Sympathy for the Ikea walk of shame

Published 7:01 am Sunday, July 16, 2017

A little sympathy at a moment of embarrassment can go a long way.

It felt like it happened in slow motion. My fiancee, Megan, turned her shopping cart around in the Ikea line and I watched mutely as my brain made sense of the scene. We had an 8-foot long, rolled up rug sticking out of the cart, and it was heading directly toward the head of a nice, oblivious woman.

All I could manage to do was say, “Hon! Hon! Hon!”

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Which only caused her to stop and look confused at me just before clotheslining the poor woman. Hence, I can see why Ikea has earned a reputation as the place where relationships go to die.

On the plus side, my relationship and wedding plans are still alive and well; however, on the bad side, more of my money than I’d care to admit here is now in a Swedish bank account. And no, it has nothing to do with a spy or action movie.

However, perhaps the biggest takeaway from that trip was a brief moment of understanding from the nearly-clotheslined woman.

First, you need a bit of background to lead up to the punchline.

I’ve long called Ikea a labyrinth; it sucks you in all excited to buy some easy furniture and pukes you back out with pain in the area of your wallet as you wonder: A. Will it [expletive deleted] fit in the car, B. How long will it take me to assemble said [expletive deleted], and C. Why did I do this to myself again, anyway?

Before my fiancee and I made our first Ikea trip a few months back, we joked about the store’s motto as a relationship killer. And, being a professional over thinker, I looked it up online.

Some online have said the big reason is because the sheer number of decisions that need to be made at Ikea, and because of the differing opinions that these bring out.

This time, we were armed with a long wishlist, which we discussed over Swedish meatballs before game time.

Now, we made it through the store relatively smoothly, though we had to retrace our steps after I said an shelf we were looking for was further in while it was actually 10 feet from us — whoops.

But I’ve learned I have an Ikea breaking point, that moment where the store gets to me — I think it’s a mix of overstimulation and claustrophobia that translates into, “Get what you need and get out.”

I admitted this to Megan and we started making our way for the door. We loaded up about six boxes of heavy shelves onto one of those Ikea furniture carts and made for the door.

Predictably, I got a cart that veered left, which led to me to nearly run into a few displays before realizing I could push the cart straighter if I pushed it sideways.

And predictably, only like a half-dozen of Ikea’s gazillion checkout lanes were actually open. As Megan wisely pointed out: The long lines feel more frustrating when you can see all those empty, unused checkout lines.

We got in line and made it about halfway to the front when my overthinking mind thought it prudent to check if we got the right shelves. I stared at the picture on the side of a box for a moment before it sunk in.

“Honey, we have the wrong shelves,” I said.

We checked the product numbers and our hearts sank when we saw the narrow route back out of the lines — and when I felt the embarrassment of having to retreat through them.

That’s when Megan almost clotheslined the woman beside her in a parallel line. Oh yeah, and this woman was oblivious as she bent down to talk to one of her kids.

After the near hit, the woman’s face froze a moment in shock and confusion, and I expected her or someone nearby to be angered with us.

But after one of us explained we had to leave the line because we had the wrong shelves, her face melted to sympathy, and she said something sympathetic like, “Oh, I’m sorry; that is so frustrating for you,” as we made our Ikea walk of shame armed, at least, with a little understanding.