Last night a friend and I made a foray across town to the Beijing Ikea, a giant store that is the size of a small nation (I'm thinking Lichtenstein here). It opened a couple of years ago, and even though I used to shop at Ikea quite regularly, the fact that this one is so far away and that I'd heard horror stories of how crowded it usually is, this was actually my first visit. We figured that on the Monday before Chinese New Year, most shoppers would be in department or grocery stores stocking up on the popular gift items of wine, fruit boxes, and candy and thus would not likely be out buying home furnishings. We were right. It was pleasantly uncrowded.
That's not to say, however, that visiting the Beijing Ikea was an entirely pleasant experience. This Ikea seems to have been designed by an evil Swedish madman. I know, I know---they all are, but given the size of this one the potential for evil to be manifested grows exponentially. And if you think that somehow "Swedish" and "evil" are two words that normally do not go together, then you have obviously never heard of the Vikings (or lutefisk, for that matter). We felt like rats in a maze, part of an experiment to reprogram our brains to allow us to do one thing only: BUY! As we trudged through each department on each floor, we could feel the resistance giving way as the senses were bombarded with reduced prices of kvartals, vinks, lyckligs, skubbs, and ordnings (I eventually broke down and purchased one of those). There was simply no escape. Sure we occasionally spotted shortcuts from our location over to the next aisles, but there were workers in yellow and blue coats with tasers to keep us from deviating from the path assigned by the Swedish madman. YOU MAY NOT SKIP THE ELVERDAMS. KEEP GOING.
Upon reaching the first floor (ordning in hand by now), we committed a major blunder. Rather than proceeding to the checkout counter with our souls and wallets still in tact, we decided that we wanted to return to the 3rd floor cafe for some cheesecake and coffee. We thought we could outsmart the system by taking the elevator straight back up to the 3rd floor. Apparantly this is verboten (or however you say it in Swedish). The elevator we got on only went to the 2nd floor. The elevator from the 2nd to the third floor was at the other end of the store, back through the skamts, sirligs, and isils. Imagine the horror if you were to miss the special prices on those! We asked a clerk if there was a shortcut up to the 3rd floor cafe, and he gave us a stern look that said YOUR ARE ASKING TO VIOLATE THE ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE AND I MAY BE SACRIFICED TO THE NORDIC GODS FOR TELLING YOU BUT I WILL JUST THIS ONCE--GO BACK TO THE MONGSTAD AND TURN RIGHT UNTIL YOU GET TO THE JOKKMOKK. DUCK BEHIND THE BJURSTAS AND THERE YOU WILL FIND A SECRET ELEVATOR. NOW GO AND TELL NO ONE I SPOKE TO YOU. We did as he said and found our cheescake and coffee which gave us the energy for the remainder of the journey to the checkout counter and back to the west side of Beijing. By the time we staggered out of the store we were beating back our own thoughts of burning and pillaging.
Who knew that the socialist Swedes and the socialist Chinese could conspire to produce such a grand spectacle of capitalist frenzy! Sven, Ollie, and The Great Helmsman--together at last!