Yesterday morning at 10.20 am I found myself standing in the dark, staring at a door like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl. Like the little Match Girl, I was hovering in the gloom feeling cold and desperate, but unlike the protagonist of the sad story about the dreams and hopes of a dying girl I was not alone. No lonely vigil for me: that morning I had easily 100 people standing in the shades of artificial crepuscularity waiting and yearning to get through the doors.
My presence in this place was entirely unplanned: my morning was supposed to consist of noodling about in the sun, not this. Not lurking like a troll under a bridge on a perfectly good day. Certainly not standing in a line of cretins whose idea of a good trip out on a Sunday morning is going to IKEA and, to be extra certain that they do not miss a single moment of the experience, have arrived long before the shop actually opens. Why would you do this? Why, if you know the shop opens at 10.30, would you arrive up to half an hour early so you can stand around in the dark? What kind of insanity brings a person to do this? I suppose the kind of insanity that leads people to queue overnight for a lousy half-price sale at Currys or swarm through the doors of Selfridges to try and snag that once in a lifetime bargain or, the Saints preserve us, to camp overnight to attend a JLS book signing.
The reason why I was lurking at the entrance to IKEA, with the thought “Man, I hate IKEA!” running repeatedly through my head is neither here nor there, but I must emphasise at this juncture that I was in this queue by mistake. I had absolutely no intention of getting there super early, as can be evidenced by the fact that I thought the place opened at 10 and so was quite taken aback when we pulled into the car park to find it pretty empty, with cars circling like vultures round the concrete pillars, their lights sweeping across the entrance and bouncing back from the startled eyes of the expectant Morlocks; only the promise of brightly coloured, affordable homeware keeping them from scattering further into the darkness.
I parked up and drifted across to the Gateway to Heaven beyond which could be found the Escalator of Destiny, the Hallway of Unimaginably Fabulous Lifestyles, the Caverns of Unintended Purchase, the Maze of the Wizards of the Storeroom and finally the home of Nommi, the Norse God of Meatballs. Mmm, tasty tasty meatballs. So popular, they have their own Facebook page. But I digress.
What is this phenomenon? Why are we prepared to go through the stress, disorientation and misery and the innumerable bags of tea lights and spoon covers that we somehow find ourselves clutching onto when we emerge exhausted at the other end? What is it about the place that gets under people’s skin? Why does it make people act weirdly, and I mean seriously weirdly? With people actually dying? Where even ’celebrities’ fall foul of the urge to buy tea lights, which just going to show that nobody is immune to the unintended purchase effect.
Because it’s IKEA, that’s why! We flippin’ love IKEA. Everything. Especially their delightful naming conventions, which seems to be a great argument against nominative determinism. Charm the egg slicer and Fantastisk the napkin, are two golden examples of the product not really living up to their names.
So it is perhaps understandable that, back outside the Gateway to Heaven, excitement was at fever pitch as the hapless security chap switched on the Escalator of Destiny, wandered over to the door and fumbled with a large set of keys. An actual cheer went up when the doors finally open and I, with my eyes rolling like a fruit machine, joined the throng of mong disappearing through the entrance, eager to part with their cash on things that they never knew existed, let alone wanted.
And one hour and forty precious minutes later, I emerged battle-worn but victorious, having successfully negotiated every obstacle, even the deadly Sirens (cheap coffee and even cheaper hotdogs). With dignity and wallet mostly intact, I stepped into the light and back to humanity with only one thought on my mind.
“Man, I love IKEA!”