To Ikea & Back Again: A Redhead’s Tale. By KJ Adan.

We found it…the way into Ikea! Orcs don’t know it. Orcs don’t use it. They go around, for miles & miles! First, there are some stairs. And then…a…tunnel.

Well, actually, in Burbank, it’s tunnel, then stairs. And there’s no Shelob, or you’d hear that I’d have been checked into a mental hospital. There are posters of Swedish meatballs, though. And lingonberry juice. Nearly as frightening.

I was having a lovely lunch with Wendy, the organizer of Chuckfest, who is tireless in her promotion of Chuck, Operation Smile, & Zac Levi’s work in general. This was a nice change from how my day initially started, which was an epic clusterfuck involving me not working at either of my jobs due to scheduling confusion. It also improved when I realized I’d lost 3 trouser sizes. But I digress.

So I figure “Hey! I’m full of carnitas. I have $15. I’m in Burbank. I’ll just pop over to Ikea & buy that $15 duvet set I saw in the catalogue. That’s all I need.”

These are the famous last words of anyone who enters an Ikea or Target or Costco.

Also, if you know me, you know that I frequently get lost. I can even have been somewhere twice & still get lost getting there a 3rd time. I do not have this problem in giving directions, just taking them. In this way, & in my inability to remember birthdays or acknowledge passive aggressive behavior, I am very much like a guy.

So I realize I’m nowhere near anything that could be an Ikea, as there are school children littered about & also a mountain, like, right where there ought to be more road. I pull over to reroute myself via Google maps (which, like cake, is a lie), & my phone promptly dies.

“Well,” I think to myself, “I’m a smart girl. I’ll just turn around & go back the way I came & surely Ikea will appear.”

Well, it didn’t. So I kind of drove in a circle until I saw a thing that looked like a bunch of stores or something. I pulled into what I thought was Burbank Blvd but was actually a parking garage. I figured “What the hell? I’m sick of driving. Here is where I’ll park.” So I drive to the back of it & spy the merest glimpse of royal-blue-bordering-on-navy. This is the universal Ikea signal.

I park, get out of the car, & seek a pedestrian exit. In doing so, I come across a tunnel. Above this tunnel says “This path was made by the dead, & the dead keep it.” No, it said “Welcome to Ikea.” WTF? So I entered the tunnel, & immediately thought of Faramir in the sewers of Osgiliath (not in the book) slamming Gollum against the wall & demanding “Where are you leading them?!” I asked this of a poster for lingonberry juice. “WHERE ARE YOU TAKING ME?!” but I frightened a small child.

Up up up the stairs I went, and lo, Ikea! “See? We’ve led you out!” says Smeagol in my head, because at this point I’ve gone insane. I head into Ikea, am greeted by a friendly, suspiciously Swedish-looking elderly American, & find the loo. Swedish pop music was playing, & I was flanked by two girls who obviously knew each other, & were chatting. Like men, I have no idea why anyone would want to talk with their trousers down.

I continued to be flanked by these two insipid waifs while washing my hands. Apparently no segment of their fascinating dissection of a friend’s job hunt could go unrecounted, even while one was blocking the paper towels and texting at the same time. I did in fact end up elbowing her in the head as she barely moved when I approached, & she was short, so I didn’t even have to try on purpose. That’s efficiency of motion.

After nearly trampling a tiny Latino family because Texty McStandaround decided suddenly to move & push me, I finally left the loo & walked past what might be the most terrifying chasm known to man: the “Family Station”. It looks like a bathroom, but it has a man figure, a woman figure, & a baby figure in it. I did not look in. I imagine in happier days, a couple might duck in there to make a family, but the young guy peering out of it wildly appeared to be trying to escape one. The unceasing wailing coming from that room of horrors made me scoot past extra rapidly, grab a germ wipe, & slick down one of those bizarre, useless half-carts they have.

