Maybe I was Swedish in a past life

By Mir
June 22, 2009

My darling Otto was kind enough to pick me up at the airport on my return to Atlanta, last week. Sure, I could’ve driven myself in, left the car in long-term parking, and then driven myself home after I got back, but there was one small problem with that plan.

Otto took the GPS on HIS trip last week. So the conversation before we left went like this:

Me: I need the GPS to get to the airport.
Him: I’m… taking it to Pennsylvania. Because I’m driving. You’re FLYING to Colorado.
Me: I’m not flying to the airport. I need it to get to the airport.
Him: You’ve driven to the airport before. Lots of times.
Me: With the GPS. I can’t get there without the GPS.
Him: Sure you can. Just take a map with you.
Me: *sorrowful look*
Him: You are pitiful.
Me: *sorrowful look augmented with nodding*
Him: Also, you are cute. Fine. Take the shuttle in, I’ll come pick you up.

He’s a gem, isn’t he?

[Digression: There are very few advantages to having to turn over my children for a few weeks at a time in the summer, but I am slowly learning to take advantage of them. Never ever EVER in my previous married life would it have occurred to me to take a separate vacation from my spouse. I just figured that happily married people didn’t DO that, and I was awfully busy trying to pretend I was happily married, you know? But because Otto and I have both had the benefit of long stints of time as free agents, and because we’re ACTUALLY happily married instead of just WISHING we were, we’ve come to embrace the marvel that is vacationing separately. It’s a beautiful thing. I certainly don’t want to go race cars, and he’s not much interested in snoogling babies, so we each pursue our own interests and then come back together and order Chinese food and marvel at how quiet the house is and smooch a lot. I highly recommend it.]

Anyway. I had called Otto Thursday morning to remind him to come pick me up, and he sounded remarkably chipper. “Awwww, you missed me!” I said, getting a little misty.

“Yes!” he agreed. “Oh, hey, after I pick you up? Wanna go to Ikea?”

Sure, he missed me. Also, he had Swedish meatballs on the brain.

We don’t live that far from Ikea (and Atlanta in general), of course, but still. I’m true to my country bumpkin roots, and that means that anywhere that takes longer than half an hour to reach is Far Away. Thus we’ve been to Ikea exactly once in the two years I’ve lived here, because there are only so many cheap toilet brushes one needs in a lifetime, y’know?

But Otto is in the process of setting up his home office this week, and he was on a mission. He needed cheap bookcases. And Ikea is Swedish for Particle Board, I’m pretty sure.

[Digression: Right now Otto and I share an office. I love sharing an office! It makes me happy. Unfortunately, sharing an office means that 90% of Otto’s stuff is jammed in a storage closet, and even his deep love for me cannot outweigh the annoyance of always having to dig for something he knows he has but cannot find. As someone who prefers to just stack everything I need in piles on my desk, I find this dilemma interesting.]

I have this whole love/hate thing going on with Ikea. I mean, when I was in grad school, Ikea was the standard to which many of us aspired. You knew you’d really arrived when you started furnishing your place with stuff from Ikea. Because it was (relatively) cheap, still, but kind of grown-up looking. My grad school apartment was sparsely decorated with only the finest student cast-offs the local classifieds could secure—I didn’t even have enough money to shop Ikea. But I had friends who had a couch from there—presumably one that no one else had slept on before it arrived at their apartment—and I thought they were Very Fancy Indeed. (As a point of reference, I had a secondhand kitchen table with a melamine top and metal legs, and the legs were all rusty. So I wrapped them in duct tape. Yeah.)

Now that I’m an ACTUAL adult, I sort of feel like Ikea is, well, interesting, and handy, but not exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to home furnishings. I now own bookcases made of ACTUAL WOOD, not just pressboard. I guess I sort of feel like I’ve outgrown them.

But the weirdest thing happens when I walk in there. Although most of the furniture leaves me cold, sometimes a funky chair or two will entice me to sit down, and before I know it, I’m marveling over how comfortable it is, and so cute! And the gadgets. LORD, the gadgets. I’m all about replacing my cancerous plastic food storage containers with glass—this past year I chucked almost everything and replaced it all with Pyrex—but I am powerless against 17 containers in a pretty little bundle for $5. Because, FIVE DOLLARS! I probably have that in change in the bottom of my purse!

So Otto was busy configuring his new Wall O’ Bookshelves and I was walking around going, “Oh! A French coffee press! I totally need one of these!” and “Oh, honey, LOOK! Mineral oil!”

