Saturday two very exciting things happened to me:
1. I lost my Ikea virginity and
2. I was informed by my true love that my cell phone has a G-spot, and that he had found it.
Really, for a staid, middle-aged, suburban lady such as myself, it was almost too much excitement to bear!
Let's talk about Ikea first. Although it's true that homogeneity is anathema to my deepest sensibilities, I have always wanted to at least visit the "local" Ikea, the one in Stoughton, MA, that opened up about three years ago. I have spent time in the bathroom poring over the catalog. I have heard countless anecdotes and arguments about both its wondrousness and its preposterousness. I just never had a reason to actually pick myself up and go there. See, Ikea opened this "local" store a few months after we moved into our current apartment, and by then we already had acquired and installed everything we needed in terms of storage and organizational furniture.
However, a sad truth of my life is that as my mobility has decreased, my laziness has increased. An unforeseen consequence of laziness is the way it usually begets more labor in the long run than on-the-spot diligence. Case in point: Until Saturday, there was but one trash can in my studio, and it was never in exactly the right place for wherever I might be working at any given moment. So as I worked on my various projects, I would create a certain amount of mess, but not having anywhere readily at hand in which to deposit it, and being too lazy to go a whole two or three feet around my work table to find the one studio trash can and bring it to the mess in question, I would simply drop the mess on the floor wherever I was. This meant I would have to pick it up later. This meant extra time spent cleaning my studio, not making stuff.
As I have mentioned once or twice recently, I am honestly quite tired. I never smile upon the prospect of spending any energy whatsoever on housekeeping, but now such a prospect feels especially onerous. Clearly, I needed to acquire at least one other wastebasket. That way I could have one at my work table, and one at my desk, and in a room this small, that really should be enough for even the laziest artsy idyll in which I might engage.
There are nice trash cans to be found all over the local home décor marketplace for $20 and up apiece, and there are ugly but functional trash cans to be found at any hardware store for less. I wanted pretty, or at least cute, yet I did not want to spend $20 or more. Eventually, I found my ideal trash can -- washable plastic, cheerful toy red, very convenient in size and shape -- online at Ikea for just under $3.
Ikea displays a lot of tempting, inexpensive merchandise online, but you can't order it all electronically. Many of its smaller, less expensive offerings must be purchased in person at one of its stores. There are not many of these stores. They do not exist in every United State, and there is only one within the borders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that one in Stoughton. Until Saturday, I didn't even know where Stoughton was, but I was pretty sure it was going to cost more than $3 in gasoline to get there and back, and that seemed kind of ridiculous if I was only going there to buy a $3 trash can.
Plus, at the risk of repeating myself, I have been TIRED. (Sometime when I feel less tired perhaps I will explain why I am so tired. Or maybe I won't. Talking about it is tiresome in and of itself.) The tiredness, it does not make me a better driver, and the thought of driving myself somewhere far away over unknown, weird-ass, Massachusetts highways, the kind where I might find myself having to merge without sufficient notice onto another highway from the left lane (the fast lane) of my current highway, and seriously, all for a $3 trashcan (albeit a pleasingly round and red one), this thought did not tickle my fancy.
But then I got an e-mail from my friend D.
D. was wondering what I might be planning this weekend. She wanted to know if I wanted to have lunch with her and maybe go on a little adventure. As it happens, D. has been trying to drag me to the Ikea store in Stoughton ever since it opened, because she has known all along that I would enjoy myself there.
D. is a great pal, an excellent person to hang out with, especially to go on hare-brained shopping excursions with, and this only partly because she is one of the rare people in my life who understand that just because I've given up a leg and had a brain tumor and now seem to be dying (but might not be) of this filthy cancer I've had most of my life doesn't mean we can't have a good laugh about it. So when I told her she could do me a mitzvah and take me to Ikea on Saturday, because a trip to Ikea has been on my "life list," like, forever AND I also needed a $3 trash can, she was appropriately enthusiastic -- and she knew I was kidding about the whole "life list" thing. (Perhaps you are more familiar with the term "bucket list." Either way, IMO, it's stupid -- unless there's a LOLrus involved.)
