Insert rod “A” into slot “B”

Oct 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Columns

Being able to make efficient use of my time and energy (or being lazy, whichever), I’m not fond of doing anything that involves: A) Me leaving my cave, B) Having to expend any extra energy on my part. So, when I do have to venture into the outside world, I have a set list of what I need, and a predetermined route that will allow me to accomplish what I need, enabling me to return back to my fortress of man-itude as fast as humanely possible. Once I’ve purchased what’s needed, I expect the only effort left on my part is simply opening the item, putting it away, and moving on with my life. Sadly, some places of business don’t share my point of view, the biggest offender being IKEA.

First, let’s just look at what IKEA has to offer: “reasonably” priced furniture and other home décor, fantastic for the young college student or new home owner whose money is tight. However, IKEA furniture is only furniture in the loosest sense of the word in that it’s an inanimate object that can be placed in one’s home and used to hold the treasure trove of worthless crap acquired through the years. IKEA furniture is just a step above Wal*Mart, but doesn’t evoke the same sense of blind inducing rage that Wal*Mart generates, merely for the fact that IKEA is European.

I wasn’t aware shoddily crafted merchandise was acceptable just because it has an international flair, perhaps that’s why people are willing to shell out $1000 on a pair a shoes just because they’re from Italy, or $150 for scented bidet water from France. I did take home-ec in middle school and learned how to tailor my own vests, perhaps I can sell that abroad and label it as “Ethnic Apparel.” I could almost forgive IKEA for cashing in on trend following dimwits, if it weren’t for the fact that you have to put their crap together your damn self. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that if I wanted to build my own furniture, I’d have been a carpenter. It’s an adult version of Paint-by-Numbers, and how many of us have seen a picture using the Paint-by-Numbers scheme, and didn’t immediately think it was a complete piece of s@%t, and the person who created it was either color-blind or had a slight touch of the mental retardation? Not only that, it’s painfully apparent that IKEA contracted out their life size puzzle kit to a high school shop class, as none of the pieces are finished, and you can almost make out the faint outline of jagged cuts as students attempt to f%#k with each other at the jig saw attempting to make the wood “jump” at the blade, ensuring the holder loses control (accidental amputation, always funny).

This Paint-by-Numbers scene is inspiration for IKEA's new "Fjord Skeida" line.

So, one day you and your betrothed feel you need to update the look and feel of your living room, and take a family outing to the local IKEA. You walk in the double doors, and immediately have lost your bearings. There’s a path off to your right that leads to furniture, but there’s also an escalator that leads to even more furniture…which to take? A moment of indecisiveness (and apparent weakness) leads to your better half grabbing you by the arm, and dragging you to the escalator. The top of the escalator is the point of no return as the closest down escalator is roughly 2 ½ miles away. When you reach the top, you’re stricken blind by the florescent lighting reflecting off of all the bright, neon colors, acting as a laser focused directly at your cornea.

As you struggle to adjust to your surroundings, a measuring ribbon, piece of paper, and a pencil used for filling out lottery tickets is thrust into your hand. It’s at this point where the buddy system is invaluable, preferably with someone who’s a grizzled IKEA veteran, as, if you’re not, and went in with no less than a Sherpa and two mules, you can forget about getting out of there on your own…alive anyway. It’s agreed upon that a new upright cabinet would look great in your living room as it will be filled with mementos collected from your adventures. Like any normal person, you’re looking for something with the word “cabinet” in it, but in the wondrous world of IKEA, calling items what they actually are is apparently passé and bland. So, in an attempt to add spice to the drab, they’re named things like Skör, and Wülf, and various other names you’d expect a 12 year old to name their World of Warcraft character. Once you put away your “IKEA to English” dictionary, you’ve found their classification of cabinet, load it on to your flat bed, ford the river, lose a friend to dysentery, and arrive at the checkout.

IKEA's Textiles section.

