Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ikea -- part two

“Excuse me, please,” an urgent voice comes from behind, as I approach the glass doors to the Ikea entrance. A woman pushes a shopping cart about the size of Kentucky past me. A skinny kid stands in the front of the cart and leans his body forward like a hood ornament.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize and give her room to get by. She steers toward a clear plastic container mounted on the wall and takes a pencil, a cloth measuring tape and a yellow and blue pamphlet titled “How to shop @ Ikea.”
A central bin contains huge yellow canvasy bags with sturdy blue shoulder straps. I figure these bags are for all my Ikea purchases but they are so bright and colorful, so summery, I fancy stuffing it with a towel, a swimsuit, and heading off to the beach for the afternoon.
I call Linda on my cell phone.

“Ikea has shopping guides.” I tell her. “They explain how to shop.”
“We definitely need those,” she says.
I can hear her radio in the background. I like her private office. She has cycling pictures on the wall and a small window overlooking the street. Why can’t I have a job like that? I could be happy in an office with a window where I could play my music at a reasonable volume. In fact, I would be content with any job at this point. I would do anything asked of me. Give me a stapler, I’ll staple. Sometimes, I sense that Linda doesn’t think I am trying hard enough to find a job. But I am trying I really am. I sometimes browse the Career/Personal Growth section at Barnes and Nobles, skimming Interviews for Dummies. and Damned Good Cover Letters! I don’t tell her that I get so dismayed with my employment prospects that I inch my way over to the travel section and slobber over guides to the Greek Isles.

I open “How to Shop @ Ikea” and read: “Where to start shopping?”
There are numbered steps, an explanation of the various colored tags I will encounter and a blank “Shopping List”. I take out my stubby yellow pencil and write down magazine files, kettle, muffin tins. This shouldn’t take long I consider and head toward the escalator. Large yellow letters painted on the side of it read “Start Shopping Here.” Well, alrighty!

The escalator delivers me into an expanse of living room furniture. Cozy miniature showrooms line the perimeter. The center of the floor is crammed with furniture in a haphazard fashion. It's as if I am walking through someone’s home. A large family lives here but they have gone out for pizza, or a movie, perhaps. There’s a photo of them framed on the dinning room table, next to a lamp which they forgot to switch off. In the picture, they are happy and blonde and have a golden Labrador. There is the blanket they left on the back of the couch in front of the television on the chronically fatigued green cabinet for only -- oh my -- $195. Automatically, my fingers begin to fondle price tags. I run my hand over a leather couch. This happy blonde family has really, really great taste. I suddenly want all of their furniture.
Move along, and inner voice says, you haven’t any money.

Large blue arrows painted on the floor direct which way to walk and I notice everyone is moving in the one direction. But I can’t tell what direction that is. Am I moving in a big circle, or a straight line? Suddenly I realize I’m standing in a cozy bedroom . When did the scenery change? When did I leave living rooms? In this bedroom the lamps are dimmed. On the night table is a photo of an elderly tanned couple – their hair tousled as if from standing on their Princess cruise line balcony. A thick white terry robe hangs on the bathroom doorknob as if someone has just stepped from the shower. In the dresser, shirts hang on sturdy wooden hangers. No wire hangers at Ikea.

A young couple enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed. The woman is pregnant and wears a tee-shirt that reads “I’m with stupid” with an arrow pointing from her swollen belly upwards. The man stretches out on the bed and puts a can of Coke on the night stand.
“S’nice,” the woman says and runs her hand across the quilt.
“Yeah,” he says. “real nice.”
She glances around the room, her eyes passing over me as if I am a piece of furniture she is not fond of. I've been etched out of her Ikea fantasy. In fact, it's as if I am not standing there at all.
“Rub” the woman says putting her leg across the man’s lap.
“Mmm,” she moans and closes her eyes. I move away quickly following the arrows.

I am in a room filled with all sorts of chairs: brightly colored kitchen chairs, comfortable arm chairs, business chairs with sleek black cushions. Their designs are clean and simple but I suspect reassembling them with the provided nuts and bolts will cause permanent brain damage.
A woman sits in a sturdy wooden chair with her purse in her lap talking on her cell phone.
“I ate a whole pint,” she says. “Cherry Garcia.”

I feel that I am the only one in Ikea with a specific purchase in mind. But yet I have no idea where I am going, or where I will find my items. However, I feel that I will find whatever it is that I am looking for in only a matter of time. The Ikea warp: a misguided sense of certainty in the face of pure chaos.

To my right, I hear a strange, repetitive creaking sound and stop to look. Inside a large glass case, a well-padded red chair is pummeled by a wooden paddle as wide as the average America rump. I step closer. A digital readout inside the glass case counts the number of time the chair has been whacked. So far it’s up to 365, 427.
A woman shopper stands next to me and we watch silently for a moment. Her yellow Ikea sack is empty like mine. Why isn’t she at work I wonder. I size her up. Is she a pathetic unemployed slob too?
“Makes you wonder doesn’t it?” she says.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“How much the poor little chair can take,” she says.
We both stare at the chair far too long. She disappears into Home Entertainment.

I notice a cafe to my right. A sign in Swedish reads, “Lamna ragna hat. --Time for a snack? Leave your cart here.” Am I even hungry for Lamna ragna hat, I ask myself. I am wary of the unemployed tendency to overeat. I walk through the dining room see what the Ikea shoppers are munching on. It’s definitely not Costco fare: boiled potatoes and meatballs in a pale brown sauce. Table after table, strapping men in 49’ers jackets and Britney Spears look-a-likes are eating like Swedes. Ikea warp.

“Excuse me,” I ask a man in line for the cash register holding a tray of food. “What exactly is that?” I point at the puddle of brown liquid on his plate.
“Manager’s special,” he says pointing to a menu on the wall.
“$6.99” I read. Not a bad price.
I get in line with the other shoppers. Steam rises up and wets the glass sheilding the food. I inch closer to the woman with the large metal spoon manhandling the meatballs. Scoop. Plunk. Scoop. Plunk. I’m reminded of the summer job I once had serving food to cheerleaders at a cheerleading camp. Perhaps, I consider, as , I should look for work at Ikea. Surely I could find work here.

While I wait for my serving of meatballs, I imagine going to some small office in the basement for an interview. I see myself seated across the table from the dayshift manager. There are ashtrays filled with cigarette stubs, packets of ketchup, salt and pepper, a “How to Shop @ Ikea” pamphlet folded up and shoved under the table to keep it level. The manager with a thin caterpillar of a mustache will ask why I wanted to work for Ikea. What can I offer Ikea? I imagine no words coming out of my mouth as my mind is seized by the image of that poor padded red chair walloped into infinity. Suddenly, a light goes off. I don’t want Swedish meatballs. I don’t want to work at Ikea.
“Excuse me, please. Excuse me,” I say and push myself out of the line.

the saga continues...


Ippoc Amic said...

I am waiting for part three...I like reading your stories...

PAB said...


More , more!

Eclectchick said...

Awesome story.

"'Rub' the woman says putting her leg over across the man’s lap.
'Mmm,' she moans and closes her eyes. I move away quickly following the arrows."

This seems like it belongs at one of the "Overhead in" websites. Yipes!!!

marscat said...

Ippoc is kind.

pab: more you'll get.

Eclectchick: thanks. and double thanks for pointing out that "over across" typo.

one last chunk of Ikea luv coming...

Wild Dingo said...

I cannot imagine why a talent such as you would be unemployed. Then again, it takes a lot of talent to be unemployed! (Just ask my husband.)

marscat said...

Dingo: don't you guys own a vineyard?

X Bunny said...

i like my men unemployed