.
When we reached the store, the entrance immediately confused us. I wondered:
“Is this it? Do we go up those stairs? Why is there a cafe? I thought IKEA sold furniture. Actually I’m kinda hungry. I wonder what Swedish food tastes like? Nope chicken meatballs don’t tickle my fancy. Is that even Swedish? Oh well. To the furniture department!”
Most people compare their excitement to being ‘like a kid in a candy store’. As I saw the showroom for the first time, my excitement was more akin to ‘being a kid in Harvey Norman!’ I’m not sure what that says about my childhood, but for some reason I’ve always had a strange fascination with furniture stores that are set up as actual rooms. I had to refrain from racing into each display I liked and shouting “This one’s my room!”
Instead, we walked through each display like the adults that we are, pretending to make cocktails with the props, because only adults can drink alcohol. Walking through one apartment setup I was reminded of the scene in 500 Days of Summer when Summer and Tom jump on one of the beds at IKEA and Tom says “Darling, I don’t mean to alarm you but there’s a Chinese family standing in our kitchen.”
“Hey” I say, “This reminds me of that scene in 500 days of Summer where they jump on the bed and…OH MY GOD don’t look now but look who just walked into our lounge room!” Enter Chinese family. Couldn’t have timed it better myself.
We walked through about 10 different departments until we finally found the shelving section and by this point I had no concept of direction whatsoever. Blindfold me and spin me around for good measure, cos I ain’t gettin’ outta here without assistance. Apparently the Swedish enjoy mazes so much that they incorporate them into their shops.
I chose a shelf and then, being the IKEA virgin that I was, I had no idea what to do next. Luckily Aidan had more experienced with IKEA and he filled out the little form with the product details. One of the staff members pointed us in the direction of the warehouse, where we could collect the shelf, so off we went, back through the maze.
I like to think that it was a bit like the maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in that you never know what kind of scary thing might be around the next corner. The scariest thing we encountered was a middle-aged couple making out in the kitchen department – eyes closed and everything. I regret not pointing them in the direction of ‘bedrooms’, it’s the one time ‘get a room’ would have been both appropriate AND convenient.
We found the warehouse, packed the flat pack box into a trolley and headed towards the registers.
The staff member serving told me that if we scanned our receipt we wouldn’t have to pay for parking and she also told me that IKEA is 2.5km. Not sure if she meant in width or length or perimeter but I acted amazed.
We finally got the shelf in my tiny car, and lets just say if we had to break quickly, it most definitely would have ended up through the windscreen. Before we could escape the craziness, a lady ran up and asked if we could watch her stuff while she went to get her car. I felt like telling her that she should know better than to trek through a 2.5km maze on her own, but I smiled and we waited for her to get back.
Driving home, I looked at Aidan and said, “I don’t really like IKEA. It’s too big and I didn’t know what to do…” But I suppose that’s what most people say after losing their virginity. Maybe I’ll like it more next time.