Thursday, January 15, 2015

IKEA: Just What The Doctor Didn't Order

This past week, my husband had some vascular work done on his legs. Sure, this health care writer should probably drop the correct medical jargon on you for said procedure, but you’ll have to excuse me. I’m just still too exhausted from our last pilgrimage to IKEA to look it up on Wikipedia or dig through his paperwork on the kitchen countertop (which, thank you very much, we did not buy at IKEA.)

The point is, my husband had some work done that had nothing to do with tucking,  botox-ing or liposuction-ing, found out that same medical procedure caused a blood clot in his leg, and this news seemed like the perfect reason for us to drive two-plus hours to pick up some Swedish pleather and particleboard goods. Actually, I’m confident the Swedish goods we picked up are genuine wood and leather. Mostly. Just like the meatballs are genuine meat. Mostly.  

So what do sclerotherapy, endovenous ablation therapy and IKEA have in common? (Have patience, my friends. You knew I would eventually look it up.) Like my grandmother used to say, “I haven’t the foggiest.” Not having a clue is often how I write much of what I write. No plan and no parachute. This is both a detriment and a blessing. 

Bear with me. 

I just read that in sclerotherapy, a liquid chemical is injected into a varicose vein to close it off, and in endovenous ablation therapy, lasers or radiowaves create heat to close off a varicose vein. Both of these procedures accomplish the same thing: they shut down certain unhealthy veins, and blood is thereby rerouted to other healthier veins. Perhaps I can use this knowledge as a metaphor for IKEA? And wouldn’t that be a cool, writerly slight of hand?    

Let’s give it a stab: 
  • At IKEA, customers flow through room after room after room, a labyrinth of functional, unpretentious, family-friendly and cheap-as-shit home furnishings and assorted accoutrement. 
  • These rooms are linked, not unlike our closed circulatory system. (A closed circulatory system means our blood never leaves our stringent network of arteries, veins and capillaries.) 
  • We, as customers, are also enticed to never (EVER) stray from IKEA’s closed circulatory system, especially without at least eight throw pillows, five lampshades, two bookcases, four shelving units, seven bar stools, three whisks, sixteen tea lights, twelve dish towels and an undisclosed, embarrassing amount of meatballs. (All with Swedish names I’m pretty sure translate to variations of “American douchebag” with a generous sprinkling of umlauts.) 
  • Once we select all we could possibly need and even more that we don’t need, we are herded to the basement, where we must pluck the bigger items on our desire lists (e.g., KIVIK sofa, in white, of course) off the warehouse shelves ourselves (yes, ourselves), put said items on special self-serve carts we navigate as inconspicuously as a pack of inebriated chimpanzees, and wait in the winding checkout lines brimming with wailing children and adults who have zero respect for anybody else’s personal space.  
  • No matter how long this quest takes and no matter how lingonberry-stained our forced smiles become, we begin to shut down the former belief that we wouldn’t ever have the means or the wherewithal to give our kitchens that total remodel or own one of those enormous wall clocks we assume cost at least five-hundred bucks elsewhere. Because, after all, time should be measured in the largest and boldest font possible.   
  • Slowly, almost without notice, this former mindset burns off. It shuts down. Our pessimistic home view has somehow been replaced with a healthier, more hopeful vision of an organized, immaculate abode. (Until we finally make it home and go about the task of putting all that cheap IKEA shit together.) 

Okay, I admit, that metaphor might be a tad strained or missing in action. Sort of like what happens at IKEA. You go in for a duvet cover, and three hours later, you end up leaving with a complete kitchen cabinet system. You know, the one with the name that contains no vowels and comes with a free, one-year supply of cream sauce. 

While we didn’t leave IKEA with all but the kitchen sink, we did exit with a sofa and chaise (not in white!), dresser, child’s step stool, two dish brushes, and yes, a bag of frozen meatballs. This procurement took place after we’d already visited two weeks earlier, and on our very first trip to the Swedish juggernaut, fled from the outer regions of the tundra that is their parking lot with a new bed frame, a clock (it is huge and it is spectacular), two end tables on wheels (so handy!), a sleeve of rainbow-colored plastic children’s cups (so cute!), and another dresser (that makes two chest of drawers ... or should I say chests of drawers because it sounds funnier?).

Pow. Wham, bam, thank you, Helga. Heidi? Are these names German? Norwegian? Am I in the ballpark? 

Anyway, I’m still not sure how it happened. As far as I know, I’m not even one-hundredth Swedish. I guess the truth is, we needed a distraction, a detour from my husband’s health scare. Oh, and a babysitter. We needed one of those, too. Yes, I realize IKEA has Småland (Swedish for: “While you wander around the store wide-eyed and slack-jawed like gambling addicts on a bender, we’ll watch your screaming toddlers as long as they’re a certain height and won’t poop their pants.”) Okay, fine, call the latter a want. We’re in our forties, and when you’re in your forties, sometimes you want a babysitter so you can go out on that romantic date night to Applebee’s. Other times you want a babysitter so you can give certain pleather and particleboard goods the undivided attention they don’t deserve. Hey, at least they aren’t made in China. Mostly? 

There are simply those moments, like when the love of your life has a blood clot in his leg, that you need to exchange your mortality worries for a KLÄPPA easy chair or an ULSBERG nightstand.

Not from IKEA, but looks more stylish in blue. What kind of person buys a white leather sofa anyway?