2014-07-26 / Editorials & Letters

Lighten up: ‘For the love of cheap Scandinavian furniture’

By Dawn Weber

Drive to Ikea in your husband’s jacked-up pickup truck and buy a couch! I said.

It will be fun! I said.

Ha ha ha!

*Sob*

Let’s see. Piece-of-junk pickup - check. Six hours roundtrip - check. Self-serve furniture store - check. Two hundred pound sofa - check.

All by myself - check.

These sound like a bunch of bad ideas, and lo, they were indeed bad ideas. Yes friends, they were.

Oh, the things I will do for some cheap Scandinavian furniture.

I can’t help it. Like so many Americans, whenever I get my grubby hands on the tax-refund check each spring, I start thinking thoughts that involve heavy lifting and rampant spending. That’s how I found myself one recent Saturday, driving, sweating, cussing and wondering if I’d make it to Cincinnati in the husband’s piece of junk Silverado.

That truck. Four-wheel drive, relatively new (for us), nice interior, white with silver trim - greatlooking, yes, but it runs terribly. I call it the supermodel of pickup trucks: easy on the eyes, but otherwise, pretty much worthless.

It’s been in the shop at least nine times in the 1.5 years we’ve owned it, for various reasons ranging from ignition troubles to transmission problems to vague sensor issues that have left our mechanic scratching his head, saying, “You know, I really don’t know what’s wrong with it!” then handing us a $650 invoice for 28 hours of labor.

The husband bought the pickup on his own. He did not have my helpful guidance and vast mechanical expertise when he made this purchase, and we ended up with a piece of junk. In case he forgets, I like to periodically remind him:

“This truck is a piece of junk!”

“I know, dear. You’ve mentioned it.”

We just had an alignment and some new tires installed, but one of the truck’s latest major problems is some kind of issue that leaves you bopping down the road as if driving on four basketballs - only bouncier - and it was in this state that I spent that particular Saturday thumping south on I-71 to the Ikea store. Anything above 65 m.p.h. made the shimmying unmanageable. So I rattled along in the slow lane at 62, glaring at the campers, the Buicks, the boxturtles on the side of the road as they passed me.

I drove. I sweated. I cussed.

Around noon, I became incredibly hungry. I also needed to use the restroom, which was no surprise: If I’m breathing, I need to use the restroom. But I wouldn’t stop for any of this, as I knew that if I did so, I might not start again.

You do not tarry with basic needs when driving the piece of junk Chevy.

The husband had stayed behind to watch the kids and take our son to ball practice. Since he wasn’t around for the joy of this trip, I decided to call him up and give him my valuable opinion.

“Hello?” he said.

“This truck is a piece of junk!”

“I know, dear. You’ve mentioned it.”

“That is all.”

*Click*

I hung up on him, so that I could better focus on seething, bouncing and glaring.

After many days, hours, years, it seemed, my basketballs and I thumped thankfully into the Cincinnati Ikea parking lot, right along with what appeared to be the entire state of Ohio. And Indiana. And most of Kentucky.

Apparently, the people of the Midwest - and part of the south - had also received their federal income tax refunds that week, and decided on a fun day of seething humanity and cheap Scandinavian furniture.

I grabbed one of the last available parking spots and rushed inside. I sprinted to the restroom, then washed up and headed to the sales floor, where I joined the tri-state area as they trudged, like dead-eyed zombies, through the giant super-mega-store.

Thanks to my harrowing trip down the interstate, I didn’t have energy to deal with the throngs of people crowding every inch of available space. Babies crying, children whining, elderly folks stopping in the middle of the aisles . . . Ikea is set up like a giant maze, constantly clogged with human traffic, and there are really not many shortcuts. If you don’t know where you’re going or what you want for sure - which I didn’t - you have to snake through the entire store with all the other dummies to your eventual goal: the warehouse section and cheap Scandinavian furniture in boxes. Big boxes.

Very big boxes.

I arrived at my destination and stared open-mouthed at Ektorp, the sofa I’d chosen, inside its mammoth carton. The physics alone were frightening: I am 5’2” and weigh, well, none of your business, but the box looked to be roughly twice my size on both counts, and I wondered how in the world I was supposed to get it from the shelf to the cart without flattening myself like an ant. In true self-serve Ikea fashion, personnel were nowhere around, and as I stood and contemplated the box ‘o sofa, an old, stooped woman paused beside me.

“You need some help with that, honey?”

I turned and eyed my fellow customer: white-haired, frail, a couple inches shorter than me – I doubted her couch-lifting abilities. “Well, yeah, but are you sure?”

I should not have doubted.

She whipped my buggy to the front of the box, wedged it underneath, stood aside and pushed the sofa down with a flick of her wrinkly wrist. The carton landed with a confident whump!, stable and ready to roll.

“Wow! Thanks! That was just . . . amazing.”

“I come here all the time,” she said. “That’s how you do it. Just flip it down.”

Couch on cart, I thanked her again and re-joined the populations of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky at the registers, where we waited oh, four, five hours to check out? I don’t know.

Time has no meaning at Ikea.

I should have taken a nap. By the time a rare stock-boy and I wrestled the gargantuan box into the pickup, I was once again exhausted.

And I had a bigger issue.

The carton, too long for the bed of the truck, tilted up and rested on the closed tailgate, which would be no problem except that our particular tailgate latch is - you guessed it - broken, and given to popping open at the slightest pressure. I had no rope, and no help again, as the elusive Ikea stock-boy had vanished into the ether, so I shrugged, started the engine and shimmied onto the freeway, anticipating the worst.

Driving, thumping, driving, 62 m.p.h., my eyes flipped maniacally between road and rearview mirror. I fully expected the shuddering tailgate to collapse at any time, my hard-won cheap couch crushing cars Godzilla-like as it bounced to the side of the road.

I drove. I sweated. I cussed.

Hours went by, and I grew hungry again. I needed the restroom again. And turtles and Buicks passed me. Again.

It was time once more to give my valuable opinion. I dialed the husband, who picked up the phone without saying hello.

“I know, dear. You’ve mentioned it.”

*Click*

Huh. He hung up on me. I can’t imagine why.

Eventually, finally, amazingly, the decades passed, and I made it, shuddering up the driveway at 8 p.m., angry and spent. I rushed in the house, shouted “Never again!” and pushed the children down on the way to the bathroom.

Never again indeed. I had been to Ikea before, but not alone, not for a large couch, and definitely not in a piece of junk pickup. It was a harrowing, epic journey in three or four parts, a terrifying odyssey I will not repeat.

Ladies, ladies, by all means: Learn from my mistakes, and mark my words. A trip to Ikea requires strategy, patience, fortitude and preferably, Xanax. Before you go, make sure that you rest up. Eat something. Go to the restroom. Bring along some sort of willing male - or an old, stooped woman - then, ride shotgun and get drunk.

All the better.

And for the love of cheap Scandinavian furniture, please, I beseech you: Take a functioning pickup. Do not borrow ours.

Because I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but that truck is a piece of junk.

Dawn Weber is a national award winning columnist who is completing her first book. She is a Brownsville wife and working mother of two teenagers.

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