Friday, November 27, 2009

A Horrible Ikea

I’ve never understood the term Black Friday. It sounds so dark and dreadful. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the idea of waking up at 6am and hitting the shops for fabulous deals on shoes, sweaters and home goods. If it were up to me, I’d call it Fun Friday. Because sales are fun!

My youngest sister works at Vans, an Emo shoe store in Beaverton, Oregon. After being stuck in the dimly lit shop for eight hours on Fun Friday, she usually stomps through the front door of my parents’ house, bellyaching about: (a) the kid who stole a pair of sneakers while her back was turned; (b) the obnoxious mom who grumbled about her daughter’s poorly manufactured shoelaces; or mostly likely (c) the store manager who forced his employees to wear Santa hats and smile – because Fun Friday is the biggest money-maker of the year.

I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I enjoy wearing Santa hats. Then again, I’ve never worked at a retail store on Fun Friday. I’m usually on the other side of the counter, charging random belts, candles, blankets, boots, make-up, and holiday decorations to my nearly maxed-out credit cards, justifying my purchases by reminding myself that I won’t come across deals this good ‘til next year.

The exception? Ikea. Wandering Ikea on Fun Friday would be fun for no one, because it’s already the least fun place in the entire universe on every other day of the year. Emeryville’s warehouse is crammed with extreme shoppers looking for reductions on every piece of furniture and knick-knack in the store. (Can you say annoying?) They load up rented U-Hauls with their tacky on-sale items and drive away just as violently as they come in. If you’ve been to any Ikea in the U.S., you know what a nightmare this is.

Last Sunday, when Darren and I decided (against our better judgment) to shop alongside these loons, I steered clear of the U-Haul freaks – at first. Later I tried to make friends with them for the very reason that I hated them: They had U-Hauls, and Darren and I desperately needed one. (I quickly learned that it’s not freakish so much as plain smart to bring a mini moving truck to an Ikea warehouse.) I spent my life savings on a desk, a bed, and a gigantic wardrobe complete with sliding glass doors, drawers and shelves – all of which are sold in multiple (heavy!) boxes and require at-home assembly. In the showroom, the items appeared as though they’d fit nicely together in the Jeep.

They didn’t.

We spent 30 minutes loading the car, piecing bits of the furniture puzzle together in the trunk. Darren removed a drawer here and replaced it with bed slabs there; he fit a glass mirror underneath a tabletop a couple times; he moved one or two desk legs to the front seat and then to the back; and then he tied the headboard to the roof. In the end, I found myself scrunched over in the front seat, my face surrounded by cardboard boxes packed with glass. I had no possible way to reach my seatbelt, and a cluster of unwrapped, wooden bed slabs convened on my lap. Darren couldn’t reach the emergency break or the review mirror. It’s a miracle we (and the glass) made it over the bridge and back home in one piece, without a ticket – especially because a cop stopped us on the way.

Basically, the trip was a horrible Ikea.

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