So, a while ago I was introduced to this concept of a non-place. The non-place is, well, ok, any place that kind of gives you a feeling that you could be, in that moment, in any given city of the world, from Boston, to Poughkeepsie to Paris. A typical non-place could be a McDonald’s or a Starbucks – or a Brazilian barbecue restaurant chain, by the way. Anyway, any place that has been specifically designed to make you feel like “hum, have I been here before?”. It’s a place where you strangely feel at home no matter where you are in the world and you know exactly what to expect – or which flavor of over-priced coffee you’re gonna order.
Ikea is a lot like that and once you get into the dynamics of moving countries every few years, it becomes a place you get used to visit.
For those of you who don’t know Ikea (first: jeez, in which planet do you live?! and second: I envy your life a little bit), it is this huge Swedish company that makes design furniture at a very affordable price and it’s a life-saver for a whole generation of European youngsters who are in the long process of discovering what they want to do with their lives and are working as minimum-wage baristas meanwhile.
Basically, if you a) live in Europe or in some parts of the US; b) do no not intend to live in the same city for more than 5 years; and c) have a ridiculously low salary/are unemployed – in my case, check… check! – Ikea is heaven.
But – ha, there’s always a ‘but’, my friend – the whole process of going to Ikea is extremely painful, every time. My guess is that the owner of Ikea thought it was just too easy to allow you to buy Pinterest-looking furniture for a thousand times less the price you’d pay in a regular Pinterest-looking furniture shop and decided to mess up the process a little bit, just because.
So here’s the joy and pain of a typical trip to Ikea:
Uuuup and running, cowboys!! An Ikea day starts earlier than you wish. Oh, and here’s the thing: you’ll initially plan the trip to last 4, 5 hours, tops. Ha. Ha. Ha. Not really. It can be that you’re looking to redecorate your bedroom or your entire 3-story-house, a trip to Ikea will, necessarily, take you at least 9 hours. Trust me.
You’ll probably need to hire a van or ask your dodgy friend for his huge pimped SUV you’ve always made fun of. Specially if you’re buying bulky stuff and want to keep a minimum of back vision when you’re driving back home.
The habitual Ikea visitor knows that it is absolutely crucial to take some cereal bars/protein shakes for the “ride”, so you won’t end up eating a foam-flavored 1$ hot dog (though a proper lunch at Ikea is quite decent and still frightfully cheap).
Now, to follow one’s route through Ikea’s different sections is to do a truly anthropological exercise, as it can bring to surface the deepest reactions ever to be experienced by the human race.
It starts as something exciting: you’re decorating your house, super happy, sharing every picture frame with your Snapshat audience (aka your best friend, your younger sister and your own dog’s profile). You grab one of those cute Ikea mini-pencils and write down every reference in a super organized way, cuz you’re willing to make this a GREAT Ikea trip. Everything is running smoothly.
After a while, frustration emerges. There are too many options, too many people, too much noise, you lost track of which sofa color you chose 4 sections ago and you don’t know which dinning chairs would go with it; the wardrobe you like is super expensive but the cheap one is super ugly; and do we even have space for that sofa?… So you just paralyze, breath into the Ikea yellow bag for a while and realize that if you’re completely incapable of making basic furniture decisions, “how the hell are you leaving home to live with your part-time barista friend”?
Then tiredness hits. It’s that moment when you realize you’ve been at Ikea for 4 hours and there’s nothing at your trolley but a bunch of mini pencils, a picture frame -highly praised on Snapshat- and a couple of vanilla scented candles. You move on to the mattress section, lie down and relax. Take a deep breath. You’re just beginning.
Feeling re-energized, you run quickly through the “planned kitchen” section, which is the boring one, and by the way if you have enough money to have a planned kitchen what the hell are you doing at Ikea anyway, and you recover the “let’s get this over with” feeling. Great! You’ve reached the cool deco section, where you’ll find everything cute and slightly unnecessary you’ll ever own, like printed paper napkins and submarine-shaped ice cube trays.
Congratulations. You’ve successfully reached the last, but definitely not least section. The warehouse.
Here’s where the real challenge lays and where I usually lose my positive-zen attitude despite all the counseling I can get from my ‘5min a day’ meditation app. It’s the moment when you combine 7 hours of walking around discussing the importance of coasters with your future room-mate with the physical distress of having to carry a wooden bed structure out of a 6 foot shelf.
It’s not easy.
It’s like that feeling of being in a plane going through rough weather and thinking “Why the hell am I here? Why? I never really even wanted to go to Puerto Rico, I was tricked by my cousin’s-ex cool Instagram photos. I am never getting in a plane again, EVER”. And then the moment goes by and before you know it, you’re back on a plane again.
As you’ll be back to Ikea.
Anyhow, there’s no turning back now. You use your last slurry of energy, pick up all the furniture, pay for it and grab a pack of cheap frozen smoked salmon at the food shop since you’re at it.
That’s it. It’s done.
No. Now THIS was actually just the beginning. See what Ikea just did?
What’s to follow is a marathon of loading your friend’s pimped SUV, bringing everything up to your apartment and making enemies on your first day ever in your new building for blocking the elevator for 40min, unpacking everything and discovering that you could actually have built a new house from the amount of carton remaining on your living room floor, assembling furniture that looks way easier to assemble than they actually are, grabbing a beer and making yourself a smoked salmon sandwich to chill, wearing your finger off to the bone from insisting on trying to screw stuff without proper tools, ignoring that you found some screws still inside the box AFTER you’ve finished assembling your dinner table and remembering 4 absolutely essential items that you somehow forgot to buy and for which you’ll have to go back to Ikea. Again.
It’s hard. It’s tiring, it’s a pain and from now on you’ll notice how 87% of every friend’s house you’ll visit will have the same Poang chair you found oh-so-creative to decorate your living room.
But then you move again.
And you need furniture and vanilla scented candles again. And you’ll go back to Ikea. Again.