No, sadly, no. There is no IKEA in Tunisia. Kuwait, yes. Saudia Arabia, yes. United Arab Emirates, yes. Tunisia, no. In fact, there is no IKEA on this entire continent. So today I had to make my own Swedish meatballs. They were pretty tasty, if I say so myself, although there is no lingonberry jam in Tunisia either. Of course, at least I was able to substitute creme fraiche for the sour cream in the recipe, and I think that almost made up for it.
When we lived in San Diego, IKEA was our home away from home. It was one of our favorite “safe” places to go when we were stressed out about running our business, and needed a place to talk, where our children could happily entertain themselves. Our other safe place was the Birch Aquarium, where we spent countless hours sitting hunched over our laptops in the room with the huge two-story kelp tank, feeling our hearts beat with the subtle throb of the tide, and subliminally memorizing the movie about the sea bass the size of a car and the need to preserve ocean habitats. It’s true, I can still visit via their gorgeous HD KelpCam, but somehow it’s just not quite the same. And it’s always nighttime at the aquarium when I tune in from Tunisia.
IKEA, though, was an indulgence we could combine with practical errands. I mean, when you need an extension cord, a lightbulb, or a napkin dispenser, it totally makes sense to drive 45 minutes through Southern California traffic, spend hours lost in a gigantic showroom, and then thread your way through a warehouse maze of pallets and metal shelving skyscrapers.
And am I the only one who goes to IKEA to eat? I don’t like hot dogs in my real life. But I can’t walk out of IKEA without breaking down and eating (at least) one. It’s not my fault! I can always smell them as I’m leaving. Besides, I’m sure I’ve walked almost a marathon through the showroom and warehouse, especially since I can’t always find the hidden shortcuts, and you have to walk all the way back through to get to the bathroom, once for yourself, and then again for the child who didn’t need to go until right after the bathroom run.
There is free babysitting at IKEA, but we never used it. We always just ended up in the children’s section, where playing with the floor model furniture and toys is encouraged. Coincidentally, the children’s section is at the end of the showroom, and right next to the restaurant, so after we’d walked our IKEA mile and slid down the dragon slide enough times, it was Swedish meatballs for lunch. Or dinner. Or snack. (but not all three. I don’t think we ever were at IKEA long enough to need two meals, just a meal and then a hot dog pick-me-up.)
Tony and I did quite a lot of work on our business as we walked through IKEA’s model living rooms, kitchens, and studio apartments. So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when IKEA started infiltrating our brains and giving us ideas. One day, we were trying to iron out the details of our company’s future warehouse, and solve the never-ending problem of cutting costs. And I came up with the most awesome inspiration. What if we built ourselves an entire IKEA house inside the warehouse? Like all these cute model rooms in the showroom. Then we’d always be there to supervise, and think of all the rent we’d save! Excited, we actually went through the entire store, writing down (with the little paper and pencil provided) the names and aisle numbers for all our future furniture and accessories. We didn’t come to our senses until a couple of hours later, when we had reached the do-it-yourselves kitchens. That’s when I heard myself saying, “well, if I’m going to live in a warehouse, I need granite countertops!”
We looked at each other, shook our heads out of the IKEA daze, and went off to get an IKEA cinnamon roll. So that was the untimely end of our IKEA house, and we haven’t considered it since. But really, tell me, and be honest; haven’t you ever (at least while you’re there, and under the IKEA spell) fantasized about living in one of those 230-square-foot model apartments, right in the showroom?
photo credit: IKEA, Funabashi Japan