Feeling lost? Go to IKEA.

22 Sep

On 9/9/10, I was an accidental guest star in a solo reenactment of “The Parking Garage.” And you are likely to laugh at my unintentional Emmy-nominated performance as “woman-who-lost-her-car-in-a-parking-garage-while-holding-Austrian-chocolates.” I had great pictures of this narrative, but they suffered the same fate as my pictures of  The Austrian Penpal. I will do my best to recount sans visuals.

If you read part one of my 9/9/10 post, you know I spent the morning in DC and that I parked my car here:

Franconia-Springfield Metro Station

There are over 5000 parking spaces in that garage, and as I learned later, at least four entrances.  After leaving DC, I hopped on an orange line train and  met up with my friend Alex in Vienna to see his new condo. After a quick lunch, he dropped me off at the above shown parking garage and drove away into the sunset in a Toyota Matrix. I waved goodbye and made my way on foot to find my own Volkswagen Jetta; still had plenty of time to get back on 95 and miss the worst of afternoon rush hour traffic. Couldn’t have executed a plan better. (I might have high-fived myself in my mind at this point).

You should never do that.

Time you should be on 95 to avoid major traffic: Before 3:00 pm

Time of arrival at garage: 2:26 pm

Time of departure from garage: 4:05 pm

Projected location of my car: Level 1, 2, or 3

Actual location of my car: Level 5

Projected highest level of entrance: 3

Actual level I entered on: 4

Number of black Jettas that were not mine: 9

Number of desperate phone calls made: 3

Number of calls that were dropped because I was IN A GARAGE: 3

Number of  people in garage I considered asking for help: 4

Number of people in garage I asked for help: 0

Number of people who asked me for help: 2

Number of times I smiled confidently while screaming help me! in my head: 8

No, I did not scream or curse at unsuspecting commuters or SUVs. No, I did not give in and ask the one non-computerized, human money-taker in the booth for help. I had a hope deep inside me that I’d find my black Jetta on my own. (And this way I’d never have to admit to said human that I am the moron who’s circling levels 1, 2, and 3 looking for a black Jetta. And no, lady-of-the-booth, I did NOT write the section number down, thankyouverymuch!)

Often when we’re lost we don’t ask for help because we’re afraid of looking bad. We’re also afraid of being alone. I felt like the only person outside out of sitcom world who’d lost her car in a parking garage, even though this is overwhelmingly not true. People in South Florida airports do it all the time. Five times a day in Fort Lauderdale, and three times a day at the Palm Beach and Miami airports. The Sun-Sentinel article also mentions that people’s first reaction upon losing their car is believing it has been stolen. One frequent traveler who lost his car confessed: “In all my years of traveling, this has never happened to me before.”

My first reaction after car was not parked where I expected: Stolen

My second reaction: Towed (because in a hurry I might have missed a ‘reserved parking’ sign)

One of the first things I said to my friend Alex on the phone before losing the call: “This has never happened to me before.”

Final conclusion: I’m just like everybody else.

Blistered by rush hour traffic, I made it as far as Woodbridge before I found myself veering onto the Potomac Mills exit because as Alex and I had discussed at lunch, I’ve never been to IKEA. For four years I went to college a mere thirty minutes from this hipster furniture mecca yet it was still a Swedish myth to me. Plus Aaron and I needed a kitchen storage solution (our apartment hates cabinets), so I had utilitarian reasons as well.

I learned upon arriving that like everywhere on earth, you get to park in a garage. This time I took a picture of my section number.

See, I learn.

And if you were wondering, yes, that picture also fell victim to the great accidental delete of 9/9/10. Luckily, the pictures I took AFTER that survived; this way we can get lost in IKEA together.

One the first things I noticed other than overwhelming we real cool vibe was this water fountain:

Is the stool necessary? I should have coerced a stranger into posing next to it for scale, but I think that sort of thing is frowned upon in IKEA. Shortly afterwards I noticed I was in the kids’ section. So it’s not that funny. Picture relegated to sight gag rather than commentary on IKEA’s catering to customers who may be elves.

I commence shopping for storage solutions for our kitchen.

Option #1: For all our GIANT bowls (we grow them)

Option #2: For all the glasses and food we'd like to showcase

Option #3: Mug storage, winner!

It’s at this point I start to become fully aware of my surroundings. IKEA creates environments for customers to meander through and imagine themselves in. This is code for making you jealous with all our hip stuff so you’ll feel bad enough about your poorly designed home that you’ll be lured in by our deceptively low prices enough that you’ll buy allourshit.

I’ll be the first to admit that good design is like crack. And just like anyone who is addicted to crack, I will follow good design until you make me fill out an order form to purchase a $4 mug rack. You can’t just pick up something and buy it here–that’s so pedestrian.

And you had me until paperwork, IKEA.

So I decided to finish my tour of the store and mock its contents because loving IKEA is boring. And I’ve had enough everyone else for today. As I made my way through the carefully styled environments, I imagined what each room was saying to me as I walked by.

"If only you were Miami enough to live here."

"We're wacky. Can't you tell by our light fixture?"

"We just got back from the world; what did we miss?"

"Eat your cabinet heart out."

It was time to say goodbye to this charming little universe, which has friendly arrows to guide you.

"You are going the wrong way."

I toured the entire store backwards on accident. It was a giant metaphor for my entire afternoon/evening. No, it wasn’t over yet. I’d made it past rush hour, but I still had major accident traffic and close-two-lanes-for-line-painting traffic ahead. So much more of this:

"Patience is a virtue."

So I walked away from IKEA with nothing tangible, but in a weird way it saved me. I’m not sure I could’ve survived leg 3 of that journey without my sojourn at the home furnishing mothership. Right now I’m in a new city, searching for a job, hoping to meet new people who get me. It’s easy to feel lost. Just like I did in that parking garage.

But here’s where it’s comforting to be just like everybody else: we all get lost, and more importantly, we all get found.

"Life is better with glow sticks." (photo: J. Kingston)

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6 Responses to “Feeling lost? Go to IKEA.”

  1. Seleta September 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    How can something not be hilarious when it includes, ‘And just like anyone who is addicted to crack…’? 🙂

  2. Emily September 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    did you eat any of their meatballs?

  3. Kara September 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    No meatballs–I skipped the cafe completely. And Seleta, I had a hard time making the crack addiction appropriate, so I sacrificed accuracy.

  4. Honi September 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Write on girl, write on. I love reading your blog! Ikea always makes me feel like a rat stuck in a maze. I never leave there without buying something stupid and cheap. Last time I walked away with tupperware containers that ranged from big to so small they will only accomadate a single strawberry.
    I am super impressed you left empty handed. Or that you found your way out at all.

    I love that last photo by the way, so awesome! (And I actually mean awesome, not the I-Say-This-About-Every-Thing-Awesome)

  5. Katharine September 23, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “toured” an IKEA backwards. It’s a pretty easy thing to do.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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