I have to tell you, Ikea is everything people say it is, without question an odd and hilarious place, and of course I totally enjoyed myself there. On the experienced advice of D., we went as early in the day as we could. It is an extremely large two-storey, warehouse-style building with bare metal beams and pipes and what I remember as bare concrete floors, and with both a two-storey parking structure and a huge lot of further outdoor parking at ground level. Before a typical Saturday concludes, I am told that every space in all these parking facilities will be filled. Madness.
It is a lovely, lovely place, though, a clean and pleasant place of courtesy and wonder in spite of the culture of homogeneity it both panders to and cultivates via the mass production and retail of frequently adorable and mostly affordable efficiency as both product and lifestyle. There are escalators you can ride even with a gigantic cart literally overflowing with purchases. Yes, you read correctly; you can bring your shopping cart on the escalator! You don't even have to hold onto it. You can push it on, then hug your baby with both arms while all of you effortlessly glide downhill to the floor on which you parked. (There are also elevators, and stairs for the less encumbered.) There are automatic cart-dispensing machines. There are seasonal mass-produced treasures such as strings of colored lights, but also perennial Swedish-flavored tchotchkes like Dala horses, only painted plain black without flourishes, the Ikea way, the mostly clean and basic way. (Yes, you can have exactly the same décor elements in your home as 300,000 of your closest neighbors, but you can also bring your personal creativity to bear and make it your own to whatever extent you choose. A little judicious tole painting, for example, and damn if that isn't your Dala horse, your very own. Much of Ikea's offerings are like this, all kinds of clean slates full of potential.)
People bring their whole families and spend the entire day. It is more than a shopping trip; it is a jaunt. There are furniture, dishes, cookwares, linens, bathroom furnishings, lighting and organizers galore, sure, but also toys and food.
There are two restaurants within the building, each outfitted with parking spaces for shopping carts so that shoppers don't even have to check out or go to the car before dining. One of them is a little "bistro" that sells hot dogs and also enormous, delicious 99-cent cinnamon rolls you can smell baking all day through the entire first floor, and it is attached to a small grocery store area purveying "Swedish delights" -- gravlax, sauce for gravlax, herring, funny little boxed pastries, cookies, sweetened fruit sodas, sacks of pre-cooked frozen Swedish meatballs, etc. (In truth, I was very excited, possibly disproportionately excited, about finally having the chance to explore the "Swedish delights" section. See, I had read about it in the catalog.)
There is another restaurant upstairs, where there is also an expansive showroom of already-assembled furniture. (In case you didn't know, most Ikea furniture is sold unassembled, in efficiently flat, brown, cardboard boxes the advertisements show can fit even in multiples on top of a tiny European compact car.) The upstairs restaurant is a cafeteria where you can taste many of the famous "Swedish delights," prepared and served by cheerful staff on real dishes with real glasses and metal utensils for your own immediate delight.
We found my $3 trash can.
Turns out, it was actually only $2, so I decided I might as well go ahead and buy two. I am, after all, increasingly lazy, and who knows when I might discover the need to have another conveniently located within reach of my ever less mobile or motivated ass? So though I had come there for the red, I went ahead and picked up one of these fetching translucent white ones, too.
(Please look only at the eminently practical cuteness of the bland white plastic trash can which only cost $2 at Ikea. Please do not notice the cobwebs on the wall, the filth collecting on the baseboard heater cover, or the elegant way I use still-packaged scrubby sponges to shim my furniture on the irregularly sloped floors of my kitchen.)
So, mission accomplished, right? Yes, except there was no way I was going to visit Ikea and not sample those much touted "Swedish delights" described in the catalog and advertised all over the store. Also, I had to repay D. for driving, for putting up with the fact that I walk a little bit slower than your typical octogenarian just now because I've lost so much weight that Action Barbie doesn't fit anymore, and for serving as my guide in this magical new land.
