Samuel Johnson famously wrote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” If Johnson had been Swedish, he probably would have written, “When a man is in IKEA he is just plain tired, for there is in IKEA all that life can afford, plus plenty of things it can’t, and also twenty thousand people milling slowly and aimlessly, clogging up the cafeteria line,” or words to that effect.
Today, the Swede in the household thought it was high time we made a pilgrimage to the IKEA in Las Vegas that opened just a week and a half ago. We reasoned that by now things would have calmed down--the opening involved various Nevada officials and people from the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C.--and so made our way across town, my resolve strengthened by the fact that I brought along Daniel Headrick’s Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present for emergencies. It turned out that roughly 200,000 other people had the same idea, and so my idea of a quiet, quick stroll through IKEA to the meatballs at the other end were not to be.
The giant blue building rises like some outlandish bloom from the desert floor, and as we drew near, I saw the flashing lights of so sizable a contingent of Las Vegas’ metro police that I thought perhaps President Obama had got wind of the opening and dropped by for a visit. (I might have guessed it was the Swedish Prime Minister, but I suspect he travels with less fanfare than the average city councillor.)
It turns out that drivers in Vegas are so bad, or the sight of an IKEA makes people take such leave of their senses, or that city planners are so shortsighted that they couldn’t plan properly, such that the police were in place to ensure shoppers were able to enter safely into the gargantuan IKEA parking lot. A sound use of city resources, I’m sure.
Once inside of IKEA we cruised the aisles. I’m not a shopper, and thought about filling out their customer feedback notice suggesting that they install a “fast lane” for people whose primary goal is to bypass the mobs testing beds, chairs, utensils, etc, and get to the cafeteria. The Swede in the household, in her native environment, had other ideas, and so my progress was somewhat slowed by dish drying racks, foot rugs, and other sundry items that were only distractions from the meatballs and mashed potatoes that awaited.
My heart fell when we beheld the cafeteria line, a thrumming, endless horde of animal life. If the photographers and videographers assembled on the Serengeti for the much-celebrated wildebeest migration had been informed of this sight--what appeared to be the entire population of the Valley crammed into a line, hankering after meatballs and gravlax and the free cup of tea you get as an IKEA family member--they would have left the herbivores to the crocodiles in the Masai Mara and arrived forthwith.
What felt like a decade later--but was probably more like an hour and a half--we were seating in a very pleasant window-side table, admiring the views of the mountains, marveling at the bad drivers in the parking lot, and enjoying what was a pretty decent meal, even if the IKEA menu this side of the water isn’t quite up to scratch.
It was a very pleasant lunch, and I’m no stranger to the wonders of IKEA furniture, but I think I will put off returning until the nightmares about getting trampled slowly underfoot by herds of unruly shoppers subside. But I’d encourage fellow Las Vegans to visit the wonder that is IKEA and perhaps also learn something about the social contract in its home country, the lessons of which could be particularly useful for our own sociopathic state’s political community.