Thursday, November 4, 2010

To the 8th ring of hell...

I wanted to write about all this yesterday, when it happened, but I knew I had to calm my nerves and steel myself to face a keyboard. I didn't have even a single glass of wine last night, knowing any alcohol at all would send me spinning into memories and thoughts I didn't want to revisit or have.

No, I'm not talking about the elections nationwide--that was only the 4th ring of hell (being a liberal, I actually feel more comfortable when I know I'm in the minority and that the Conservatives have to bumble around pretending to govern and will look goofy by the 2012 elections....)

Yesterday morning, I was eating breakfast, licking my Tea Party inflicted wounds, when Bern innocently asked, "what do you have planned for this morning?"

I actually had nothing planned, preferring to mope around and feel sorry for myself in a world where John Bayner is Speaker of the House. So I told her I was free.

"Good," she said, "I want to go to Ikea...."

My blood pressure plummeted and I dropped my cereal spoon in the remaining milk. I felt cold fingers pressing on my temples and spine. Oh No, Not Ikea!

I know lots of people love, simply love Ikea. But I fear it like the Plague. The store in New Haven is huge--I can't even picture how huge it is because of the way they've made both floors into Labyrinths worthy of Greek mythology. But I know a store that has walk ways called things like "Short Cut to Lighting" is enormous.

But as large as it is, and as tasteful, I feel claustrophobic inside it, as if I'm locked in a bright, well designed closet or an attractive, well-lit coffin. I've tried to analyse my reaction to Ikea to no avail. In fact, if each department were in a separate building--like lots of small shops in a large strip mall--I would objectively like it. I like the stuff, marvel at its ingenuity and how cheaply the Swedes can make quality stuff. But put together in a building about the size of the Sistine Chapel, with too many walls and walkways and maps that are impossible to make sense of and 'short cut to bedding' signs, I can't cope.

We went to buy a bed and mattress for one of the guest rooms that was an old bed left to me by my Uncle Russell with three futon pads piled one on top of the other rather than a real mattress. And, being from the 1940's or 50's, you sleep a yard or so above the floor. I believe you could get nosebleed being in that bed. Short people need to take a run to get onto it. So the need was real and serious, but why not Sears, why oh why Ikea, building of anxiety and nightmares.

I'm sure many of you (4 or 5 of the dozen or so people who read this--why don't you tell all your friends about it?) have been to Ikea. It is, after all, an icon of our culture. And, even I, Ikea-phobic as I am, must admit the stuff is neat and...well, cheap. But you have to wander around endlessly to find what your looking for--the maps are a waste of time though there are maps everywhere, along with huge yellow bags and 'shopping lists' with golf pencils. Then, when you find the department you want you have about a gazillion choices of the same item. There were at least 50 different bed frames and even more styles of mattresses. Then you have to write down the name of the item, the price, the Bin and row #'s and a 15 character 'item number' on your shopping list. Then it takes what seems like hours to find the place where you get a huge cart and gather your stuff from the bins and rows. Then you have to check out and I've never been there when there were enough lanes open. Even the self-serve lane gets backed up because most people can't figure out how to use the little bar code reader. (Most instructions in Ikea are literal translations, it seems to me, of what it would be in Swedish and Swedish, it seems to me, has a much different syntax that English. So you get instructions that are the equivalent of "Throw Papa, down the stairs, his hat" kind of syntax.)

When we finally got to the check out I realized one of the boxes of bed didn't have a bar code and had to retrace my anxious steps to find the proper bin and row again (to give you a taste of the scale of the Ikea store, the bins and aisles of compulsively neat merchandise takes up as much space as your normal Wall Mart, just the Bins and Rows, never mind the tastefully displayed areas of merchandise with short cuts to other tastefully displayed areas of merchandise) and get another box of bed parts. While looking for the bar code in the first place, back up in the check out line, I hit my head on a shelf that had about 50 Christmas Ornaments (unbreakable at that) for $8.99. How do they sell stuff so cheaply?

I was shaking and wishing for psycho-therapeutic drugs by the time we got home. It had only been a couple of hours but I felt I had made a three day trek through various small, enclosed spaces and spent some time in a Chilean mine (though a tasteful, well-lit mine, full of interesting and attractive stuff if it hadn't been in a mine....)

All that, at least, took my mind off the debacle of the election....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.