Moving on to another sad truth about my life just now, there's honestly not a lot that I can eat without dramatic, often painful repercussion, and of those dishes, I can't eat very much at one sitting and also have to eat very slowly. So while D. happily ordered a combo including Swedish meatballs, noodles, vegetables, cream sauce, salad and garlic toast (for $4.99), I was thrilled to discover this far less digestively challenging plate of poached salmon surrounded by lovely fresh vegetables and a few other things including an inexplicable little tub of unadulterated sour cream (also $4.99).
D. was sure I would select something decadent for dessert, and normally I would have if only for a taste, but lately I have been dreaming about Jell-O. Go figure. And when I saw that this Jell-O was topped with yet another "Swedish delight" -- a Swedish fish! -- how could I resist?
And, oh my goodness, what is that but a dollop of whipped cream underneath? Really? Oho, now that is true decadence! Right? Right?
I'd never tasted Swedish fish enrobed by whipped cream before. I prepared to relish this new experience.
Sadly, I have no footage of what happened next.
First, the candy was stale. Typically Swedish fish, in case you have somehow escaped the pleasure to date, are soft, the softest of artificially colored and flavored fruity gummy candies. This one was hard as a rock.
Second, that is not whipped cream. I don't know what it is, whipped white sugar topping of some sort.
While I am not opposed to such things in theory, I can neither explain nor accurately describe to you the instantaneous revulsion with which my gullet responded to the combination of stale, rock-hard red Swedish fish and whipped white sugar topping. It was like everything in my body slammed shut all at once. It was as though my body was screaming with outrage, "What? You won't do chemo but you'll subject me to this? Are you freakin' out of your mind?"
So out came the Swedish fish and whipped white sugar topping, straight into a paper napkin.
And after a few moments of shuddering and deep breathing and D. and I both laughing uncontrollably (though she a little harder than I, truth be told), a good third of the nice red Jell-O -- cooked kind of on the wet side, just the way my mom used to make it -- went down quite nicely. And stayed down. And that was lovely.
And D. got to have decadent chocolate cake, and also bring home some of my salmon to her adorable aging kitty cat. So all in all, it was really a perfect day.
As I have intimated, more excitement awaited me at home. But before I get to that, I just have one more little valentine to Ikea to pen.
Oh, Ikea -- how I love your restrooms.
Let me tell you something. When one is disabled, putatively disabled, borderline disabled, temporarily disabled, or whatever, one notices things about public restrooms that other people have not yet been forced to notice. For example, most public restrooms put handicapped-accessible stalls all the way at the very end of the restroom, as far away from the entrance as possible. If one is in a wheelchair, especially a motorized wheelchair, perhaps it doesn't matter much. However, if one is hobbling around on crutches or a cane, and especially if the condition requiring one to do so is also painful, let me tell you: it matters. In fact, it seems absurd. And punishing.
Then, when we have finally made our way all the way down the entire length of the sometimes quite sizable and often randomly slippery, wet restroom to the one stall that will fit a wheelchair or that has handlebars to keep us from falling, as often as not we discover that this is also the location of the baby changing table, the large, not necessarily clean baby changing table that may or may not have been left locked in the upright position after its last use, and the not necessarily fresh-as-a-rose place where used diapers are desposited. This of course is not only nasty, inconvenient and sometimes outright hazardous to disabled restroom users, but puts us in the ridiculous position of having to compete with mothers who have babies to change.
("Which never happens," my true love piped up when I told him what I am telling you.
"Oh?" I replied. "And when was the last time you had to use a handicapped stall or a diaper changing station in a women's restroom?"
"Good point," he conceded, quickly remembering that women's restrooms are totally different, both in landscape and traffic patterns. But I digress.)
None of these problems exist at my "local" Ikea. This seems to be because Ikea really is a family-friendly haven of cleanliness and efficiency as well as considerate to the disabled.
When you enter the restroom area of Ikea, the first room is neither a men's room nor a women's room; it is an infant care room. Yes. There is an entire room devoted to caring for infants.
