Monday, January 22, 2007

Retail Palace

In the past three days, I have visited IKEA twice. (I received gift certificates from my parents for my birthday and Christmas.) Each time I visited, I felt like I was entering into this surreal consumerist fantasy. And each time, I got a little drunk on it, to be honest.

The first time I went, it was a Saturday. I was accompanied by my husband. We strolled the showroom, hand in hand, tested out couches and debated the quality of coffee tables and entertainment centers. We were engulfed by this crowd of people, mothers toting toddlers, couples buying beds, preteens on wheelie sneakers, skating in and out of the crowd. At first, I felt at home in this paradise of clean lines and matching furniture. But as we delved into the bowels of the marketplace, surrounded by new plate sets for only $20 (!) and screen paintings of Audrey Hepburn to hang above your couch. The longer we stayed there, the more anxious I became, until I had to leave. There were just so many things, things, things to look at and I didn't know where to turn.

I had to go back today, after work. After spending 9 hours straight working and dealing with other people's problems, this experience was almost meditative. I found, after buying a new coffee table and new entertainment center, that we needed baskets for our DVDs and remote controls, and coasters to protect the beech laminate surface of the coffee table. At 6:00 on a Monday evening, IKEA is deserted. I avoided the faux living room set ups of the show room and went straight to the basement marketplace. I acquired a cart, with a wayward wobbling wheel, and sped through the store.

I dodged displays and weighing the relative quality of wicker baskets, I contemplated the looks of the merchandise. I was also inspired, in a surreal sort of way. I was thinking about my past in retail servitude and how I both missed it and detested it in equal measures. I was thinking about the physicality of this enormous store and the accessibility of all of these things. I was thinking about what Hemingway or Ginsberg would say about this place.

Most of all, I was thinking about how I could possibly write this all down.