Up in the Air
Two weeks ago, I went to Ikea. It wasn’t glorious — how could Ikea be glorious? — but it wasn’t terrible. I needed things and I bought them, if reluctantly. I like to put things off, and Ikea doesn’t allow you to put things off. It’s all in front of you, and the price tags whittle away your impulses toward procrastination.
That was Sunday. On Friday, I invited my friend Ryan over to help me build my bedframe. I could do it without him, but I could do it faster with him. We got to work. We used little wrenches that Ikea gave us, and we used them effectively. We made half the thing until I noticed that something was wrong. Ryan was too high on making shit to see, and was confused as I explained it. The sides of the frame were four inches shorter than the bed itself. I looked at the box. The box said the sides were for a Twin/Full bed. My bed is a Queen. I picked up the wrong box. We consoled ourselves with spicy lamb sandwiches, and life was good and bad at the same time.
Last weekend was too snow-packed to fix the problem. This weekend I resolved to go back. I had to get a ride. Zipcar won’t have me. I convinced my friend Chris that it wouldn’t take very long for me to swap one small part out for another; initially skeptical, he resolved to interrupt his stagnant Sunday in Williamsburg to help me out, against every one of his instincts. We drove to the store and I steeled myself for the worst. It was much worse than I thought.
Ikea is designed to give the shopper the most pleasant, facilitated retail experience: Wide, clean lanes, full displays, everything. All the negativity is shoved into the Returns and Exchanges section. They make you take numbers, like delis, and you stand around with hundreds of anxious or angry former customers who just want their money back or to run some sort of scam on the retail giant. The percentages have to be like 90/10 percent, but everyone there feels pre-rejection feeling of rejection. There’s something about the holding area that says You’re Fucked before you’re even called, mostly because you’ve already been dehumanized to the point of farce. This isn’t Hell. It’s too boring to be Hell. It’s like Hell’s waiting room.
So anyhow, I waited in this mess for about 20 minutes before I decided that I didn’t want to wait anymore, mostly for Chris’s sake. He was so anti-Ikea that he had parked his car and decided to take in the soothing vista of New York Harbor, with its slow-moving rusted-out cargo ships and scenic Staten Island. Basically, I had about 10 minutes before he flipped and drove his back to the Burg with my sweater in tow. So I just got behind a register and pretended it was a line. When I got to the front, the cashier scolded me. “Next time,” she said, with the knowing inflection that there would be no next time, but we’d both pretend there would be so we could process my simple rutrn, “don’t come here unless I call you.” Scan, scan, card, sign, money, receipt. Back into the store I went to get the right size. Seven minutes later, I was headed back north. Chris drove me around the block, dropped me off, and sped home.
I got inside and put them in my hallway. It was only 3 p.m, and it was so nice out! Time to go back outside. But I lost steam, and I fell asleep on my earthbound bed. I awoke around 7 and realized that I was going to watch the Oscars, and that I’d better make the most of that fact. I heated up some popcorn and poured myself a water. A celebration! But I knew once the show started that the bed frame needed to be made. I’d waited too long. It was a full year ago that Chris told me I’d feel better sleeping up in the air; he said that there was something unspeakably regal about it. I believed him, but never took initiative. Now that I had, I couldn’t in good conscience wait any longer.
It was somewhere in between the Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards that I went to work. I stacked books on the far side of my room to rest the sides upon, and started screwing the pieces together on the near side. It went smoothly for the most part, but occasionally the pieces didn’t fit like they were supposed to, and it took the slightest bit of elbow grease to line them up, and I felt like a king. When it was all done (in 40 minutes, at most), I laid my boxspring and mattress back down and laid on the bed: A new view. An escalation. I was soaring. Chris was right.
But then, back into the living room to watch the Oscars. Suddenly everything was different. From there, the bed used to be only a feature of the bedroom. Now it was dominant. Regal. Royal. I was almost afraid of it. When I eventually tried to turn in, I was both nervous that I was going to fall off and effusively proud of whatever part of myself had actually gotten it done, as if it lived outside of me….
… and then I awoke, the terrestrial radio’s morning nonsense, which is perpetually inspired to be silenced. I dropped with the intent to hit the snooze button, and nearly faceplanted into the all. My legs had dangled for an unexpected half-second; I had forgotten that I was up in the air. I was dazed and braced myself against the dresser to gather my bearings. Remember what you did, I thought…
Then I walked over to the alarm clock, hit snooze, and jumped gingerly back onto the bed. I didn’t want to break the frame on the first day. I did this three more times before I got up. When I did, I slunk into the living room, confident that I lacked the energy for the pommel-horse leap back onto the bed. Chris and the Swedes had won. I was back on Earth for another 18 hours, and it was time to make the best of it.