My wife woke up one Sunday morning with a singular thought: bunk beds. Now, in reality this is something that she had been discussing for some time, and I had been largely ignoring for the same amount of time. She’s pretty good at noticing when the kids have outgrown things, and is reasonably diligent about pointing it out, repeatedly, with the intent (I assume) that it make it past my defenses and land in my brain in the “take care of” area. I am less good at noticing these sorts of things – feet hanging off the end of the bed, tight shorts that are indeed pants that are three sizes too small, helmets split into two pieces hastily held together with duct tape, that sort of thing. My mind was on power washing, not bunk beds, but she found a clever way through my pressurized focus – Cracker Barrel.
And so it was that we fatefully found ourselves headed to bastion of particle board and lingonberries that is Ikea, our guts swollen with a good ol’ country breakfast and a hankering for hex bolts and other hex-based accessories.
Our oldest was able to enter Smaland, a wondrous world of enchantment designed to imprison children while their parents get a rare break from the daily horrors of parenthood. And buy furniture. We took our youngest, placed her in the worlds strangest shopping cart, and set off in search of bunk beds upstairs in the gallery.
It surprisingly wasn’t a long process – they basically had three varieties, only one of which held my weight when I was doing body slams (WWF style) on the top bunk. We also picked out a small desk and rolling chair so that my children can learn what Daddy’s life is like. (Just sit here for many hours. Occasionally get up and go into another room and sit there. Periodically say things. Repeat.) As directed, we dutifully wrote down the name, aisle and bin number of our selections, and then headed down to Smaland to free Justine from the shackles of furniture store justice.
And that’s when it began.
After getting Justine, we entered the Marketplace, an overwhelming repository of every conceivable household item stamped with bewildering Swedish names. We quickly got lost, trying to understand the posted maps but they all seemed to just run in circles. I wasn’t concerned at first, but as time ticked on and we kept passing the wall hooks shaped like dog asses. I could see the worry in my wife’s face, even as she kept grabbing dustpans and picture hanging kits and absently throwing them into our cra-z-kart.
Then the lights went out, and it was clear the store was closing. Our screams (I tried English and Swedish) went unanswered, and so I stoically gathered my family and hunkered down for the night on a zebra print rug and draped in European curtains. I was able to find an Anstandig (spiral notebook) and started keeping a journal to preserve the details of our ordeal for the inevitable Sundance winner. Here are some key passages:
It’s been over 24 hours since we became lost in the Marketplace. We’ve been pleading with the staff for help, but they continue to insist that the only way out is to find the Jansjos, then the Chosigts and then the exit will be right by the Vardefulls. And no they can’t walk us there nor even hint at what each of those things are, as that would be a violation of the IKEA Prime Directive, which is expressed in Swedish but involves customers, getting lost, emptying wallets and meatballs.
We’ve built a crude shelter out of laundry hampers, toilet plungers and an unknown household item that’s either some kind of lamp or a avocado peeler – perhaps both. We beg shoppers that pass by for help but they are more interested in what the total cost of our makeshift hut is, and what other colors the hampers come in.
We’ve been subsisting on two bottles of Lingonberry jam and ‘meatball butter’ we stole out of someone’s cart and some weird Swedish coffee on deep discount near the bamboo plants. The store is pretty warm, even at night, but to keep away the Swedish rats (they have big bushy mustaches) we’ve been burning wooden drying racks (or they might be record holders – I’m really not sure).
Today we discovered a set of lost families that have set up a rough feudal society over in carpets and bedding. Apparently they are at war with another set of families that controls access to the Fountain of Illestad, which after some questioning I discovered was a bathroom. In any case, I was able to trade several ergonomic toilet plungers (which they sharpen and use for hunting) for the dark roast version of the coffee and an ancient scroll that details the location of the Chosigts.
We’ve gone through the last of our provisions – we’ll set out tomorrow at “lights on” for the Chosigts and hopefully make it out of this infernal nightmare. My family is looking forward to getting home – there’s a good chance the animals all feasted on each other while we’ve been gone, and my wife is anxious to try out our new dustpan.
With the help of the scroll, our family, dirty and haggard finally staggered out of the marketplace into the warehouse. Not wishing for our ordeal to be wasted, I turned to my wife and shakily told her that we would get our furniture.
“Oh shoot, I left the paper with the bin numbers back at the desk where we got Justine,” she said.
I dejectedly scratched at my patchy beard, and considered this. I looked to the heavens, at my children, and then back to her, and then grasped her by the shoulders.
“We have to go back, Kim! We have to go back!”
And with that, I turned and led my family back into the abyss. Come hell or high water, my children will sleep horizontally oriented but vertically stacked as soon as humanly possible.