When finished admiring the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into the woodshop-based jigsaw puzzle, there actually comes the part where the furniture is built, in the middle of your living room floor as you attempt to concentrate with Spongebob blaring in the background, and wee-tykes using Legos as high-speed projectiles. So, naturally, when constructing the furniture that is to turn your house into a home, and serve as the focal point for any gatherings, you expect to have to break out a heavy duty tool kit complete with a drill, and various other electrical devices that give you more power (*grunt*)…right? Not according to IKEA, they go that extra “Everything we sell is a wooden Erector Set” mile and gives you the equivalent of a screwdriver, with the head broken off, then bent at a 90° angle in the middle. This gives you a tool straight from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, only not as useful, and lacking the fantastical superfluous naming scheme present in said books. This piece of scrap is called an “Allen Wrench,” which can actually be lost in the folds of a couch you foolishly purchased from a real furniture store (you conformist). So, until you take a trip to the local hardware store, you effectively have $200 worth of kindling sitting in the middle of your floor, along with broken Styrofoam pieces that have been electrically charged by Zeus himself, as the little bastards cling to EVERYTHING.

ZEUS! Zeus is awesome. That is all.

So, the following weekend arrives, with the pile of lumber still sitting in the middle of the living room floor, and you decide that “Today’s the day I’m going to finish this.” You mosey on down to the local hardware store, where men who could all fill the role of the Brawny man, carry around their chainsaws, hedge trimmers, jackhammers, and front loaders. You check the directory for where you can locate your coveted Allen wrench, but, oddly enough, it’s not listed, forcing you to ask one of the associates. As you approach this person, you’re already being judged as you sip your Starbucks Cinnamon Chai latte, in your cargo shorts and Birkenstocks.

You’re now face to face with your Hardware savior, they’re waiting for your question as you take a sip of your latte, smack your lips, and start your question with “ I’m looking for…” At this point, the associate is using every ounce of restraint they have to keep from choking you out with their tool belt and going the “body in the wood chipper” route from Fargo on your ass. However, you don’t know you need an Allen wrench, you have no idea that that’s even what it’s called, so you describe it as such, “It’s that tool that sort of looks like..,” it’s at this point you place your index upright, then bend it “…this. It came with the furniture set I bought from IKEA.” It’s at that point where the associate’s patented customer-service smile fades, a look of utter disgust over washes their face, and they bluntly direct you to Aisle 13.

As you casually stroll to the aisle, you start to eavesdrop on the conversations taking place as you walk by: one person is putting in a deck, and needed to find a replacement blade for their circular saw, another person is in the process of remodeling their kitchen and is looking to make their floor hardwood. You’re paying just enough attention to know that they are all more handy, and, by proxy, more masculine than you. You reach Aisle 13, and the precious wrench is located in the same row as floral boarder patterns, lawn decorations, and bargain bin items. You sheepishly pick up your wrench with your index and thumb, walk to the cashier, and stand in line between someone buying a 62-bit cordless drill set and another buying materials to build an outdoor fire pit.

Feeling the pressure, you quickly look around the register for any last minute items you can place on the conveyor to pad your purchase. Great! A 20-pack of wood screws, and a 9v battery, that should throw them off the scent. The cashier, on auto pilot, flashes you a quick smile, asks how you’re doing and follows up with ““Were you able—to find everything” the slight pause, no matter how slight, is loud enough for you to realize that in that split second, they think less of you as a person. You’ve been rung up, with a total of $8.73, slip the man a ten, quickly pocket your change, grab the bag, and rush out of the store, feeling their eyes bore through the back of your skull.

You get home, roll up your sleeves, and get down to the nitty-gritty. You take a look at the instructions, but there’s not a single word of English printed in the booklet, only diagrams, and labeled pieces. You take a quick stock of your materials, comparing it to the listing, everything looks good to go, you grab your Allen Wrench, toss the battery and wood screws to the side, and proceed to create art. You put together the first few pieces, and, in that moment, believe undertaking this task was a horrendous mistake. The directions have you put this thing together in such an awkward fashion, that it’s impossible for it to stand on it’s own, so, you have to use your free hand to both balance the piece, and hold the future additions in place in a semi-arthritic state, all while using the Allen Wrench.

