The only time I ever went to Ikea, I said I'd never, ever go again.
I had a horrible sensation in that cavernous place of being shunted relentlessly along some kind of huge production line, except I was the one on the conveyor belt, and the products had all jumped off and arranged themselves along the sides. The journey to the end seemed impossibly long, through many twists and turns, and I frequently had the desperate, queasy feeling that I'd somehow gone back to the beginning and started all over again. There were occasional glimpses of daylight, but no way out. Except, of course, through the massive stacks of flat packs, and the check out at the end. I emerged, on that occasion, beyond exhausted. My body ached hugely more than it normally does, as if I'd been put through some awful physical ordeal while in a hypnotic state.
But L. asked me to go with her to look for a fold down table for her kitchen, so naturally, I went again. I thought I might look for a little outdoor table to go on the new paving.
You would think that my previous experience would have alerted me to the weirdly mind altering trap of that conveyor belt.
I got a trolley at the entrance not because I intended to put anything in it, but because I thought, canny-ly, that I'd use it as a sort of walker.
I saw the table that would do the job for the paving very quickly. Perfect really, if a little flimsy, and only $50. I wrote down it's details, not completely sure whether at the end I'd buy it or not. L. also saw the table she wanted - $149, but said she'd wait until she had the money.
Then we saw breadboards! Lovely wooden ones, and only $9.90!
'They're so lovely!' said L.
'I can't believe they're only $10. I'd really like one, but I've got three breadboards at home. But you need one!'
'Yes, I do. I love them!.'
'I'll get one for you.'
Breadboard goes into trolley.
Then we see the most beautiful doona cover, with matching pillow slips. It's an English wildflower design! in lovely greens and yellows. L. loves it too.
'It's only $40!'
'That's incredibly cheap. It's such nice quality, and a lovely design.'
'I'm going to get one,' says L, putting one in the trolley.
I hesitate. 'Are they Queen size?'
She checks. 'Yes!'
I try to think of the colour scheme in the guest bedroom, but strangely I can't remember it at all. All I can see is the lovely fresh green and yellow flowers. 'But surely the pillow slips aren't included too?'
'They are Mum! Four of them!' This seems remarkable. I seem not to remember that pillow slips are almost always included with doona covers. And even though the pillows are all exhibited very attractively on the beautifully made up bed, I fail to take in that they are none of them standard sizes.
'Get one,' says L decisively, throwing another one into the trolley, ' instead of the chopping board.' She takes the chopping board out, and leaves it on the bed - a generous gesture that eclipses my own. I think my passivity markers have all gone up. We walk on.
In the children's section, I pick up a set of brightly coloured plastic figures, the sort of thing I usually barely glance at. A set of four for $9.95!
'But what are they?" I puzzle. wanting them badly. I want them to be little containers for paint or something, but no, they are just plastic figures. I put them back.
Paper! L. says the pack of coloured paper is very cheap, at $9.90. (So many things seem to be just less than $10!) I think it might be good for the children to draw on;then we see a roll of paper. What a great idea! You can tear pieces off for the children to draw on! I chuck a roll in the trolley.
Cushions! What nice designs they are and can it really be that they're only $5.00? Yes, but they're sold out, apparently. We are disappointed, but then I see a large cushion insert, actually with a feather filling, that would be perfect for the cushion cover I just finished making. And it's only $12 something or other.
'What a shame,' I say to L. 'I just bought a cushion insert from the DFO yesterday for $20, and it's not nearly as good as this one.'I turn the cushion insert over, feeling it's weight. 'I could take it back, actually.'
'Yes, you should,' says L.
The cushion insert goes in the trolley.
I look for the Swedish meatballs to take home to D, but they only have the vegetable ones. I grab a bag of frozen ones instead - he'll be able to have Swedish meatballs at home! Then I see coffee - 200 grams for only $5.49. I drop one in the trolley. I have to buy coffee anyway, and Aldi's coffee has got unreliable. I forget to check if it's Fair Trade, even though this has been a make or break factor in my coffee purchasing for some years now.
At the checkout, the very sweet assistant tells me I've picked up the display cushion insert, and must change it for a wrapped one. L. runs all the way back in her high heels to get one for me.
When I finally put the contents of the trolley through, it comes to $74,00 - for a roll of paper, a cushion insert, 200 grams of coffee, a kilo of Swedish meatballs, and a doona cover. I had not planned on buying a single one of these things.
We leave in good spirits, although we're both utterly buggered. L. says she should have worn her sneakers. We have both decided to save buying the tables we went in for until another day.
Much later, driving home over the mountain, I think - I could have given her the $74, she could have saved the $40 she spent on the doona cover, and then only had to find another $35 for the table she wanted.
Or - I could have bought the table I wanted, and still had $24.
When I get home, I see that the yellows and greens of the doona cover are completely wrong for the room. I'll have to take it back.