Mineral oil? Oh, go on and GUESS what we bought the LAST time we went to Ikea. That’s right! We bought a beautiful, giant cutting board to replace our old one which had developed a split. And I think the new board (which is approximately the square footage of our entire kitchen) cost a whopping $10. But we got it home and discovered that the wood was untreated, and required “oiling” before use. And we scratched our heads and said, “Oiling? With special oil? I wonder where you get that.” And then we set the cutting board aside and never used it. For a year. Because we we befuddled by the concept of oiling it.

Ahem. So this time I bought some mineral oil. And oiled my board. Ooooh, baby.

Frankly, the entire trip wore me out. This is probably why I can only take one visit to Ikea per year.


  1. Megan

    I like the idea of IKEA right up until I go. Then I wander the room set up things (oooh! lightweight plastic faux tv’s!) and feel okay, move on to the Bins Of Things With Umlauts and begin to sweat a bit what with the billions of items and the billions of very large, very SLOW people (note to others: do NOT stop right in front of me when I’m motoring through IKEA. I will totally take you down). By the time we get to the Racks Of Pressboard and the checkout stands I’m pretty well ready to declare Sweden a hostile nation.

  2. Aimee

    I’ve never been to Ikea, but Megan? Your description of how going makes you feel reminds me of my reaction to Walmart, although the “declaring Walmart a hostile nation” part starts before I’m 10 feet in the door. It just sucks the life out of me, instantly and without mercy.

  3. Tracy

    I guess I’m in the sticks because I’ve never even heard of Ikea. Sounds like a place I’d like to go, though, only because I like gadgets.

  4. Debbi

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gadgets at Ikea! I could spend a whole day in that area. Now I need to go…

  5. getsheila

    IKEA is 2 hours away for me. I thought I would shop their website instead and ordered a $20 comforter set, only to discover shipping was going to be…wait for it…an additional $23.

    But the two foot plastic shoehorn I bought for a dollar when I was there so my 80 year old mom doesn’t have to bend over to put her shoes on is totally awesome!

  6. carolyn

    My 16 year old daughter went to Ikea in Charlotte two days ago. She is still recovering. She was totally overwhelmed by all the possibilities….she’s an amateur!!

  7. Mary

    I’ve yet to visit Ikea and there is a reason for that!!!!!

  8. Jamie AZ

    Oooh, Ikea love! Though I haven’t been in over 2.5 years since the closest one is in Phoenix, a whopping 2 hours away. Like Aimee said, Megan’s description of Ikea is my description of Walmart, though around here, you have to watch out for the 80-year olds and their carts to take you out. True story!

  9. ~annie

    Aside from the fact that the nearest IKEA is three hours away from where I live, I too am always overwhelmed. I average one visit every 6 years…

  10. Randi

    Separate vacations! SWEET! Actually I usually am looking to spend quality QUIET time with the hubby, because having two little kids means that nookie in the middle of the afternoon? ENDS.

  11. Summer

    The one thing I can never resist at IKEA are the houseplants. I don’t know why — I can walk through Lowe’s nursery section without a twinge, but I can’t leave IKEA without a new plant.

    And why didn’t you ask us about the mineral oil? You can buy it at any drugstore, in the Old Timey Laxatives section.

  12. bob

    a GPS to get to the airport in Atlanta? Jeez. What’s so hard about driving around 285 until you see a bunch of airplanes taking off & landing?

    I mean, seriously, Mir.

    (of course, LEAVING the airport can be something of a challenge.)

    (if you had driven in, you wouldn’t have to had to go to Ikea.)

  13. Melissa D

    You are more than hilarious, because getting to the airport requires only that you drive on 85 for many miles, and then a single turnoff just south of the city (the one that says “To Airport”. :-D


  14. Mit

    *Joins the “sensory-overload” queue* Ikea was fun for our “escape-the-desert-heat, hang-out-in-Laguna-and-marvel-at-rain” trips. About six times a year … but I agree. Small doses is the only way to stay sane. Usually I just got on the elevator to the bottom floor and cruised through gadgetland. There was no way were were hauling furniture home in the back of the Accord! :)

  15. dad

    Poor baby!
    You’re a victim of technology.

    …and Otto is sweet.

  16. Anna Marie

    I want to veer off the Ikea topic for a moment to say SEPARATE VACATIONS ROCK. And yes, I’m happily married, and in my opinion that is one way to STAY happily married. Welcome home!

  17. meghann

    The first time I went to Ikea I felt like a tourist. Walked around slack jawed and wide eyed, the whole bit. I might as well have had a camera too.

    I need to go to Ikea though. My friends all got these bookcases for their kids’ rooms that would be perfect for my boys’ room. Although for us it actually will be a long drive. :-P

  18. Kemi

    I live ten minutes from Ikea and still haven’t been there.

