In April of 1981, I was rolling through the aisles of a fascinating store in Freiburg im Breisgau, in (West) Germany. I’d moved to Germany on the day of Reagan’s inauguration, and after some months in a residential hotel I was moving into my own 12 square meter (129 square feet) apartment. I needed to furnish it, and my German friends had pointed me to this new store on the edge of town, a Swedish firm called IKEA.
I loved the stuff, and still do: the simple clean Scandinavian look has always appealed to me. It had other advantages: it was cheap, it could be broken down and packed if I decided to take anything back to the States with me, and it was cheap.
When I eventually came back to the US and moved to North Carolina, there was an IKEA store built between Richmond and Washington DC, a feasible drive in itself and also something I drove past fairly regularly, as my grad school was largely funded by DARPA and similar agencies. I’d almost always at least stop in and buy some elegant unnecessary plastic objects, kitchen stuff, a lamp, and eat in the cafeteria which specialized in things like Swedish meatballs and smoked reindeer brisket.
So, IKEA finally decided to build a store here in the Denver area, in Centennial. (James Michener fans: the town of Centennial, Colorado, is named after the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado, from Michener’s novel about Colorado history, Centennial. The fictional Centennial was roughly 50 miles north and roughly corresponds to the town of Greeley. Don’t say you haven’t learned anything today.) I was anxious to look it over, plus I’ve just moved into a house and need more furniture. Specifically, I wanted a really simple, round glass-topped dining table, and I was willing to bet IKEA would have it.
My mother decided she wanted to see it. (Insert sinister foreshadowing music here.) She’s 76, has great trouble walking due to hip troubles, has breathing troubles, is nearly blind, and has a continuing assortment of leg injuries from walking into things and/or falling.
This makes the IKEA trip into an Adventure. I checked, and IKEA does provide wheelchairs; I informed my mother we were getting a wheelchair. I get her in my car, we drive to IKEA about a half hour away, arriving at around 11AM.
Now the adventure begins: the store has so much traffic that there are temp workers in orange tabards, directing traffic with orange plastic wands into the parking lots.
Outlying parking lots.
The temp workers don’t know how to get to the Handicapped spaces, but they all either think they do or they don’t want to cope with the increasingly annoyed middle aged man driving: they direct me hither and yon and say “Oh I’ll radio ahead,” although to whom was unclear. We finally find a parking place close enough that Mom says she can walk that far. Park, get her out of the car. Start walking.
Surprise: the big sign that says ENTRANCE is just directions. The actual ENTRANCE is probably 200 years further through the parking garage — which is half-empty, there apparently being a special privilege sticker for garage parking that I don’t have. Um, 200 yards further, Freudian slip After several rest stops, we finally got into the ENTRANCE — which was actually the elevator lobby below the actual ENTRANCE.
There was a quotation above the elevator: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” It’s now about 11:30.
Up the elevator, and having now walked further than she probably has in years, Mom was ready for the wheelchair.