Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ikea: Not for Introverts

Last week, Roland had to go to Europe for work, so I gladly used up my Southwest Rewards credits to bring my littlest sister Becca here for a visit. One of our first stops: Ikea. Here’s a great recap of our what-did-we-get-ourselves-into adventure that Bex put together:

I am a shopper with a faint heart. The Muzac, the crowds, all the disordered merchandising… I usually walk into stores, get overwhelmed by the stimuli, think “Why did I come?”, and then leave.
This is a well-known fact about me. I’m a riot to take anywhere, really. Yet still, Kate found it a reasonable idea to compel me to shop at Ikea with her this past week.
Neither of us had ever been.
Perhaps some reconnaissance beyond being told “The stuff’s kinda hard to put together, jeez why do you have 52 screws, you are a chair” and “They’ve got really cheap meatballs!” would have been wise.
From a distance, Ikea appeared large and looming (proof that we weren’t actually lost even after driving three cities over and not following the GPS’s initial instructions).
Up close, though, the outside is sterile; white and blue, some sparse landscaping. Perhaps it was just as clean-cut inside, I thought blithely, not yet willing to commit to being either brave or nervous.
As soon as we walked inside though, terrified was on the table, and I grabbed it and ran with it.
Everyone bottlenecks 20 feet from the doors, where the masses are forced into a disorderly queue while waiting for a free step on a rickety-looking, one-way escalator that is gamely pumping people up two stories.
While jostling for position, it gives you time to look around and realize that, crap, this place is huge. And, as someone elbows you in the back to step forward, uninviting. But there are so many people streaming in behind you, that the moment you think of turning back is the moment it’s too late.
All that’s left is to grimly face forward and try to prepare.
To that end, there are some shoulder bag-type things of which to avail yourself, but, in retrospect, unless you want to stuff two or three pillows into one and use it as a buffer against crowds, nothing else particularly fits inside.
Once upstairs, there is total and immediate chaos. There is no other word for it.
Imagine, if you will, a hedge maze. A hedge maze with just one convoluted path, forcing everyone to trudge together until the exit. Now, replace the hedges with cubicle-inspired showrooms filled with mockups of bedrooms and offices (and living rooms, etc.), and in repose across every available surface in order to test the merchandise: people.
And boy, are there people.
Everywhere. There is no avoiding them.
You couldn’t walk two steps without having to say “Excuse me, please.” or “Do you mind laying elsewhere for a moment? I’d like to test the drawers of this desk.”
Up here, too, there are carts, though I saw no origin. They seemed to spawn indiscriminately in the hands of those walking slowest and veering most erratically across the path as they tried to shop off a hangover.
There are layout maps, but they are sparse and poorly placed. Navigating to your desired section may seem doable at first, using one of their quaintly labeled shortcuts to chop out a chunk of store, but you soon realize these “shortcuts” call themselves that a tad optimistically because all they end up doing is spitting you into oncoming traffic where you have to fight yourself back into the established flow.
(If you happen to lose one another, I suppose a conversation would sound like this: (Loudly): No, no, I’m in a room staged like a bedroom. Near the middle somewhere. No, I didn’t take a shortcut! Landmarks? Yeah, sure, I’m by the crowd of people testing out the couch. They look like they’re full-on napping. What? You’re by TVs? Hold up, I don’t think I’ve seen those yet. No, no, don’t head back! It’s like swimming upstream. Stay there, I’m coming. By a crowd of people, you say? Magnificent.)
So you follow the one path (helpfully pointed out by peeling duct tape arrows on the floor), and try to duck into your correct section before you’re pushed irrevocably beyond it.
We looked at all the dressers they seemed to have in hopes of finding something worthwhile, but became so quickly discouraged by their shaky quality and the people shaking them that we decided to call it a swift day.
We stumbled toward the end (and, bizarrely, found some more oddly-placed dressers, but with the same results) and upon the famous cafeteria, which was unbelievably holding even more people. It was madness, and we were lucky to slink down the stairs (no escalator here) without being swept away.
But wait, I thought, those stairs weren’t nearly long enough, were they? And thusly turned a corner and were confronted with even more store. Kitchenware and endless aisles of glass jars, it appeared.
We walked back to the stairs. We walked around the stairs hoping to find another set. No? We looked back up the stairs (but didn’t dare walk back up them). Hmmm. We scratched our heads. We shared a dismayed look and a disconsolate, knowing nod. Then, we steeled ourselves and used our skills in speed walking to navigate this new level of hell as swiftly as possible. The aisles here were smaller, the carts fuller, though the people less bountiful. We reached another set of stairs.
Consequently, we reached another level of shopping.
How was this possible?! I was so frustrated at this point, I barely spared a glance at the towering scaffolding filled with pull-and-buys along every wall. Kate saw the clearance section and began to investigate, but perhaps I made a sad, small sound, and she took pity on me and we walked on to the end.
Ikea really wants you to buy something. The only avenues out were the register lines, 30 lanes across and all about 50 families deep. We saw a metal fence at the side of the registers set up to discourage people from cumbersomely rolling away with a sofa, and climbed over it (setting a slight and illegal trend).
Kate and I were free.
I understand Ikea’s fundamental promise: cheap options in a variety of choices. But, as I emerged into the sunlight, cheeks flushed with anxiety and wet palms shaking, to see families hoisting, throwing, sending a quick plea heavenward before shoving a three-piece entertainment center into their sedan and contemplating the best way to lash their children onto the roof, I understood not even two-dollar meatballs could ever lure me back.
Especially not on a weekend.
What the hell were we thinking.

1 comment:

  1. As I was reading this, all I could think about was how is reminded me of a horror story. I felt like I was reading a Goosebumps book. Sounded like a very frightening experience indeed! Eek!