I needed a new set of Pyrex. My old set broke in the kitchen sink because my trigger finger acts up at times, and things slip from my grasp. I had leftovers to freeze, and nothing to freeze them in, so I did the smart thing.
I headed to IKEA.
I’d heard they sell Pyrex, or something like Pyrex, cheap.
I should have stayed home and glued the old set back together.
In case you’ve never been to IKEA (and trust me, you never want to), let me enlighten you on the IKEA experience.
First, the parking garage.
If you enjoy driving around a concrete maze following signs that point to an entrance which never actually materializes, then you’ll love the parking garage at IKEA. The entrance, I concluded after twenty minutes of driving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the garage, is a mirage. Or a rumor. There is no entrance to IKEA. I was ready to follow the exit signs instead, exits leading NOWHERE, I might add, when lo and behold I spied a bank of glass windows, and what looked like an escalator, and people going up.
At last, I had arrived.
Miraculously, I found a parking spot nearby, before I lost sight of the entrance altogether. The parking spot may have been a loading zone. Or slotted for emergency vehicles. No matter. I calculated that I’d be in and out of the store in twenty minutes. No harm, no foul.
Little did I know.
Little did I know what awaited me inside the hell known as IKEA.
I took the elevator. It was steps from my car, and seemed like a quick way in and out of the building. So I pushed the button to call it forth.
Finally, the doors opened.
A man emerged, pushing a flatbed longer than the New Jersey Turnpike, loaded with boxes and lumber and some kid riding on the back. Next was a woman with a modest-sized cart the size of a city block. A third cart, loaded so high I couldn’t make out whether there was a man or woman pushing it, nearly ran me over. I began to wonder about the size of the elevator, when at last it was empty.
I got on, with a geeky-looking man. “Which button do I push?” I asked. He pointed to the one labeled “Main Floor/Showroom.” Up we went.
The doors opened. I followed a line of people and found myself on an escalator, and stepped into what appeared to be a gigantic dollhouse.
The Showroom is a series of model rooms, furnished with IKEA chairs and tables and bookcases and beds and couches and paraphernalia, made to look like real rooms in real homes in real neighborhoods. The Showroom is a fun place to browse.
For about sixty seconds.
After ten minutes of living rooms, it’s bedrooms. Then bathrooms. Then kitchens, kids’ rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, guest rooms, closets, cupboards, and IT NEVER ENDS! On and on it goes, a maze of showrooms, and there’s a fat guy in sweatpants lounging on a red couch looking dazed. In one of the fake bedrooms, I saw a man wearing pajama bottoms. I think he had moved in.
The scary thing is, there’s no way out. You’re forced to follow the arrows which go left, then right, then left again, then right, then left, and left again, and right, and right again, and after thirty minutes of traipsing through The Showroom, everyone is shuffling like zombies, pushing big empty carts.
And then it’s The Marketplace.
The Marketplace is where you fill your big empty carts. By this time, you’ve been brainwashed into believing you actually need everything you’ve seen in those model showrooms, so you start grabbing. Wooden hangers, eight to a bundle, $4.99. A bamboo cutting board, $7.99. Aha! Pyrex! I loaded up. Sheets. Pillows. Lamps. A cart would have been handy.
Staggering around, I looked for the registers. I asked a young fellow wearing a yellow IKEA shirt.
“Take the shortcut,” he said, pointing the way.
A shortcut? THERE’S A BLOODY SHORTCUT? WHY DIDN”T YOU TELL ME BEFORE!
The shortcut led through a vast warehouse of cardboard boxes containing ready-to-assemble IKEA furniture designed to drive a sane person squirrelly. To find the right box you need to consult a computer screen, follow a map, and climb ten stories to balance something the size of Trump Tower on your shoulders as you make your way down the ladder to your cart.
I soldiered on, rounded a corner, and saw lines so long I knew I had found the registers. Undeterred, I stood at the end of what appeared to be the shortest line.
The woman in front of me read Chinese on her smartphone.
The man behind me napped on a pile of lumber.
A kid jumped up and down on a mattress.
We moved forward an inch.
I thought about the book in my car, the one I read at stoplights. It would have been handy to have reading material to pass the time. But alas, the only reading material I had was the Chinese text on the smartphone, and the signs that displayed the food one could purchase beyond the registers. A cinnamon bun for a dollar. A hot dog for seventy-five cents. A Coca-Cola for fifty cents.
We moved forward half an inch.
I eyed other lines. Thought of switching. And then I counted heads. There were more heads in the other lines than in my line, and in my line there were FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY HEADS. And they were all imagining that cinnamon bun, hot from the oven, sticky on the fingers. They were imagining that hot dog for seventy-five cents, and that ice cold Coca-Cola, because nobody had seen food for thirty days, and I came to the awful realization that WE WERE NEVER GOING TO EMERGE FROM IKEA ALIVE!
“That’s it. I’m out of here,” I announced, and stashed all my goodies—the bamboo cutting board, the eight-pack of wooden hangers, the Pyrex, the sheets, the pillows, the lamps, the make-it-yourself fifteen-foot bookcase, the entire bathroom display—on top of all the other IKEA goodies that had been discarded, and rushed for an exit.
I found the elevator.
I located my car.
I headed for an exit.
I’m still waiting. Writing this missive behind a long line of cars.
I have one piece of advice to leave you with:
Never go to IKEA.
Unless you have eight weeks to kill. And a sherpa guide.
Send food. Please.