I then fell into line with the uniformly diverse crowd that accompanies every visit to Ikea. The chubby Asian girl in sparkle nail polish, garish feather earring, & sky blue tights, whom her mother clearly loathes for bringing shame to the family. The several pairs of Latino girls pointing & saying “Mira!” at everything. The Latino family silently accumulating items in their cart at the speed of sound. The stern faced, New-York-beautiful caucasian woman with long, fringeless hair pulled back in a tight, nondescript brown bun, her denim jacket & scarf concealing a dun coloured Coldwater Creek dress. Her mouth is small, tight, & lined. The cheerful Asian man & his small daughter playing with finger puppets & other soft toys near a young childless couple in Yo La Tengo t-shirts, doing the exact same thing. The haggard middle aged woman with frizzy orange hair & black roots or the 30-something unmarried dude, both in Ikea yellow, both sort of hoping not to be seen, both seeming to endure their own quiet hells with the dignity of lone squirrels (which I say with all respect, having a fondness for squirrels).

And then there’s me & plaid-shirt-glasses-squeaky-cart dude.

He’s always at Ikea, too. He usually has a manicured beard that’s meant to look natural, & he’s got Ikea directions & a band flyer rolled up in his back scruffy jeans pocket, & he follows me around but never talks to me. If I smile at him, he stares directly at me, his face goes blank, and he looks around like he thinks I mean someone else. Then I get bored & go back to realizing I’m not following the arrows & I’m pissing off the 50-something year old women who won’t shut up about stylish storage, trying to go the correct way.

I find the $14.99 duvet cover set. It’s not as pretty up close, but it’s $15. For a Queen. That’s great, right?! So I go look at the $39.99 one I initially bookmarked in my Ikea app. I look at it a lot. I finger the material. I go back to the $15 one. It’s not much worse than the $40 one, but then, the $40 one is black toile on white, which is so like the rest of my decor, & also it’s only $40. It’s not like I’m at Pottery Barn. I can actually afford that. So I balance the $40 one in my weird little non-cart, & put the $15 one back.

I then realize that my bedside table lamps are green, & this won’t match. I look at lamps. The ones I bookmarked are $15 a pop, & in person, don’t look so great. I oddly fall in love w/ these weird Pan Am looking plastic fantastic things, $8 a pop, called, no shit, Lampa. Somehow I think Swedish is like Spanish, where adding an A to the end of a word doesn’t make it Swedish, how adding an O to the end of a word doesn’t make it Spanish. But I add two Lampa to my uncart. One Lampa promptly falls out, but it’s plastic, so it’s fine.

I briefly scan the As Is room, which is in as much disarray as Balin’s Tomb and, fearing cave trolls & goblins, I back away quickly. I then approach the self check out. I note that plaid-glasses-beard is there, now bereft of his squeaky cart, & he is having issues scanning. I soon learn why. It’s not like Ralph’s. You have to pick up a scanning gun, not run your merchandise over a scanner like it seems by the set up.

I became aware of a very impatient, profoundly idiotic couple waiting for me, which is hilarious as I took maybe two minutes to do the whole thing. Apparently I was supposed to scan & bag my items in three nanoseconds, as her myriad sighs & his comments about my sunglasses (which by now had slipped part way down my head in a less than headbandesque manner) indicated. Though in retrospect I don’t think he said anything; sometimes I can hear thoughts. I hate that, by the way. Don’t worry; I can only hear the surface thoughts of petty or needy minds. They are very loud. It’s the empathy you wanna watch out for. Sometimes I feel your feelings before you even know you have ’em.

I turned to the couple once I was done, smiled, & then realized they had totally fixated now on another self checker & missed that I was done. The self check monitor person politely but curtly informed them that mine was open. I found that amusing. I then returned my cart & hoped that eagles would come. They did not.

The drive back down Magnolia was hindered by two things: an elderly woman in a Corolla who had no idea that you do not need to leave 3 car lengths in front when stopped at a red light, and torrential rain. I listened to David Bowie, Depeche Mode, & imagined not killing anyone.

I came home & assembled my Lampas. Ikea’s second main purpose of existence appears to be testing how well I can remove stickers from things. The third is how quickly I can remove these stickers & other plastic bits from my cats’ mouths. Neil just puked up some, actually, during this writing.

Now that my duvet set is out of the dryer, here’s a couple of pics so you can know the ring was in fact cast into the fire:


…and a Lampa detail:


Well, I’m back.