How many of you have ever been to IKEA? For those of you who haven’t, here’s a word of warning: It isn’t for the faint of heart. Going to IKEA is the equivalent of doing a shopping pentathlon.
I wanted to get a tall glass bookcase for the living room. Simple enough, right? So I drove to Sacramento to see what IKEA had in store.
When I got there, I parked my car and headed for the store entrance. The parking lot was big, but it was normal looking and this is where they get you. It’s a deception. It’s meant to be.
But look close at the people leaving the building. They’re pallid, with unkempt hair and tousled clothing. They’re squinting at the sun with stunned, confused expressions on their faces. Most of them are gaunt and very close to dehydration and malnutrition due to days (or weeks) of going without sustenance.
As you enter the building, you will be offered a map of the facility. Do not take this map. It’s a trap!
What you really need is a GPS app on your smartphone. You could also use some topographical, seismic and mineral deposit maps of the area, as well as a reliable tracking dog. I would also suggest bringing several bottles of water and maybe a sandwich or two.
You see, once you’re inside, there’s no turning back. Your quest has begun. You will first enter a maze called, “The Showroom.” It is an artificial dreamscape filled with wondrous items, all of which you need. It’s a virtual hall of mirrors that changes for every shopper, depending on what you need.
Since I needed a bookcase, naturally bookcases would be at the very end of my personal maze. I don’t know how they know what you came in to buy, but they do, and they plan your personal maze accordingly.
Once inside, stay on the path. As you push your cart, meandering past the vast assortment of colanders, loofah sponges, desk lamps or 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton sateen pillowcases, you might come across what looks like a shortcut. Do not take it. It’s a trap! More deception! This secret portal will only send you back to the beginning, where your journey will start all over again.
As you trudge past bedspreads, throw rugs and plastic ferns, you will come across others who look like you. They will most likely be crying or screaming hysterically. Your first impulse will be to ask them directions, but alas, they know not from whence they came, either. Try not to make eye contact. It’s for the best.
Once you have made it to the end of the maze and are hopefully rewarded with finding what you began your quest for, you will be filled with jubilation. This euphoric feeling will be short-lived when you realize that you have only completed the first of many more challenges. I found the bookshelf I wanted, but instead of getting it, I was merely given an item tag that had a magical code on it. It is at this point that you need to take your tag down to the nether regions of this vast façade of phenomenal merchandise and enter the dungeon.
Here you will find gigantic shelves stacked to the ceiling with identical flat brown boxes, all of which seemingly weigh more than 300 pounds. Your next task, should you accept the challenge, will be to match the code on your tag with one of the boxes in this massive cavern of household accessories that you simply can’t live without.
If you were lucky to get past this Herculean labor, the iron gates of the checkout line are next. There are many lines, but choose well, my friend. It has been written that some shoppers who were fortunate enough to get this far often are doomed to failure at this point. It’s best to get in a line where it looks like the shoppers still have a pulse.
I was one of the lucky ones. After only a few hours in line and deftly navigating the parking lot of IKEA zombies, I was finally home and assembling my bookcase.
When I took everything out of the box, it had a frame, five shelves and about 4,000 screws. The instructions involved only two steps (complete with lifelike stick figures showing how to assemble it). When I finished I had only one screw left, but three shelves left, too. I’m not sure if I did it right, but it looks fantastic.
Reach C.W. Plunkett at firstname.lastname@example.org (IKEA you not!).