Thursday, June 08, 2006

Poet, Economist, Retail phenomenon

Well, the trip to Ikea was quite fun, it turned out, experienced as it was in a haze of noradrenalin. Ikea has always scared the life out of me. Particularly the showrooms, those vast, nerveless twilight-zone simulations of 21st century newlywed living. They really freak me out.

I am sure everyone in the world has been to Ikea, just as everyone in the world has read the Da Vinci Code, so I need not describe the arrows on the laminate floor and the sofa section and the lights section and the bed and wardrobes section, that last particularly terrifying by virtue of the 36 million combinations of wardrobe sections, parts and options you're given. "Subcreatures! Gozer the Gozerian, Gozer the Destructor...the Traveller has come. Choose and Perish!" etc etc.

I am ashamed of all this, because my Ikea tripmate C delights in the admittedly beautiful little faux-apartments and rooms around which the goods swim in halogen pools. C has the ability to stand in a display room and imagine it is a real one. This is not difficult, because they perfectly resemble real rooms, as long as you don’t look out of the door unto the showroom floor. She finds standing in these spaces calming. I don’t. Put me in a display room and I get metaphysical dread. I come over all E.M. Forster and run away. I have a despicable lack of retail bravado.

The ‘marketplace’ section is my refuge. Big shopping trolley: that’s how I calmed my nerves. Pushing one of these gives you a sense of direction, an assurance that there’s an exit you’re walking towards. I find myself thinking “Wow. How can this be so cheap?” Erk! The Ikea Mantra! It’s like a soviet short-wave radio broadcast; you can’t escape it. It gets into you head. Somewhere, Ikea scientists are ticking off my predictable responses to the Ikea Environment—somatic, psychological, reactive—one by one on a dedicated spreadsheet called Hvekkken or S├╝lkkavalla and laughing their heads off.

But! Swedish Marketplace! I become a hunter-gatherer and all is forgiven, Ikea. The following norlandish provisions were bought:
  1. "Soft Arctic Cake" (how could I fail to buy something called this?)
  2. Elk Sausage
  3. Reindeer Salami
  4. Elderflower Cordial
  5. Pink sugar mushrooms
  6. Gravadlax
  7. Small hot sugar cars (?!)
  8. Salmon sauce
  9. Small hot sugar roadsigns (?)

I can report that the reindeer salami is despicably delicious. Reindeer is despicably delicious. I used to envy our Arctic field teams up on the Taimyr Peninsua—not the mosquitoes, but the diet of reindeer. I could eat reindeer until the cows come home. As it were.

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