The result of Chris trying to make the cabinet "into his bitch."

After an hour a “F**k this, I’ll do it later” overtakes you, you rise to your feet, grab a few bottles of alcohol out of your cabinet, and lock yourself away in the bathroom, drinking away your frustrations. A bottle and a half of whiskey later, your sense of self preservation has vanished, and you’ve convinced yourself that you can “make that cabinet your b***h.”

Returning to the scene of the crime, you take one last swig out of your bottle, then throw it against the opposite wall, and, as if touched by the Gods themselves, actually complete the weekend project….or so you think. The cabinet is now standing upright, sturdy as can be, yet, you have no less than 1/3rd of the box contents left; screws, pieces of wood, small animals, all of it, in a pile on your floor.

Actual small animal.

Now, you’re trying to determine if you left any pieces out, you go over the instructions countless times trying to figure out where these mystery pieces go. Unable to find where they go, you are no less confident with your new living room piece, you start thinking you shouldn’t place anything in the cabinet for at least a week, hoping that if it will fall apart, it’ll do so in that time. So, you place the leftovers in a drawer and take your leave. A week has passed, the cabinet is still standing, but you’re still a little anxious about its structural integrity, so you give it another week…then another, before you know it, three months have passed and you have an empty, unfinished cabinet in your living room. It’s survived for three months, still solid, so you begin to load it, but not with the “good” decorations, you fill it with sacrificial trinkets in the event that if it does collapse, it’s not a that great a loss.

Now, I know what you’re saying, “Chris, IKEA is a place. How could a place possible be a douchebag?” Well, to explain this, we need to put on our imagination caps. You’re speaking with a friend about your new home and subsequent financial woes, and how you’re spending your waking moments on the floor since money is tight. Your friend tells you of this local guy who sells furniture at a very reasonable price, and gives you the address. You drive over the next day, and this tall, swarthy blonde haired, blue eyed man greats you outside of his shop, and ushers you inside:

Ike: So, what can I do for you today?

You: Well, I need to furnish my entire house, but right now, we really need some beds.

Ike: I can help you with that, how many ya’ looking at?

You: Well, we need a king size for our bedroom and two twins for our sons.

Ike then proceeds to show you various beds, which look absolutely PERFECT. You excitedly claim “These are the ones! When can they be delivered?”

Without missing a beat, Ike states you can have them that very day. He takes you out back, and points you towards a pile of lumber.

“What’s this?” you ask.

“Those would be your beds.” Ike states as he places the first bundle on a nearby flatbed.

“Oh…so, I guess I have to make an appointment to have you send someone out to put it together?”

“Well, you could do that, but I’d have to charge you extra.”

Your left eyebrow has now jumped two inches. “Lemme get this straight…I’m paying you for furniture, and what you’re selling me is pre-cut lumber. So, now, I have to go and buy a full array of tools so I can put this together myself?””

“Not at all,” he smiles. “We give you the necessary tools to complete the job.”

You’re feeling slightly less annoyed. “Well…at least—“

“—Yep, all of our items can be assembled using this!” he flashes a small metal piece that’s suffering from scoliosis.

Now, if the situation played out as the above, not a person alive would not want to drill their fist into his face, and proceed to pummel him with a piece of their newly acquired bed frame.

Chris hates anyone or anything which goes against how he feels a sentient being with more than three brain cells should act. He hopes to use his “Encyclopedia Douchebag…ica” as a springboard into becoming a full-fledged, tax exempt religion complete with holidays and greeting cards, mainly so he can steal from its coffers. His hopes are…not that high, knowing that those who needs his guidance most, are unable to read his words… what with the extra flesh from their sloped, ape-like foreheads blinding their eyes from the truth.

When not acting like a complete bastard (which is not very often), Chris offers his services as a freelancer for Beckett’s Massive Online Gamer. Yep, he’s a neeeeeerd.

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