February 13, 2013

ELIOT: An Ode to IKEA

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At some point, everyone realizes that his or her childhood is over. For me, it happened in an IKEA store last summer. There was no epiphany or moment of satori. My dealings with “phonies” were minimal, and I had little to no desire to run around catching children in a rye field. My parents weren’t murdered by muggers in front of a Gotham City opera house. There was no monumental occurrence that forced me to kiss my childhood goodbye. IKEA killed it.

The Swedes are usually very peaceful (besides that Nobel character who invented dynamite), and if anything, they are known worldwide for their beautiful people, meatballs and moderately priced yet stylish furniture. At any given minute, an IKEA will have at least two or three of those things — or all of them if you get lucky. So how, you might ask, could IKEA possibly have managed to murder my youth? After a little bit of looking around the store, I thought to myself, “Well, that’s a kind of neat bed frame.” Boom. Right there — it was over. My goose is cooked. Stick a fork in me. The kid is dead.

Because here is the thing: this bed was a utilitarian, plain, simple, adult-looking piece of garbage. The Ikeans named it “Malm,” which is Swedish for “ore.” No offense to any geologists reading this, but there is just no way anyone with any child left in him or her should get excited about ore. Furniture stores like IKEA are in the same league as the Home Depot or Joann’s Fabrics — basically Chinese water torture for kids. They go against everything that kids love. You can’t touch anything. There is nothing interactive. The toilets on the showroom floor don’t actually work. It’s just a bunch of quiet, boring adults wandering through a maze of furniture thinking how that Vittsjö bookshelf  “would really tie the living room together.” And the second I thought to myself, “Well, that’s a neat bed frame,” I became one of those quiet, boring adults who walks around IKEA enjoying furniture. I may as well have started thinking about the status of my 401k, the soothing qualities of the color taupe or enjoyed the movie Sideways. Boring adult stuff. And when I got a little bit excited about a boring piece of furniture, I was just a boring adult, and it was time to get a shovel and start burying all my hopes and dreams.

Of course, the Ikeans didn’t suck all the child out of me. I still eat Gummy-Vites. I enjoy a nice episode of Hey Arnold from time to time. But I was forced to actually reflect a little bit on how I am getting older. I don’t think it was the bed that really razzed my berries, if you will. I got excited because it made me think of how eventually I would need to buy furniture and other modern European home décor for the apartment upon my impending independence (although I am pushing for another 20 great years in the Eliot basement!), All of us must go through something like this at some points in our lives. And while adults do have to act more seriously and deal with more responsibility than a youngster (or whatever it is I should be calling them), the fun never totally dies. My dad, for example, thinks he is very fun (thinks).

Ikeans aren’t total monsters in my mind for making me think about how I was getting older. IKEA can teach you some profoundly influential lessons in your life. For example: It teaches us to be more open to different things and embrace foreign cultures. IKEA furniture requires assembly. It teaches us that we need to work for things we want. For example, if we want an ottoman we need to figure out how to use these weird tools that probably don’t exist outside of IKEA or the borders of Sweden. It teaches us to recognize and leap at a bargain whenever we see one. And after all, it isn’t a terrible disaster to realize that you are getting older. I did , and now I feel totally justified by my maturity when I walk around all day in a smoking jacket and constantly have a Sherlock Holmes pipe in my mouth.

Christo Eliot is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. He may be reached at celiot@cornellsun.com. The Tale of the Dingo at Midnight appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Christo Eliot