When you enter the ladies' room, the very first stall is handicapped-accessible. Yes. The first one. There is no diaper-changing station in it. However, there are also two more handicapped-accessible stalls all the way at the end of the room, and there is yet another diaper-changing station on the wall on the way there -- on the same wall with the sinks and paper towels, not inside the handicapped-accessible toilet stalls.
Oh, and by the way, the entire facility was quite clean when I visited it this Saturday, with a cleaning cart out of the way but ready to use near the door, and a clearly displayed cleaning record.
Outstanding, Ikea! Thank you! This is how it should be everywhere. This is certainly how it should be everywhere new. There is no excuse not to build with this level of consideration, especially in large establishments such as malls and convention centers.
I'll be back, Ikea! I'll be back for more "Swedish delights," sure, but also for such a heavenly (if inexcusably singular) pee break experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you; it is always thrilling to see what can be accomplished when people think about these things.
Okay, on to my final thrill of the day.
"I figured out what was wrong with your cell phone," my true love announced while I was unpacking all the things I had bought at Ikea -- 'cause, yeah, I bought the two trash cans, but then there were also the two-pack white plastic cutting boards (never have enough of those) for $2.99 and the extra $15 in "Swedish delights" (sack of frozen meatballs, chocolate-coconut "delicatoboll" cakes, lingonberry jam -- all of it indeed quite delightful, as billed).
"Oh, even though I asked you not to bother because I can't stand to think about it because it annoys the crap out of me?"
"Yes. I had to."
"Okay. So what did you discover?"
"Your cell phone has a G-spot! And I found it! The reason its battery won't charge is that the plug has to be in exactly the right place or it just won't do anything. But after wiggling it around a bit, I found the right spot, kind of up and in front, and as long as contact is maintained, the charge will complete."
This is my phone fully charged after hours of uninterrupted contact:
It's true, you know. My phone's charging socket really is this fussy. And you can tell when it's started charging as opposed to when the charge has been interrupted. When the spot is being hit correctly, a graphic of a green arrow inside a tight-fitting box flashes on the screen, and the phone cries "BEEP!" When the flow of electricity through the socket is interrupted, the phone whimpers "BOOP!" and the box goes dark or pale, depending on how much charge the phone has received up to that point.
Look, I have film. This is me making it respond as described just by wiggling it in my hand while the charging nozzle is inside it. (NOTE: Ironically enough, video may be unavailable for awhile because YouTube is being serviced.)
It's been driving me crazy because I can't just leave the thing hooked up, walk away, and expect the phone to be ready to use whenever I need it, because I live in a hundred-year-old house with funky floors right across the street from a commuter rail station. Every time a train goes by -- nay, every time I step on a particular floor board while passing the piece of furniture on which my phone rests -- the phone makes noise. "BEEP! BOOP!" or "BEEP! BOOP! BEEP!" Or sometimes it only says "BEEP!" meaning it's been disconnected for goodness knows how long until right this moment, or "BOOP!" signifying a loss of current that will continue perhaps until another train comes along -- or until I discover that the battery has gone dead because even though the phone's been plugged into the charger this whole time, the plug hasn't been hitting the phone in its special spot so it hasn't been charging at all, maybe for days or weeks.
So this is old news. So where's the thrill, you may ask? Well I'll tell you. Taking his time, using gentle, unexpected patience, my true love not only managed to winkle out the root cause of my dissatisfaction without my having to exert myself in the slightest (I guess it beat studying for his mid-term), but he also managed to find a cozy nook in the kitchen stable enough for an undisturbed hook-up long enough in duration to result in a full charge.
I can't tell you how long it's been. Really, quite thrilling indeed.
Gentle readers, after all this what else could I do but prostrate myself upon my fainting couch, softly collapsed in voluptuous splendor until dinnertime? So beside myself was I that in truth I could not even think how to approach the telling of this tale for fully two days. But at last you have been apprised of my Saturday excitations, and as the telling has worn me out quite completely all over again, I must leave you to fan your own no doubt heaving bosoms in the wake of all this passionate typing.
Yr. affectionate correspondent, etc., etc.