Another Long Saturday Drive

The fabled Swedish meatballs of Ikea

This one not as long as the trip to Brownsville on Monday/Tuesday, which was more in the interests of Watercress business rather than a book event – but anyway, it was long enough; to the main library in Harker Heights, which seems to be a bedroom slipper to Killeen. We zipped up there in the wee hours of Saturday morning, with a tub of books and some freshly-printed postcards, on the promise of about eighteen other authors, and a very popular local event – a book sale to benefit friends of the library. Alas for us – the event was one of those which ask $1 for hardback books, .50 for paperback, and no one staggering away from the main event with a bulging bag of books and change from a $20 bill seemed inclined to pay full price for any of ours. But I handed out a lot of postcards about my books, and talked to other authors, and on the way back … we decided that we would stop in Round Rock and enjoy the Ikea experience.

Well, not enjoy as one thoroughly enjoys something like a clever Disneyland ride … This was more like a Teutonically-organized  forced march through an endless household goods warehouse, following the arrows on the grey linoleum pathway which took you through precisely every department, even the ones you weren’t interested in. Ve Haf Vays Of Making You Shop!

There are shortcuts available – but they are not obvious, and seem to be a secret held only by the employees on the floor. They will cheerfully point them out to you, upon asking … but still, this is not a store where you can run in and pick up just one or two small things and run out again in fifteen minutes. No, this is an expedition which requires a significant degree of planning, most of an afternoon … and a certain amount of money. Not terribly that much of that though; to be absolutely fair, even if someone setting up a whole house of Ikea-sourced stuff must be prepared to write a large check. This must be where the yuppies who turn up their nose at Walmart but haven’t very much change to spare come to shop. To be honest, the goods on offer were of good quality, attractively designed and priced very fairly.  They were the sort of thing that my daughter and I remembered very well, from seeing them in Europe when we were stationed there. But by the time we had staggered three-quarters of the way through the store – after looking at kitchen cabinet options and stuffing ourselves on a most-welcome lunch in the Ikea cafeteria – we were moaning, “I’ll buy anything, I promise – just let us out!”

We did escape, eventually – discovering the cash stands at the end of the long trail winding – and a small deli-grocery store on the other side of them, where they stocked all kinds of Swedish delicacies – including the lovely small Swedish meatballs featured in the cafeteria. And they were scrumptious. We came away with a family-sized bag of them, frozen for later use … for when we don’t feel like driving up to Round Rock …



18 thoughts on “Another Long Saturday Drive”

  1. “To be honest, the goods on offer were of good quality, attractively designed and priced very fairly.” I have found this to be true, in general. But you need to remember the sweat equity portion of the transaction. We saved an honest to goodness boatload of money when we built our house by using IKEA closet systems, but it cost me several weekends and MAN was I glad when that assembly was done. Our master closet system is actually very, very nice. I will never forget the day we took the drive from Madison to Schaumburg to pick it all up – we had to use a horse trailer to haul it all and that got some interesting looks in the suburban Chicago parking lot. I wore a cowboy hat for effect.

  2. I have grown to detest IKEA.

    First, the shopping experience is miserable, as you said. But, even more there is agony in the check-out having to shlep hundred pound things through the lines. My overall impression is that IKEA is a system in which the round peg of the consumer will be pounded into the square peg of their system without mercy or pity.

    Second. Once you have bought the stuff you have to assemble it. This requires good carpentry skills and a broad set of power tools such as a professional wood worker might posses. Or you can hire someone to do it for you, and lose much of the price advantage of the misery in step one.

    Third, once you have assembled the stuff, you have functional furniture for a couple of years. None of the things we bought at IKEA ever survived a move from the place where it was first used. There will be no IKEA heirlooms.

    Fourth, there are cheaper, faster, easier ways of buying better quality furniture. Craig’s list, second hand stores, flea markets, and street corners are all viable.

  3. Robert Schwartz “Once you have bought the stuff you have to assemble it. This requires good carpentry skills and a broad set of power tools such as a professional wood worker might posses.”

    Er, um, did you visit a Bizarro World Ikea?

  4. I am a lot of things, but a carpenter I am not. I was able to assemble my kickass closet system by myself, with the help of my wife only a couple of times (it is better that way, just trust me) to hold some larger items while I was securing them. It took some time (and I understand that this is a cost), but since I put myself on the bottom rung of the carpenter ladder, I completely disagree with Robert Schwartz’s comment.

  5. Dan, Pst314:

    There are many rungs in carpenter ladder underneath where you guys are. I am so far that bottom of those that I can only barely make out the soles of your boots. Even my wife is better at carpentry than am I.

  6. “a couple of screwdrivers”

    Don’t forget the allen wrench. Oh wait–they include that in the kit. But you will need a hammer if there are nails.

    On the other hand, it is true that such particle board furniture is VERY vulnerable to damage during a move. It can survive unscathed if you are VERY careful, but otherwise some damage is likely, although “none survived” seems unlikely to me unless the movers are very careless. My walls of bookcases are still in perfect condition after 5-8 years, although they have not been through a move.

    Caution: Do not rely on Ikea delivery, if possible. Pick perfect-looking packages yourself, to minimize the chance of damaged pieces, and haul them home yourself for the same reason. If necessary, rent a truck. All the bookcases I took home myself were perfect out-of-the-box. Half the ones I had delivered had some damage, either in the warehouse or by the delivery people who are just local schmoes rather than Ikea-trained employees.

  7. Robert Schwartz “There are many rungs in carpenter ladder underneath where you guys are.”

    I am no carpenter. My skills extend no further than “buy a sheet of furniture-grade plywood, have the store cut it to size, take it home, varnish it, and set it on top of file cabinets to make a desk.”

    The bookcases I bought only required an allen wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver to assemble.

  8. Depending on the piece, I would second the comments that say the stuff won’t make it through a move. But some of the tables and other things we have bought are actually fairly nice and would make it. My closet system will never come out, that is for sure.

  9. Robert Schwartz “I think you proved my point”

    Don’t feel too bad. You are in good company. Isaac Asimov could barely change a light bulb by himself.

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