We are an optimistic pair, my husband and I. Or maybe we’re just deluded. It’s entirely possible that enough time had passed since our last assembling experience that we’d forgotten what it was like. For the third time in our lives, we spent an afternoon in purgatory.
It’s when we wander around the large store, staring at the simple, clean lines of Ikea’s furniture, that we get fooled. The fact that we can never find our way out of the store, even with a path of pointing arrows, should clue us in. But. ‘How hard can it be?’ we ask ourselves, even though we KNOW THE ANSWER. The pieces seem to come in three basic categories. Difficult, impossible, and nine floors of Hell.
First of all, MDF, their material of choice, weighs a ton. It’s only when we’re hauling the boxes up three flights of stairs that our backs remind us. And the instructions. Clear drawings of screws, boards, even numbered pages, but no words. The screw drawings have numbers beside them, but when there are ten sets, it doesn’t help much. We peer through our reading glasses, desperately trying to identify one tiny set from the next without losing some. We always lose one screw for at least an hour. We find it by kneeling on it.
The boards are never labeled with simple A, B’s and C’s. Instead, you have to figure out if the tiny, randomly scattered holes match the ones in the diagram. After assembling our last bed frame, a king sized one in a bedroom much too small, we discovered the sides were wrong. We had to undo about five steps before finally getting it right, which didn’t happen for three days.
When assembling furniture with your partner, you have to mind your relationship. How well can you work together when tension is rising, you’ve lost the only Allen wrench, and there are five nuts left at the end? You’ve worn your hottest, itchiest sweater, and climbing around the various pieces has become a game of twister where the other players are bitter, tired and blaming you for the purchase.
‘How could you forget?’ they say. “Me?’ you reply. ‘I told you I hate Ikea.” Blah blah, blah. Of course, all is forgotten once the piece is assembled. Which is how I arrived at this point. It’s like really bad deja vu, only remembering once the box has been opened, the plastic ripped and the allen wrench lost.
Don’t be fooled by the spare, peacefully assembled rooms of the box store. There’s an Ikea employee somewhere, weeping and assembling Billy bookcases and examining his life choices. I feel his pain.