When first you arrive at the new Ikea, the escalator deposits you into the food court. Like a marooned astronaut on a foreign planet, you take your tray and step directly into a line for swedish meatballs.
Being herded in this way is oddly comforting. Though neither of you want to admit it, you know what’s coming. Might as well do it on a contented stomach.
Ikea knows what’s coming, too. Decades of careful study of consumer behavior has shown a well gravy-ed belly is a prophylactic against impulsive argumentation. To that end, they stack chocolate bars for you by the register. Only 99 cents! Do you feel line having chocolate right now? Not particularly. Reason not the need. At these prices, it would be unsportsmanlike to say no. There is Mirkwood to cross and the Misty Mountains beyond. You’re fortfifying yourselves. So, lets get another, while we’re at it. And a third one for the road.
Into the living dioramas of the showrooms we went…to an Other Life, prettier, more well-ordered than one’s own.
You stagger through them in wonder. Wonder begets desire. Desire begets recrimination. You stand upon shores of beckoning kingdoms, a rebuke to the squalor of your own circumstances.
Here, you are not. This, you have not. You are wanting.
Purchasing the tableau entire is never possible. So the question becomes what half Ikea, quarter Ikea, one tenth of an Ikea tableau could you go home with and not disagree with yourself?
Buying it all is easy. Picking the right three items to agree on is where the trouble starts.
Kitchens were a particular hazard.
You know of one marriage that nearly came to an end with a screaming match at the Emeryville Ikea, with the wife announcing she was going back to China and taking the kids, while the Kitchen Dept. assistant averted her gaze, doodled nervously on her notepad, as though that sort of thing didn’t happen once a week. The following day you were deputized to return to the scene of the crime and pick up their order for them as they were too ashamed to show their faces.
As is her nature, Mrs. U touched everything, opening drawers and sniffing candles as though trying on pairs of shoes.
“Our kitchen is too small,” you announce, breaking the spell.
“These kitchens don’t have walls, making them seem larger than they are. There’s nothing wrong with the size of our kitchen. It’s more than adequate.”
Adequate was the worse possible descriptor she could have chosen in that moment.
She did it on purpose, you decide. The afternoon takes a turn, and you both know it.
She begins marching ahead of you. With purpose.
TO BE CONTINUED….