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Ikea Nesting Urges

MALMÖ—We made the pilgrimage to Ikea the other day. The vast box of its structure rose above a parking lot filled with sensible cars. Lena got a large, flat cart to push through the mammoth interior design store famous for its well-designed, reasonably priced wares of decent quality. Soon we were navigating a sea of sofas, taking the occasional rest break on likely looking candidates.
“You know this is a pretty serious relationship step,” joked Lena, “A lot of Swedish couples would never go to Ikea together until at least after they were engaged.”
I wondered if Ikea was a good place to propose marriage then. That maybe one could find a reasonably priced, well-designed ring, get on one’s knees by a dinette set and take one’s new, well-designed bride off to one of the fully-furnished apartment mock-ups and begin raising a well-designed family.
I saw a red throw pillow embroidered with the maze from Chartres Cathedral and thought it quite clever. In fact I had a sudden, almost overwhelming urge to buy it even though it would take up half my suitcase and despite the fact that Chartres is my favourite cathedral I don’t particularly like throw pillows. We kept walking and I wondered why Lena had insisted on the large cart. Her own apartment was well furnished and didn’t seem to need anything that couldn’t fit in a hand basket.
The open showroom floor morphed into complete, fully Ikeaized rooms and apartments and I was reminded of what Edward Norton’s character in the movie Fight Club had said about there being an “Ikea nesting urge.” My irrational urge to buy now mixed with commitment phobia panic which reached full-strength as the rooms morphed into the children’s department, complete with squealing little blonde Swede bundles that looked disturbingly like offspring I might produce.
Must buy, half my brain told me. Must run, screamed the other. I wondered if there were secret Ikea thought-control rays telling me to nest, to buy and when we entered housewares I picked up a metal mixing bowl and started to put it on my head to stop them.
“That’s not a hat,” said Lena, looking alarmed like maybe she hadn’t realized that Americans didn’t know the difference.
It occurred to me that I was trapped in the Land of Modular Living People – sort of like Pod People only better scrubbed and with cleaner lines but equally socialist.
We arrived at the cafeteria. “C’mon,” said Lena, “I’ll buy you some meatballs…”
The meatballs, potatoes and lingonberry jam were served by pretty, smiling blonde girls with blue head scarves. I think their nametags read 1Inga, 2Inga and 3Inga and that they had been grown in secret Ikea vats. But the meatballs calmed me down a little and I realized that in order to throw the thought rays off I had to buy something. I settled on a cheese slicer. Lena got some bag clips. They looked very small on the big cart. Finally we arrived at the warehouse.
The Ikea mode of shopping is as follows. You take one of the handy forms and an Ikea pencil. When you find the couch or table of your choice you write down the product’s number (each product also has a name, a real name, so that much of Sweden has bookshelves named Billy). In the warehouse you find Billy 1138 or whatever, stick him on your cart, take him home and assemble him yourself.
Lena found an empty aisle, sat down on the cart and told me to push. It seemed so anarchic that I wondered if klaxons would begin sounding and Ikea security forces would appear to enforce order. Still it was irresistible and I began slow then went faster and faster until she was laughing (almost) wildly. We traded places.
“Miss Philipson, take us out of dock, one-quarter impulse power.”
“Geek,” she said.
“Yep,” I replied, “Ahead warp-factor one…”
The G-forces pushed me back. “Looks like a cluster of Swedons ahead. Prepare those photon torpedoes we picked up back in the electrical department.”
“Like Klingons only better behaved.”
I thought that getting kicked out of Ikea would be quite a coup but no one seemed to notice our antics. Soon we were checking out. There were more of those red Chartres pillows giving me one more chance to buy but I resisted. Then I noticed a teddy bear had fallen into a bin of stuffed rats. It looked like Mr. Bear was getting eaten. I arranged the rats to enhance the illusion, adding sound-effects. Nooooo, Arrgggg, Ahhhhhh, Eeekkk…. Lena bought one of the rats. It looked good with the cheese slicer.
In the parking lot people were loading boxes into Saabs and Volvos.
“Saab,” I said, “Saab, Saab, Volvo, Volvo, Saab, Volvo, Saab.”
I’d developed a sort of compulsion, rather like hanging one’s head out the window and yelling mooooooooo everytime a cow is passed.
“Saab, Volvo, Volvo, Saab….”
“Yes, we really do drive them,” said Lena.
We threw our purchases in the back of her Ford Escort and drove home to Billy the bookshelf and, we’ll say, Sven the table, Olga the end table, Dave the floor lamp and some kitchen cabinets that had come with the apartment but looked suspiciously like an Inga.