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ikea 007

Picked up a pencil, notepad, tape measure, and store guide and found a “shortcut”  (shortcuts, it turns out, are listed in small print on large red signs – I didn’t have my glasses last time – NEVER go to IKEA without your glasses – I’m surprised they don’t have a recyclable customer eyeglass dispenser). We took a fairly straightforward route to the lighting department, distracted only by a couple taking photos of their preteen daughter sitting on a red couch in the living room display, behind a desk in the mock office (reading a book), baking in the kitchen . . . . (are they posting these pics on Facebook – “Our New Home!”), and a soft white throw for $29.99 placed strategically along the walkway to remind me how much more comfy it would be wrapped around me than the roll up Amtrak blanket we bought in Albany, New York in 2000 when we made the mistake of riding in coach overnight with three kids on the verge of puberty . . . . I thought to myself, “My God (my apologies to those of you who are offended by the use of God instead of gosh or goodness, but I wasn’t thinking “My goodness” or “My gosh,” I was thinking “My God,”) this is so much easier when one knows what the heck one is doing” (I was really thinking “heck,” but the FIRST time I shopped at IKEA, I was thinking of a different k-word).  We were in and out of there in 15 minutes. For the price of the expensive “tripod” lamp we returned to the mall earlier in the week (Tony was very disappointed when the tripod lamp didn’t collapse like an actual tripod and snapped into several pieces when he tried to close it – sort of like getting an action figure with painted appendages that don’t move) , we bought two floor lamps, a desk lamp, a file cabinet, and a bright orange colander. So the savings was well worth reading the four part, eight page online IKEA directions: The IKEA Store – How it Works (I know that paragraph was convoluted, think of it as a metaphor for the IKEA experience).

I was happily waiting for Tony outside the IKEA entrance when I noticed a 50-something male wandering aimlessly in circles outside the store  (I know that look). He walked the length of the sidewalk, then into the store, back outside, then into the store again. Just as I was about to offer help, he spotted an IKEA employee. IKEA calls their customer service people “co-workers,” which seems strikingly similar to “comrades.”  There is definitely a socialist/communist flare to the place: they provide everything (pencils, notepads, childcare, etc.), everyone has to do their part, and “the goal is that EVERYONE will enjoy their visit in the IKEA store.” I have nothing against the concept of making everyone happy, and I am frequently mistaken for a Socialist and/or Communist because I’m a  Democrat, however, I think IKEA may need to revise their goal: “Everyone will enjoy their second visit in the IKEA store.”

Somehow the yellow-shirted co-worker did not see the 50-something guy even though 50-something guy was breathing nervously down his yellow shirt collar (I spotted 50-something from the other side of the automated glass doors so he was easy to see). As yellow shirt slipped obliviously away and out of the entrance leaving a “not an exit” sign in 50-something’s face, 50-something got that exasperated sulky look that I attributed to not taking my menopause pill and lack of carbs during my first IKEA visit, but now realize is the exasperated sulky look of a first time IKEA shopper (the “co-workers” who monitor the surveillance cameras at IKEA must enjoy our IKEA shopping experience).

Finally, I said, “I’ll help you.”

“Where do I find a cart?” he asked gratefully.

“Is this your first time at IKEA?” I ask recalling my own meltdown in Market Hall when Tony went off in search of a cart

“Yes,” he admits, “and I have no idea what the heck I’m doing” (I don’t think he was thinking “heck”). “Where is the secret code?” he added as he handed me a piece of paper one of our “co-workers” had given him in the store.

I was giddy with excitement explaining aisles, bins, boxes, and the location of the secret (it’s disguised as a hole in the wall) cart dispenser that dispenses only one cart at a time at the entrance of Market Hall (reminding me of the elderly woman we encountered outside a public restroom in a little village in the Czech Republic who distributed toilet paper one square piece at a time). I sent 50-something on his way – an enlightened shopper (bridging the gap between frustration and the free market and making peace with IKEA). I didn’t tell him about what happens when he gets box 213-3389.17 home and has to assemble what is in it (that’s why they call us co-workers).