Don't get me wrong, I think some of the stuff you can buy there for the home is very good, and of course lots of it is dirt cheap. I am sure that the place is the first stop for many homeowners who need to get almost anything for their home, but put it all together and I still don't think that all this velvety goodness can in any way come close to excusing the living hell that is the IKEA shopping experience. I am not a remotely religious person, but if there is indeed a hell and I end up there, let me assure you that my eternal damnation will be to wander around IKEA until the fiery pits burn cold. For eternity basically. I went to the Bristol IKEA the other day and to be honest I am thinking about going on a course of therapy to try and wipe the hideous experience from my fragile mind........
For various reasons my wife, two girls and I had to head up Bristol way the other day, and for some quite insanely stupid reason we decided that we could do with a trip to IKEA to get a few bits and pieces for the house. Now I have not been to an IKEA in over seven years, before my eldest girl was even born, so perhaps the mists of time had dulled the memory of shopping there. Could it really be that bad to enter a giant warehouse and get a few things for the house ? I despise shopping at the best of times, indeed I think the internet might well have been invented for people like me to get the stuff they need off it, but just perhaps IKEA had not been as dire as I remembered it ? Yeah, right. There is a hell on earth, and it starts with an "I".
So we park up fairly easily and wander in. Up some elevator, turn right and then like on a conveyor belt we trudge through the section where you can buy glasses and all that kind of stuff for the kitchen. Kind of ok at the moment, even if the place is packed and I am doing my utmost not to scowl my displeasure too much. I am pushing my girls around on the trolley to try and make it a bit of fun, but why the hell can't we get out of there when we want to, instead of having to follow some pre-determined path that I was beginning to feel might be leading me to my horned Almighty. One thing I do not do is patience, and it was fast running out when we had to head back against the tide of other shoppers to pick something up we had forgotten. But I'm bearing up under the strain and even managing the odd smile. OK, not really, but at least I am trying. Trying ? Best ask my wife about how trying I can be when faced with the massed ranks of humanity pressed together in a giant Swedish style warehouse.
OK, so we do that middle floor. We're doing ok. It's hot, I can't breathe properly, and I have not seen the sky now for a while, but I'm bearing up. Give me the Bolivian jungle any day of the week. We head to the ground floor to see if we can find a sofa we were thinking about. And this is where it all came crashing down. Yes, we had missed what seems to be the fundamental "ethos" to the IKEA shopping experience/hell. I was not about to shell out on a sofa I had not even seen in the flesh, but unbeknown to us we should have gone straight into the "look and write down what you want" section when we first arrived off the escalator. I know the elevator had headed upwards, but perhaps that upwards was a parallel world where it was actually going down to the seething pits of hell ? See how scarred I am from my experience ? So we've messed up here. We have to find our way back to the top floor and join another conveyor belt of humanity through some scary looking showroom kind of thing that seemed to go on for miles and miles. Want a bathroom ? It's all there. Want a bedroom ? How about a kitchen ? That's there as well, but it seems that you have to go around all these little showroom things to find the bit of gear you are looking for. By now I am getting short of breath with the exertion required not to lose my legendary patience and break down. I am not remotely good at being around lots of people all crammed into spaces like this. Back to the top floor of hell. Where in the hell was the outside world ? Were we trapped in IKEA for eternity, forever damned to walk the carpets of doom until we could take no more and begged for our souls to be crushed to dust ? It seemed like it. As I said, shopping ain't my thing. By now my girls were asking when we could leave. If there had been an emergency exit I would have grabbed some sheets off the display beds and made a rope to get back down to terra firma and the hell out of this vast torture chamber.
So we find the sofa, take a quick look at it, and as fast as we can we get the hell out of the top floor and somehow find our way down to the bottom floor again. As fast as we can, but of course we are moving like snails in a mass of people all doing the same thing as us. Or perhaps they all know how to shop in IKEA and we don't. Did I say we had messed up ? We go over to the sofa section where you are meant to now put the stuff on some big trolley and head off to pay. Miles away of course, but then of course it would be, because this is the IKEA way. Herded like sheep into a cauldron of emptiness. I take one look at this huge sofa in a box thing (yes, putting things together is not one of my strongpoints) and like my life flashing before my eyes I can see the dreadful experience of actually unwrapping the giant box and trying to make head or tail of what I presume would be deeply unhelpful instructions ? "How about we keep the sofa we've got, it sort of works there anyway ?" I enquire of my wife. Quids in. My wife is far more patient than me, but even she can't wait to get the hell out of there. Sod the sofa. If we need one in the near future I will gladly pay for it to be delivered from somewhere else that has them already put together as a proper sofa and not a sofa in a box that needs making. If I have to pay a bit more, then so be it. I can't go through that kind of hell on earth again. As we paid and got into the car as quickly as possible, you can't believe the feeling at coming out of the car park and actually breathing in the fresh air once again. There is a sky up there after all. Hell has spewed me out like a repentant sinner. I am sure that many of you here have darkened the doors of hell before (sorry, IKEA), and most of you I am positive have dealt with the experience far better than me. For that I congratulate you. I promise to be a good boy now just in case I am doomed to spend my eternity in a giant IKEA. This rant has been wonderfully cathartic for me. I am nearly back to normal. Thank you.