I went to IKEA near the Mall of America the other day. I got suckered into it by a couple of girls I know. I’m not a big fan of the box stores, given the diversity to be found in Uptown and other areas of Minneapolis.
The only thing I own from the store is a bed, given to me by a friend who moved out of state. At the time, I didn’t have a bed so much as a hide-a-bed that never stayed hidden, and besides, I take anything free. Which raises an interesting question about the laws of ownership. If you don’t pay for something, do you really own it? I figure that if you sleep on something, at least more often than someone else sleeps on that something, you probably have a stronger case for ownership.
One of the girls I went to IKEA with was looking for a couch; though nearly everything caught her eye. She’d just gotten a student loan check, and couches play an intricate role in the lives of many students. The other girl just came along for the ride, which looked more like a full-scale carnival on our arrival. It was a Saturday afternoon, and the store looked like MSP International’s terminal just before Christmas. You’d swear that some national disaster was driving these people into a frenzied panic but what disaster could possibly cause a run on teakwood blinds is beyond me.
Anyway, as soon as we entered the store, we were greedily devoured by this giant lapping tongue, or escalator if you will, which swallowed us to floor two, and within sight of the digestive juices/couches.
It’s a strange thing shopping for couches. The three of us would move from couch to couch, sitting down in make believe living rooms designed to give the complete experience, as though you were in the comfort of your own home, or in my case, someone’s much nicer home. I felt like we might be on a sitcom, with prearranged scenes awaiting our next act. We would sit down and bounce a bit, try a few different positions, engage in some witty but frivolous banter and then move on to the next set.
A lot of the rooms had bookshelves to give them that cozy den feel you can find in the corners of large and quiet libraries. They even had real books. I thought they would be fake, but when I picked one up and opened it the book had words on it. But they were not in English. One said “Kommunist,” so I thought it might be Russian, but my friend said it was probably Swedish, since IKEA was founded there. Then I noticed that a lot of the books were the same. There were really only about five or six different books, of varying shapes and sizes, staggered to look like a more diverse collection. And it was the same in every room — the same books, over and over again.
I wonder if all the IKEA’s around the world carry the same books. Sort of like an Oprah’s book club for retailers. If so, it’s likely that somewhere, there are authors who have been deceived into thinking their books are wildly popular. They are probably hard at work, right now, writing their next manifesto.
After visiting so many fake living rooms, I began to feel a little bit ridiculous, and also a bit irritated. There were many people doing this — sitting and bouncing — and in some cases, we’d have to wait to sit on a couch until a couple or group moved. That’s an aggravating position when you think about it. Here we are in a seemingly leisurely situation, unable to relax in our nice faux living room because someone is sitting on our couch. I began to glare at these strangers in my home and, in my resentment, I began to think that maybe I could use another couch. That way, if I ever have more people over than I’m expecting, I’ll still have a place to sit.
I wonder if this was all planned by IKEA. It seems unlikely, but you never know. If it is, they’ve got some pretty good psychologists working for them. And that makes sense too, when you think about it. Psychologists do seem to have an affinity for couches. Maybe they get a discount for services rendered. It wouldn’t surprise me either, if IKEA sends a little business their way, too. After bouncing around on couches for about two hours, a stop at the shrink’s might not be a bad idea.
Adam Overland lives in the Wedge neighborhood and could use a new — or even used — couch. Or a student loan.