I had to move some furniture around to get at the wall switch after the power went out in my office a couple of weeks ago. I shifted one of the new bookcases over to the other side of the room, next to the window, and hey lemme tell ya, it looked great there. So great that I decided to get another one just for that spot. When the blinds are open, with a bookcase there, the folks who drive by the house would be able to look in and see just how powerfully literate I am, and if they drive slowly enough they'll get a glimpse at the heady mix of titles in my library. How could I resist the chance to show off "Love's Throbbing Fever" or "Passion's Flaming Bondage" or "Hjellström's Definitive Guide To Orienteering Part 6 - The Quadrangle"? I grew warm with anticipation.
This meant another trip to IKEA.
I envisioned a solo trip at first, flying cleanly through the store, but Viv said she wanted to do some holiday shopping and IKEA seemed like a good place to do it. Since on our previous visit we'd gotten two of the unassembled bookcases to fit nicely into our car, we figured that even with several bags of smaller items meant to accessorize our lives and the lives of those whose lives we love, we'd be okay cargo-space-wise. And since I was in a good mood, moseying was doable.
So yesterday we took the scenic route, avoiding the freeway that is Viv's daily commute, and descended into Burbank from the north. Parking was relatively easy, we knew what we were there for, and we had the rest of our young lives ahead of us.
We sailed through the upstairs showrooms, stopping only so that I could make note of the particular bookcase I wanted and submit the written order to a clerk. In his snappy red and white striped shirt, our customer service representative cheerily asked which bookcase I wanted and I told him I wanted the 80'' tall one, not the 42". His digits danced across the keyboard to find that yes, they had forty in stock. In seconds I had my little printout to give to the cashier. I slipped it into my pocket and we flew down the stairs and into the sea of life-accessorizing merchandise.
We saw it all. Kitchenland, bedroomland, lampland, rugland, pick a land, any land, we were there. It took less than an hour to make it all the way through.
We think it was a record.
Standing in a checkout line is a sport. Wagering is possible on who'll hit the registers first, or which shopper will prompt the first call upstairs to untie the Gordian knot of an exchange transaction. And there's always the negotiator, some customer, usually with a foreign accent, not that there's anything wrong with that, who hasn't quite lost the bargaining gene, quibbling over a scratched-off price sticker. Scanners must be the scourge of the bartering class.
When it was our turn, we put our stuff onto the conveyor, point, beep, click, it's over. I write the check and we're on our way out the door when I realize that in my pocket is a little piece of paper that's supposed to be a bookcase by now. Shit. Okay, no problem, it's just a little sand in the gears. I get back in line while Viv and Amy loiter off to one side.
Of course, the lines are shorter now. Of course. Grrr.
With my papers squared away now, we head for Furniture Pick-Up. I get in line to have my papers stamped und put in order und then I am told it will be twenty minutes.
To keep from getting waiting room-itis, that syndrome wherein something eats away the lining of one's patience, we all head for the car to load the items we can carry and then drive the car around to the loading zone.
We roll into the LZ where the guard directs us to a spot. This involves a man in a blue uniform doing some looking and some pointing. This may appear to be a superficial job, but he's there for a reason. This is the man who calls the police when the customers start taking pokes at each other, and from a general observation of the driving styles in this small lot, I figure they have two or three slugfests a week. This is, after all the culmination of a long journey through merchandise and into madness -- everyone goes in with a dream, and in the process sacrifices are made, and budgets rethought. Compromise is always the victor here, leaving those who make it out alive with a memory of a once-grand vision, some curtailed self-esteem, and a tiny lamp.
I park the car and go inside, leaving Viv and Amy to amuse themselves amid the honking and the gesturing.
My name is called, there's more shuffling of papers, and then I'm out the door with my bookcase in a large flat box. Viv has opened the hatchback and now the wrestling begins. But there was no worry this time about whether we'd be able to fit everything in our car. We'd done this before.
Apparently the trick is in the configuration of the seats and the visors and the brake handle. There must've been a particular combination of those elements that we are overlooking because this is definitely more difficult than last time.
Ah ha! Last time there were two 80" bookcases, and now, with just the one, the weight is not enough to press down the folded seat to where we get clearance along the headliner. That must be it. I am proud of my brain.
As we pushed and pulled and lifted and tugged we saw afternoon go to sunset and dusk. I am becoming more determined to repeat the physics of our last purchase, the one where all loading was smooth. Where once my heart was filled with gladness and pride for having bought a small car that big things fit into, my car was now sending me into a fit.
"We did this before, what's wrong with us now?" Grrr².
I am testy now, and Viv knows it. A passive/aggressive conversation is about to reach full flower when finally, some progress. I push just a little more to get clearance past the back lip of the trunk area and yes! It clears! I go around to the passenger side to make sure Viv will have enough room for the trip home. A quick glance confirms that indeed she will have room. This same glance also confirms that at some point one of my shoves has pushed a corner of the box through the windshield. Shit. There it is. A web of cracks the size of a large man's hand. The sand in the gears is looking more boulder-like now.
So I'm standing there in the dark of the now-less-populated loading zone, and in my head I am scrolling down the list of ways to break this news to Viv. Since the corner of the box is still pressed against the windshield, I have to discard the scenario wherein I summon my acting skills, leap into outrage and say "Oh my God Viv! Did you see what that guy just threw from that passing car?" If I use the phantom car excuse I must remember to blink a lot. It makes me look more sincere. But in 2 or 3 seconds I discard this option as juvenile.
I know! I'll fake a fainting spell and throw my skull into the glass, thus absolving me of stupidity while generating heaps of sympathy. No. Too time-consuming. After all, the box is in the car now, and if I simply admit the truth we could be home in less than an hour.
So... "Oops. I broke the windshield."
"I broke the windshield. Look. See?"
Viv is frozen in disbelief. It was our first new car. It's almost ten years old now, but it was our first new car. We stand there in the night, alone with our own memories running in slow motion of when our first new car took its first turns, honked its first honks, and now, look what I've done.
It was a quiet drive home. There was no laughing, no talk. Just the sound of a radio playing music too softly, the volume forgotten in the fog of just wanting to get home without hearing the sudden crash of a million pieces of broken glass collapsing into our laps at 65 mph.
Mix three parts fatigue, two parts frustration, a pinch of rudeness, one heaping shovelful of stupidity, a dash of anger, blend. Garnish with egg on the face of a man who failed to remember that these bookcases come not only in two heights but in two widths as well, and guess what size they were last time.
I'm lying down now. In a few minutes I'll reach over for the phone and call the auto glass place. But for now I'm just going to stay put. Not moving, not planning anything. Just lying here reading a catalog by the light of my tiny lamp.
"Same Situation" -- Joni Mitchell -- COURT AND SPARK
Wisdom of the Day:
"Several excuses are always less convincing than one."
- Aldous Huxley