An IKEA store has just opened near me. All of my friends are so excited. Everyone’s eyes gleam at the thought of an airport-sized store filled completely with unassembled Swedish furniture. They’re new to the world of IKEA and don’t know what headaches await them in that Swedish wonderland.
But I do. I lived twenty minutes away from IKEA in my formative decorating years and have a colorful history with build-it-yourself Scandinavian tables and chairs.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong appreciation for any store that gives each product its own first name so it feels like an old friend. Like IKEA’s fabulous bookshelves, simply named Billy. We love Billy in our house. We have a Billy bookshelf in every room of our house. Billy is a stand-up piece of furniture—he’ll hold your books, knick-knacks, and any other crap you throw on him. Billy is a friend for life.
But not everything at IKEA is as solid as good old Billy. Sometimes you get suckered into a Bernhard. Oh Bernhard, you broke my heart. Back when I was single, I was searching for a bar stool and Bernhard caught my attention right away—with his hard, plastic back rest—he was all I ever wanted in a bar stool. I took him home the same day (maybe it was a bit sudden, but I felt like I could trust him). “Don’t worry, Bernhard, we’ll be drinking margaritas in no time,” I said as I spread out the parts and read the instructions. Well, I tried to read the instructions, but they weren’t exactly words as much as they were hieroglyphics that seemed to delineate how to build a ship. A ship? I just want a bar stool to kick back in—why does this look like I’m building a aircraft carrier?
After three hours of work and a fair bit of profanity, Bernhard and I were no longer on speaking terms. He wobbled unsteadily despite the fact that I was the one doing all the drinking that day. He ended up in a corner of my apartment and whenever someone would attempt to sit on him, I would caution them by saying, “Oh, that’s from IKEA and I put it together by myself and there were a lot of left over parts. Sit at your own risk.” No one ever did. I almost felt bad for poor Bernhard.
But getting stuck with a wobbly Bernhard isn’t the only headache you’ll find at IKEA. I can’t wait for all my friends who have never stepped foot into an IKEA to get their first glimpse at that deceiving Swedish maze that will trap them for hours upon hours. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to IKEA. Oh sure, there’s little “short cut” signs all over the place, but those only lead you even further astray to picture frames you didn’t need, a set of Tibetan prayer flags, a steaming plate of Swedish meatballs, and an oversized cup of glögg. And all you really wanted was a coffee table for the living room.
If you make it through the Scandinavian labyrinth, eventually you will find your way to the warehouse portion of the IKEA experience. This is where you now get the distinct pleasure of searching desperately for the item you so dutifully wrote down with the handy golf pencils IKEA so graciously provides. Once you locate your item and risk your life getting it off the shelf you will be plagued with thoughts like, “That coffee table is in this little box?” The answer to that is simple: it’s in many, many pieces. But don’t worry, you will be provided with a tiny wrench that I’m pretty sure is the same size Santa’s elves use. It’s the only tool you’ll need!
Well, until you get so mad you go get the hammer.