Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Zen and the Art of IKEA Shopping

I am no stranger to shopping IKEA.  As one who has spent much of her adult life with design taste far exceeding her budget, I've always appreciated the option of well-designed, affordable furniture and storage solutions.  You know, even if it means I have to be able to bench-press twice my own weight in order to haul those hefty packages of pressed-board perfection home, and then need the patience of Job to assemble the f*ckers.  Bargains require sacrifice.  I get it.

This past weekend, I decided it was time to make the pilgrimage to that mecca of blue-and-yellow signage and all things accessibly Euro-chic.  I had a list of seven items: four primary selections and three alternates, should things be out of stock.  (As I mentioned, I am no IKEA rookie.)  I compiled my list on the IKEA web site and checked availability of the products at my "local" store - which is an hour-plus trek into neighboring Connecticut.  All items had the maximum number of auspicious-looking little green bars indicating that they were "most likely in stock."  I checked the dimensions and weight of all the packages, then meticulously measured the cargo space in my car.  I would not be "that girl" unpacking her purchases in the parking lot in an effort to cram them into a too-small vehicle.  No.  Never!

Satisfied that I had a sound plan in place, I went to bed early, as a good night's sleep beforehand is another IKEA-prep must.  I rose and took a brisk walk with the dog (a decent warm-up to the miles I would walk through the inescapable showroom), ate a healthy breakfast (because shopping IKEA on an empty stomach is akin to attempting a marathon without training), and made a last-minute online check of store stock (still all green bars).  I hit the road, confident.

Upon arrival, I did everything right: I avoided the throngs circling for parking out front and easily found a space alongside the building, I ate a banana and downed some water for endurance, I double-checked that I had my list and a plan of attack.  I set an alarm on my iPhone so that, should I become disoriented in the brightly-lit maze that awaited, I'd be brought back to reality.  I dodged a half dozen strollers at the main entrance and made a beeline for the rest rooms.

(SIDE NOTE…  If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this: always use the rest rooms the moment you enter IKEA.  You will never - ever, ever - be able to find them again.  And as my wise friend and running buddy Stephanie always says, "No one ever regrets using the rest room.")

So there I was.  Fly zipped, hands sanitized, shopping list at the ready.  I dashed up the escalator and made my planned tour of the labyrinthine showroom in record time.  I confirmed that my selections were sound, avoided myriad distractions, and made my way through the marketplace with nary a glance at a cleverly-named $1.99 teacup or place mat.  I grabbed a cart and found the warehouse aisles containing the items on my list.

Only they weren't there.

Well, I shouldn't say they weren't there.  That's not entirely accurate.  One item was.


Out of seven.

I deflated like a cheerleader denied the tiara and title of prom queen.

Thirty-five minutes later, having confirmed that, yes, only one of the seven items I wanted was actually in stock - green bars be damned - I found myself back in the parking lot, a battle-weary fool trying to open the trunk of my car by repeatedly pressing the wrong button on the clicker.  I had one of the seven items I'd come to purchase.  I had eight items I hadn't known I needed until I saw them.  I smelled faintly of Swedish meatballs.  And defeat.

Luckily, the sun was shining, and I had a massive chocolate bar I'd purchased on impulse while waiting in the checkout line, so I wasn't entirely crushed.  Also, while the patio table and chairs I'd bought (lest I go home with nothing…and hey! they were only $50…) didn't fit in my car, I discovered I could dismantle them sufficiently to make it work.

As I unpacked and wrested my new purchases into my small vehicle, I caught a sympathetic sideways glance from a pair of twenty-somethings.  I realized they mistook me for an IKEA virgin.  I wanted to show them my list, tell them about my preparations.  But I let my indignation go.  I smiled sheepishly and gave them a shrug.

At 40, it's kind of nice to be mistaken for a virgin in any arena.  Even the parking lot of a massive blue-and-yellow monument to the willingness of folks to suffer greatly for cheap, cool-looking stuff.

I took a deep, meditative breath and made my way home.


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