Eric breathed in deeply as they crossed the threshold into the giant blue building. “Here we go,” he said to himself, desperately trying to psych himself up for the day ahead. “IKEA on a Saturday.” His hands clenched instinctively as he wished he had a cart to hold onto to, at the very least, give him a battering ram against the hordes of people trudging slowly through the maze of furniture. They had made the conscious decision not to take a cart in an attempt to ensure that they wouldn’t buy random things they liked. Today was merely a fact-finding mission to ascertain which pieces of furniture they would have delivered. One look at Eric’s 2011 Hyundai Sonata had told them in-store purchases would not be in an option.
Still, Eric thought, a cart would have been nice. There were three groups of people who shopped at IKEA on Saturdays, and it was hard to pinpoint which was the worst. There were the families, who took up the most space, with relatives spread out throughout each showroom, constantly yelling random pieces of personal information at volumes much louder than Eric’s brain wanted to deal with. As if on cue, he flinched as an overweight middle-aged woman next to him yelled to what appeared to be her sister across the aisle.
“WADDYA THINK OF THIS…’BEE-ORN-ASS-BROOD’ PULLOUT SOFA? WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT FOR WHEN JOEL AND THE KIDS STAY OVER?”
Wincing as he flexed his jaw to try and regain some hearing in his ears, Eric stumbled as a sixty-pound weight hit him directly in the left knee. Group number two. Kids. Normally children would be grouped as a part of families, but not in IKEA. Here, they roamed free, in feral packs, running and jumping and climbing, unburdened by their parents who were to tired and weary to care for their young. It was a little kid mecca, and therefore, an adult nightmare.
He steadied himself as he looked at Alyssa, expecting to see a grin on her face as she laughed at the fact that he had almost been dropped by an eight-year-old, but instead saw a haggard expression that matched his own. Oh yeah. Group number three. The hungover young adults. His head pounding from the unnecessary bottle(s) of wine they had consumed the night before in celebration of their new shared apartment, he reached out to his girlfriend and pulled her over to a relatively secluded alcove in one of the display kitchens.
“How’re you feeling, babe?” He asked, half hoping that she would be the one to call it quits and they could spend the rest of the day eating Chinese food on their couch. But no such luck. She smiled wanly before taking a deep breath and widening her eyes. “I regret opening that last bottle of red, but I’m here. Let’s get this done. What’s on our list again?”
Eric pulled out his phone and clicked on his notes app, in awe of the warrior spirit Alyssa was showing. “Let’s see…we need a bookshelf, a desk, and a TV stand. Not too bad.”
Alyssa frowned, as if trying to remember something. “Wasn’t there more? What about an ottoman and a rug for the living room?” Eric stared blankly as he mentally added the cost of two new items to the already expensive list. It’s not like they truly needed an ottoman or a rug. In his mind, those were extras. Things that could be purchased at a later date, like perhaps after their next payday. He looked at Alyssa and spoke with conviction.
“Oh yeah, good call babe. I’ll add it to the list.” No rug was worth a fight. Not now. IKEA trips have been known to destroy even the strongest of relationships, and if he was being honest with himself, they were not the strongest of relationships. At least not with wine-stained teeth and nagging headaches. Today wasn’t the day to be obstructive.
They walked slowly through the maze of impossible to pronounce furniture, occasionally pointing at things and taking note of their store number. After only two hours, it appeared their trip was coming to a close. Alyssa had been set on a sleek wooden corner desk with attached shelving, and Eric had been the deciding factor on a TV stand that could support that 65” screen he had asked his parents for as his upcoming birthday present. Neither of them had cared about the bookshelf and had opted for the cheapest one. The day, although not quite over, had been a remarkable success. Unexpectedly, the shared similar tastes in both interior design, and more importantly, in how much they cared about interior design.
They smiled at each other as they walked down the stairs to the final section of the warehouse. Eric couldn’t deny it, he felt pretty cocky. How many couples crushed an IKEA trip in just a couple hours, with no fights or whispered arguments? None that he knew. Their relationship was just better than those of his friends. All his doubts about moving in together so quickly evaporated. He squeezed Alyssa’s hand and grinned, already fantasizing about the food court up ahead. He could smell Swedish meatballs and Cinnabon, and the finish line seemed just around the corner.
“Ooh, Eric! What about this one?” He was jerked out of his reverie by his girlfriend’s voice as she dragged him over to thin, woven rug. “What’s that face for?” She continued, seeing Eric’s lip curl involuntarily as he looked at it.
He laughed nervously as he replied. “I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem very comfortable, you know? What’s the point of dropping…two hundred dollars?! On a rug that we can’t even run our toes through? What about…” He looked wildly around, desperate to throw out a suggestion before Alyssa got defensive about his thoughts on her choice. “That one?” He pointed to a thick shag rug.
He walked over to it and ran his hands through it, sighing in happiness. “How good would this feel under our feet on, like, a rainy Synday morning?” He glanced over to see how his sales pitch was being received and found his girlfriend outright laughing at him.
“Okayyy, don’t get too turned on by a carpet right now. If you make a mess on it, they’re gonna make you buy it. But fine, you sold me. Write down the number.”
Eric grinned, jubilant that he was getting the carpet he wanted, and even more so that he was about to get to eat lunch. He found the tag to find the item number when an even more important number caught his eye. “Fuuuck.” He said under his breath. “This thing is $350?” He glanced at Alyssa, who was running her fingers through the rug. He looked over his shoulder to the food court. He could practically see the Cinnabon smell wafting down the hall. He swallowed hard to stop himself from drooling. He looked back at the price tag. His stomach growled audibly. “Fuck it.” He thought to himself.
“Aaand we’re done!” He said, raising his hand toward Alyssa for a high five. “Easiest IKEA trip of all time. Let’s get lunch.”