New York

The Journey That Ends With a Three-Dollar Vibrator

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Every 20-something comes across a pivotal moment or two in their post-college lives. First apartment, first job, first taxes … but none of these is more important, more momentous, than The Journey.

The Journey begins in the most humble of places: Port Authority, land of giddy Six Flags goers and exhausted Greyhound riders. But don’t let its drabness deceive—glory awaits patiently. Just as the catalogue promised, buses pull up and are mounted excitedly. Where are they headed? New Jersey. That’s where heaven is. The buses deftly make their way through the Holland Tunnel and emerge seamlessly onto the Turnpike. A few anxiety-ridden minutes later, Mecca rises in the distance. It’s blue façade bright and shiny against the pale sky, it’s yellow letters glowing hopefully. A sigh of relief sweeps over the bus as its passengers clutch their earmarked catalogues with glee. The bus driver gets onto the loudspeaker: “Ladies and Germs (chuckle, chuckle), Welcome to Ikea, Elizabeth, New Jersey.”

Ikea—The Superstore, The Myth, The Legend.

For those of us who tossed our square caps only moments ago, the modern, yet funky, yet austere, yet affordable decorative possibilities that Ikea holds in its moisturized Swedish hands are priceless. There are some things that our money can’t buy, but for stools and dishes and area rugs, there’s Ikea.

But one’s first trip to Ikea means more than just owning a first couch. It is indeed a livserfarenhet—as the Swedes say—a life experience.

At Ikea, an entirely new language awaits the curious furniture buyer. Vowels and consonants that have never stood side by side are now pals in the language of interior design. Mirrors are now “Tydals” or “Sandefjords,” a coffee table has morphed, seemingly overnight, into a “Svansbo,” and a bed, the simple place you lay your tired work-ridden body to rest, has become a “Bangsand.” Well, that one kind of makes sense, “Bang,” get it? Get it?

I do.

These new names do things to your tongue that Jenna Jameson has yet to tackle. And girl is for serious when it comes to her tongue.

On my first trip to Ikea, I, like my fellow life-newbies, had a strict budget with which to furnish my apartment. But Ikea is full of possibilities. Everything is only a dollar! Maybe two! Suddenly, I was the owner of bowls for serving and bowls for display, bowls for eating and bowls for dogs (which my building doesn’t allow). I bought 16 glasses for a mere 20 cents each. I bought a mini-blender that doubles as a high tech vibrator. For THREE dollars!

I soon found myself way in over my head. But I didn’t care. I have credit. God bless America.

I returned home laden with boxes and a head full of possibilities. “I’m a decorating guru,” I told myself. Todd Oldham, watch out. Soon I will be the one weaving placemats for Katie Couric. My time has come!

But I neglected to remember one important step in the Ikea process—assembly.

And for the record, assembly is bullshit. My hopes were quickly dashed like a contestant on America’s Next Top Model as I tried squeezing my couch into its cream colored slipcover. This turned out to be as enjoyable as fitting your fattest friend into her prom dress circa 1999.

I tore open boxes only to be faced with instructions. Without words. Hieroglyphics that ancient Egyptians couldn’t decipher. I stared at them blankly for hours on end, incessant white noise filling my head. I got a migraine, but I persevered. I called Ikea customer service.

“Give me some words,” I begged them, “Please.”

But my prayers went unanswered. They merely put me on their “super” mailing list. Effin’ sweet!

I returned to my instructions. I tried using the handy tool they pass off as a “screwdriver” but to no avail. I needed help, so I called my father. Instead of offering up his toolkit, he went on a long rant about how he and my mother didn’t even HAVE Ikea back in the day, and if they did, they wouldn’t even have been able to AFFORD Ikea. All they had was a single nubby brown Salvation Army couch in their first apartment. Who was I to be complaining?

Who was I indeed? I was a girl with a semi-assembled Ektorp on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I decided to go on a walk and think of plan B. Distracted, and quite frankly, not really looking my hottest, I waited for the elevator. Suddenly, I heard an angelic voice.

“Hi. I’m Lewis, 3B. Are you just moving in?”

I turned to face the stranger (now neighbor) and found a good looking, twenty-five year old guy smiling down at me. He glanced at the boxes piled up at the end of the hall, and then said the magic words:

“Need any help?”

I was sold. We assembled joyously all afternoon long, and so, from Ikea, an in-the-building-crush was born.

Goodbye blender.

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