Brian & Ann's European Experience

Sunday, November 07, 2004

IKEA Overload

For those of you who ever wondered, the maximum amount of times that one can safely shop at IKEA without experiencing IKEA Overload, is twice a month.

Yesterday Ann and I took our fourth trip in as many weeks to freaking IKEA. We rented a car from Avis in Dordrecht and drove there. To say that Ann was nervous about driving a stick shift (it had been six years) in Europe again is the understatement of the year. I have to commend her though, we only stalled three times the entire day and not once on the highway.

Since we had the car, we decided to go shopping at the Aldi, a cheap supermarket that is a bit of a hike on foot. It's hard to describe this supermarket. The business model is that all costs are stipped out of the operation to offer the cheapest product possible. To do this they simply drop pallets of produce and such in somewhat aligned rows, they sell only no-name brands, and they have one register open on Saturday... the only day that most of the Netherlands has to shop. But, since you can get two liters of attractively boxed wine for about three Euros, naturally, the frugal Dutch love the place.

The Dutch don't pinch pennies. They flatten them into wafer-thin discs to stretch their buying power.

Anyway, the funny thing is, as Ann was pulling into the parking spot, she didn't get all the way in, and had to back out to re-adjust. Unfortunately, the car didn't seem to want to go into reverse. The little picture on the knob clearly showed that there indeed was a gear called 'R', but for some reason the stick didn't want to go there. So there we were, blocking up the lane, Ann getting increasingly frustrated/infuriated, and me trying to calm her by letting her know "you can do this". Note to self: that shit just does not work.

Finally I asked a guy who was standing around for help. He was a little bewildered. He probably thought it was an elaborate scheme to get him behind the wheel so we could blame him for something wrong with the car. He didn't want to get in the driver's seat. He wanted to push the car back into the lane a little bit to get us some more room. I cannot tell you how idiotic two men pushing a little European car that refuses to budge looks. For some reason we simply could not coordinate with Ann to be pushing at the same time that she put the car in neutral. Every time she put it in neutral, and we weren't ready, the car inched forward again, closer and closer to the car that we were trying to AVOID hitting, so she'd put the brakes on, and that would be the moment that this random Dutch guy and I were throwing our backs out trying to move the car back.

Very frustrating.

Finally this couple who were coming back to the car next to us offered to get in and drive it. Unbeknownst to us, since Ann had left the Continent, there had been amazing advances in stick-shift technology to improve the safety of cars. In order to go into reverse, you first had to pull UP on the stick, THEN change gears.

The woman backed out, then pulled into the parking spot, in two seconds.

Ann and I stood there silently and attempted to keep our heads from exploding.

After the pressure in our heads reduced, we drove to IKEA to pick up what we hoped were the final pieces of furniture we would ever need in our lives.

We zoomed through the showroom, skipped the traditional Swedish meatballs and ligonberry sauce, argued over the bookcase (Ann won, of course), got into the warehouse, and found out that the closet we were getting weighed 86lbs., in the box. The other closet weighed in at a measly 71lbs., and the book case was a feather-light 55lbs. When we got home Ann drank her super-woman potion and the two of us manhandled the beastly boxes up into our apartment.

That is the last time we plan to go to IKEA until 2005. Maybe 2006.

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