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Ikea, You Kea, We All Kea Together

November 11, 2013 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

My daughter and I finally went to the Ikea store in Sunrise, Florida. I lived in Florida for five years and didn't get to that store until after I moved. I was back to visit my daughter and meet her cat (oh yes, I'll be blogging about that next week) so she and I made the hour drive to Ikea. First I made all kinds of excuses why we should go to Target instead. Or go to the beach instead. Or stay home and eat nachos and mozzarella sticks instead. Why was I dreading the trip to Ikea so much? Before I moved to Florida, I was ecstatic about being a mere hour away from one. Something deep inside my psyche was screaming at me to not go.

Years ago, on a trip to Pittsburgh for my aunt's funeral, my sisters and I slipped off to Ikea, where we bought every small thing we could fit into our suitcases, plus about 50 disposable tape measures, just because they were free and they, too, fit into our suitcases. The furniture would not fit into our suitcases, so we had a good excuse to just admire the showrooms and never once set foot into the warehouse.

"I wish I lived near an Ikea!" I said about 70 times as my sisters and I walked amidst the most colorful kitchen supplies I had ever seen.

Fast forward to 2011, when I was in Phoenix helping outfit my son's apartment and was among a van full of people (my son, his girlfriend and her parents) who made not one, but two trips to Ikea to buy an entire apartment's worth of stuff. Because I was not limited by airline suitcase weight limits and had a van at my disposal, I gleefully chimed in at every single thing my son and his girlfriend picked out. Even after entering the warehouse and doing Algebra II math to figure out where to find the things we had written down on our little order forms with those stubby little golf pencils, I was like a happy child, pushing a big flatbed cart awkwardly sideways through the aisles.

"Why won't these things go straight?" I still smiled. At the checkout, still smiling because things were cheap and my son's girlfriend's parents agreed to pay for all of it except the brightly colored kitchen supplies I had picked up for myself.

We got everything loaded into the van, drove to the apartment, and got everything unloaded into the apartment.

I stopped smiling.

"What do you mean we have to assemble all this?" I snarled. "This is BS." I knew Ikea was assemble-it-yourself, but I thought that meant screwing the legs onto a dresser. I didn't know we had bought a box full of lumber and we'd have to built the thing ourselves. No wonder it was cheap. There was literally no labor involved in making this furniture.

I only had to do about one-fifth of the assembly, but it was enough to wrack every last nerve in my body. At one point, while drawing on everything I had learned in 8th grade wood shop class to build desk drawers, I stood up (with difficulty - my knees had been crunched for hours) and said, "I have to take a break. I'm going to get the new vacuum cleaner out of the box." When I saw that it, too, needed to be assembled, I started to sob.

So now you know why I had an aversion to going to the Florida Ikea with my daughter, even though I knew in my heart that the things she needed were there and only there.

So we went. We bought. We took our chances in the warehouse, hoping the numbers we wrote down were correct. The boxes didn't look right. Not at all. But we had to trust our non-dyslexic selves and just buy the damn things.

Back at the apartment, we emptied all the boxes, lined up the lumber and screws and two things that looked like a speculum for an American Girl doll (if and when Josephina and Molly become sexually active) and started to assemble a cabinet for my daughter's living room.

"Geez, I think you need to have an engineering degree to put this thing together," I said, flipping through the 24-page booklet of instructions.

My daughter was more optimistic. "Come on," she said. "Between the two of us we have a journalism degree and a fourth of a music thing. We got this."

Twenty minutes later when we had only rearranged the screws into cute little piles and poured a second glass of wine, she still hadn't offered to look at the instruction booklet.

"Are the instructions in English?" she asked, looking away, out the window. "No," I said, "they're not in anything. They're just little pictures. Nothing is numbered or identified at all. We don't have this. We don't have this at all. We have nothing!"

More wine. Different piles. We made coasters out of the packaging. We eventually started to painstakingly piece together the cabinet. Only five or six times did we do it wrong and have to take it apart and start over. Only once did we do it the same wrong way twice in a row.

My daughter told me the whole operation reminded her of a scene in Orange is the New Black, where two prisoners try to repair a dryer with the fictional equivalent of a journalism degree and a fourth of a music thing. I started to see it as a bonding moment - or should I say it was a bonding four hours.

When we were done, I suggested that maybe she go back in a few weeks and pick up a coffee table that had been out of stock. "It's only an hour away," I said.

"I don't want to go back there. I don't want to ever go back there," she said.

I'm sure it's because I wouldn't be there to help assemble. Or buy the wine.

 
 

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