How IKEA Sucked My Soul
This story all begins with a table. Well, a table and chairs, really. You see, I’m set to move in a few weeks, and I recently found myself in need of a breakfast nook table and four matching chairs. Normally, I could give two pimples on a rat’s behind as to which table and chairs we end up purchasing, but the breakfast nook of the new house is perfectly situated with a stirring view of Red Rocks amphitheater and the foothills of Denver. As such, it is also highly likely to be the spot where I do most of my writing, so given that I would soon be spending countless hours sipping coffee and hammering out lines of prose at that very table, I suddenly found myself with a vested interest in the selection process.
Wandering from furniture store to furniture store in a bleary-eyed whirlwind of dining sets and salespeople so desperate to earn a few more commissions before their own holiday shopping could commence that they literally stalked me with haunting, overly-exerted smiles from the moment I stepped inside the door, I found myself weary and disconsolate as I tried to rise above the banal sameness of it all. Nothing distinguished itself from anything else, except in figures on the bottom line, and I realized that I really just wanted to watch the whole place burn so that I could have an excuse for coming home empty-handed.
Still, I persevered, and as the short winter hours of daylight turned themselves into night, I stumbled in the direction of the distant yellow sign that beckoned me from yonder like the Sirens waiting to watch me dash my brains out upon the rocks. The sign was for IKEA, and funny, but after my experience shopping there, I kind of wish the Sirens had gotten their wish.
As I parked my car in the parking lot that had section and aisle numbers like I was heading into an arena rock concert, my eyes strained under the intensity of the fluorescent lights. Whatever vitality I still had was immediately sapped by the long, arduous journey through a store of such horribly manufactured garbage that I felt if I were to actually purchase anything there that I would immediately be compelled to return to living in my college dorm room. C’mon Swedes! You’re supposed to be better than this. I always thought that you Scandinavians had the culture and refined taste to eschew, and even mock, mass-produced rubbish such as this. It’s like you decided as a nation to open up a furniture store and Out-America us Americans by selling us even cheaper crap than we could come up with ourselves. When I finally wandered past the bland cafeteria that reeked of stale meatballs and fountain sodas only to make my way to my vehicle once and for all and leave this place behind forever, I found my soul drained. IKEA had sucked away a piece of my soul.
The next day, it took all the will I could muster to go back out on my search. Yes, I would venture forth once more, but this time it was going to be different. This time I would only go to independent or consignment furniture dealers. Maybe the answer lied there. And that is where this story takes a sharp and deliberate turn to the left, for although I encountered some crazy folks along the way including a devoutly Christian man who tried to convince me that the pungent aroma of a rotting corpse permeating from beneath the cushions of a set of dining chairs would really smell just fine once they aired out for a couple of days, it was also at this point that I met Rusty.
Rusty is the owner of Decor Asian on South Broadway in Denver, and for those of you close enough to consider buying me a Christmas present, please feel free to simply go there and purchase me…oh say….anything. Seriously, his store is a treasure trove of remarkable items he encounters in his journeys throughout China and the rest of Asia. I wandered through his store for what seemed like close to an hour, awe-struck with the uniquely precious items that lined the walls of his store. Each item was infused with a creative, artistic vision- a tender piece of beauty all its own. Each contained a grace and elegance that was exclusive to itself. And as I made my way at last to the back room and espied the cypress root table that stood there, I knew what I had found.
A few moments later, Rusty walked up to me and introduced himself. We chatted for quite awhile about the table, but our discussion soon turned to the life he led traveling the world to find such items for his store. He could have made more money peddling crap that comes in a box, but instead he found a way to make a living selling things that stirred his soul. We agreed on a price for the table, and I asked him on the spot for his permission to write this piece.
Because I honestly believe there is a moral to be learned from all of this. And no, it’s not just that one should never eat Swedish meatballs after 7pm. Sure, shopping local and independent takes longer and costs more, but it also preserves our aesthetic choice. It saves our souls by allowing for creativity and artistic expression to be a part of the process rather than merely the calculation of overhead expense and profit margin. And so I raise my glass to you, Rusty my friend. I raise my glass and shout loudly, as the Swedes so often do,“Skol!”
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com