I avoided attending IKEA Centennial's July 27 grand opening due to the crowds. But my twin daughters wanted to visit the store on Saturday afternoon to pick up items for the CU dorm room they're going to share, and given that ten days had passed, I figured things would have calmed down. I figured wrong.
We arrived in the general area of the store just shy of 3 p.m. to find cone zones aplenty and an army of traffic coordinators who directed us to an outside parking lot a considerable hike away, presumably because all the inside spaces were already occupied. More store personnel were needed to make sure pedestrians got past vehicles zipping this way and that. But instead of pointing us directly at the main entrance, they led us into another line, cordoned off in classic Disneyland fashion.
The wait wasn't at a Matterhorn level. It took us a little over ten minutes to get to the entryway -- and there were water dispensers at frequent intervals just in case we had heat stroke en route. But the approach indicated how jam-packed the IKEA interior remained. People were everywhere, and if any of them stopped to actually look at a something -- which is, after all, the kind of activity people typically take part in while shopping -- the only alternatives were to stand and wait or veer off into another quadrant of the labyrinth. But that could be a trap, too. What if you didn't really want to spend five minutes perusing bed skirts? And getting back into the flow of humanity without causing even more of a disruption depended on whether the people heading your way were blinded by IKEA fever -- and plenty of them were.
Maybe it's just my dubious sense of direction, but the layout seemed designed to make customers lose their sense of direction. I know I did. After about an hour spent wandering more or less aimlessly, I couldn't tell north from south, or even up from down. Along the way, my daughters' list grew and grew, to the point where our shopping cart began to resemble the Joads' car in The Grapes of Wrath -- an intentional business strategy that definitely paid off when it came to us. Those wily Swedes...
After an hour-plus in this environment, I was on the brink of bursting into tears -- but before I could do so, a nine-year-old beat me to it. My wife, the principal of a school, saw the girl sobbing and looking frantic, and after determining that she'd lost track of her parents amid the mob, she and one of my daughters tried to calm her down while the rest of us sought out store personnel.
We'd alerted a couple of staffers when a passerby recognized the girl and promised to find her folks, which he did within a couple of minutes. The look of relief when she fell into her father's arms was palpable. I wish I'd felt the same way.
At just shy of the two hour mark, we finally made our way through the checkout line, but there was one more indignity to come. The IKEA shopping carts feature high-tech wheels that go sideways more easily than they move forward -- and when my son tried to take advantage of this quirk in the parking lot, one of the wheels caught in a sidewalk gap, causing all of our belongings to spill to the concrete.
No, nothing broke, and we were able to repack the cart and wheel it to our car, about forty miles away, with no further mishaps. By then, however, I was mentally and physically exhausted, not exhilarated by the IKEA experience. Clearly, I'd stopped by too soon, too soon, even though we'd waited well over a week.
By the way, a friend who did attend the store's grand opening came away with this observation: IKEA is Swedish for Target.
If you haven't made a pilgrimage to the store yet, page down below to see shots from our pre-grand opening slideshow -- when you could actually see all the items on display.
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More from our Kenny Be/Comics archive: "IKEA grand opening assembly instructions: Kenny Be's Worst-Case Scenario."