This weekend I took my fourth trip to IKEA in the last three weeks. I’m sort of in disbelief that I’m still purchasing throwaway furniture at IKEA. If you would’ve told me during my first visit while at Howard in 1999 that FIFTEEN years later I would essentially be making the same purchases I would’ve told you to stop your lies, you foolish girl. But alas, here I am still stuffing things into those yellow bags at the Elizabeth IKEA. The first visit in this latest round of trips was with my mom on a Sunday afternoon. Heaven help us. The masses. The mayhem. The mispronunciations of everything in sight. But it’s a bit fascinating, in a sociological, yet gag me, sort of way. Everyone’s flooding into this little international house of families trying to create, recreate or just envision their own spaces. Lots of these clearly "about to move in with each other for the first time" super-excited folks, then these others with 2-3 kids who all think the place is one big romper room. Then there are the older heads who look like they are shooting for some kind of, any kind of change and think that maybe installing those new cabinets will do just the trick. Then there are the college kids with their parents thinking “how many people can sleep simultaneously on this Klippan couch?” And “will it absorb alcohol or just let it roll right off of it?” And as it turns out these 19 year olds are my peer group right now in IKEA. Mercedes and I are in a faux bedroom pulling out drawers made of particleboard with Sally from Secaucus and her mom who are pretty much on the same shit. How did this happen? As I look at how IKEA is putting together their 270 square ft. space my mind is exploding when I realize that that’s what I’m about to squeeze my life into. I almost snap one of those tiny little pencils at the thought and the only thing that satisfies my soul is the $1 cinnamon bun that I literally finish by the time I get to the checkout line. "This was a cinnamon bun," I tell Check Out Lady as I stand with nothing but a piece of white wax paper and frosting on my nose.
My second visit was to make actual purchases on move day with an extremely attractive male friend. I pitifully thought, “Yeh, I’m ‘bout to front like this is my boooooo to redeem myself.” Except that it was 11am on a Wednesday and the only people there were the five guests shopping and the IKEA B-squad of workers who seemed to make it their business to whip through the maze-o-furniture anytime I had a question. There goes that idea. Game…IKEA.
The third trip I went dolo, as I had to reconsider what I had purchased given my inflated estimates of my box-like space limitations (270 sq. ft. deez!). I think “Okay, I get halfway through and I shall reward myself with a cinnamon bun. I can at least have sweet deliciousness if I can't have some adult dignity. Right?” Wait, an empty tray?! “What’s the meaning of this?! Don’t you understand that a cinnamon bun's all I've got right now, you Swedish mutha #$%!?!” Woh, calm down. No need to throw around pejoratives at folks’ nationalities. But you got this, IKEA. Plan foiled... again.
This last time I went back to drag some broken boxes full of heavy-ass wood pieces. And get this, without a receipt. I knew I was in for a challenge. I tried to size up the cashiers. Tricky returns almost always come down to whose making the decisions about them. My number was called and I ended up at the register of a young Muslim sista. She seemed friendly so I was hopeful. I gave her my “don’t make me take allll of this alllll the way back to NYC.I’m about to buy a bicycle and it can’t all fit in my mom’s car.She’s waiting outside.Yes, it’s just mom and me.Why you gotta judge me?” speech and face. It was real. When she couldn’t officially pull the trigger and called to a manager I fretfully thought “No!! Not her! She looks pissy! This’ll never work!” But thankfully that woman was too busy to play me. Then a brotha came by who also had decision-making power. My hope was revived. I gave him the rundown along with a big smile mixed with a heavy dose of desperation. The second he said “I can only give you store credit” I felt like dancin'.
I decided to do a quick reverse-run through the maze and pick up a few things when, and it’s a good thing I felt like dancin’, this reggae/calypso band was playing near the final registers. Why? I have no damn idea. Neither did the sales associate I would later ask. But who cares?! I could almost jam to the break of dawn in this joint now. Finally, IKEA was letting The Kid win.
What does it mean that all roads seem to lead back to IKEA? Shit, what does IKEA mean? Maybe IKEA stands for "I Know Everything Already" and the subliminal message is that as long as I keep going to IKEA, i.e. thinking that I know everything I will not win (except when there’s a reggae band involved). Maybe it stands for “I Keep Evil Aliases” or “If Kidnapped Explain Accurately” or hell, “I’ll Kick Everyone’s Ass.” Maybe something like "Immaculate Kisses Eventually Accelerate." Maybe not. A friend said that there's no exact translation but in Swedish it roughly refers to the moment a woman's eggs dry up. Hardy har har. Hell, if that’s the case then I really deserve a cinnamon bun.