    It sounds like Bed, Bath and Beyond, only in monster form.

    (I’m frightened.)

  19. BethRD

    I have this problem with Babies R Us. When I was pregnant for the first time and a friend dragged me there, I couldn’t believe it. A warehouse-sized store full of stuff to take care of someone who was going to weigh roughly nine pounds when he/she arrived?

  20. Meredith

    The best part of IKEA is the chocolate cake in the cafeteria and SmallLand (or however you spell it). Now that all but my youngest and my BF youngest are in school and the youngests are tall enough and potty trained, IKEA is a fabulous place to stroll and chat and then feed the kids lunch before heading back to our respective sides of the city.

  21. Mary

    My Mom and Dad have been married 45 years… they’ve taken separate vacations (and plenty together, too) since I was a teenager. My Dad says, “It’s the time we spend apart that keeps us together.”

  22. Loth

    Didn’t you buy tea lights? YOu can’t leave Ikea without buying one of those huge bags of tea lights.

  23. MomCat

    Ikea is good in concept, but not in practice. Definitely not for those who despise crowds. I always remember too late that you can never get another one of anything, so you better buy it in multiple multiples, no matter how basic it looks. This seems to apply equally to dishes, sheets or furniture.

  24. Sarah

    About the cutting board ( I got the set of three at ikea several years ago) you can also oil them with vegetable oil. I used canola, spread it around on one side, let it sit for 30 minutes, then added more. Can’t remember where I saw to do this, but it works well … no stains/smells in almost 3 years of use.

  25. jennifer

    And I feel like a total loser because….

    What’s an Ikea?

    Don’t laugh. I actually live under a rock. Really.

  26. Lisse

    I feel similarly about IKEA. I love it, but my house and I are now a bit too grown up for the furniture. And Swedish modern does not really go with New England shingle style. The kitchen stuff and accessories however…. Can’t get out of there under $100.

    For years the closest store has been 2 states away, but now there is one near where my husband’s family mostly lives. Every baby shower is an excuse for a shopping spree.

  27. Unique Ech

    Did I ever tell you I love your Dad? By the way, send me one of those boards too. And dont forget the oil!

  28. Brigitte

    Seeing there are still so few IKEAS around, I can’t really blame the slow people for gawking like it’s a tourist attraction. Around here, it IS. That said, I’m afraid to go because of the drive and the crowds.

    Then again, though we’re in our mid-40s, our home-decorating budget is still (and likely always will be) in the dorm room phase.

  29. Sheppitsgal

    Phew! Just finished catching up with your archives, whilst reading your current entries. I kept wanting to leave comments on the early entries to say, “Keep your chin up, Mir, it all comes good soon”, but then I remembered, no time machine. Never mind.

    Anyhoo, thought I would stick my head out of ‘lurkers corner’ to say hello from the North of England.

    So, Hello Mir!

    *scuttles back to the gloom*

  30. coolteamblt

    I am so freaking jealous. The nearest Ikea is 400 miles from me. I actually emailed them and begged them to put one near me, and the darlings at Ikea have promised me they ‘have submitted plans’ for a store like, ten miles from me. I am squealy over the possibility.

  31. Little Bird

    I love IKEA! And I hate it too. There are actually two within a half hour drive! Or what would be a half hour drive if it weren’t for traffic. I tend to get the types of things that I really really need (shower curtain liners- for a buck) and then the things I really really don’t need but are far too cute to pass up (bird shaped clippy lights- for ten bucks). And the best thing about IKEA is the cafeteria sells beer. And after slogging through the store behind the slowest people on the planet, I need one!
    And my folks are all about the separate vacations. I think it’s why they are still together.

  32. Liza

    Ikea is one of the top 5 things I miss the most about Atlanta.

    My office was <10 min away, so I ate lunch there at least every other week. Mmmm, Swedish meatballs. And Lingonberry juice. And giant plates full of all of my favorite vegetables mixed together. When I was pregnant, I ate there closer to once/week.

  33. Elizabeth

    Here in Victoria, BC, there is actually an Ikea BUS that schlepps keeners from Victoria to Vancouver, via a two-hour ferry ride. It leaves at 6 am or some such ungodly time and brings people back by dinner time. Keeners vow that signing up for the bus trip costs less than shipping, which, judging by getsheila’s post, is probably true.

  34. Rick at Tiny Prints

    Never really thought of it before but the comment about how you aspired to Ikea and then outgrew it really resonated. If we buy anything from there now it’s a temporary fix under the assumption that it is a stop-gap for something we really want but can’t find or afford.

    We share an office too, but if I’m in it I’m being anti-social:)

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