“Shop til ya drop” is an overused phrase that makes me cringe.
I’m not a companion to take shopping, as my patience limit is under thirty minutes. The Beer Store in Ontario used to have large signs in the parking lot that encapsulated the way I have always tackled going to any store: IN and OUT.
In high school I enjoyed going to shop class where I would learn how to make things with my own hands. Going FOR a shop was not something I considered, unless it was a mad dash to get presents for my parents the day before Christmas. My first experience with the word Shop was likely read as a noun from an English child’s picture book. The accompanying colourful drawing of a quaint British store looked nothing like today’s corporate, commercial, ‘delivered right to your door’ enterprise.
I went to IKEA for the first time recently. I was happy I had a guide. Previous to this spontaneous visit my only notions of this highly successful business were through highway sightings of giant blue&yellow buildings or frantic ads like “Start the Car” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlWCLw75XnE .
With my close friend nearby and the lighted arrows up ahead providing some reassurance, I entered the chosen monolithic structure. I relaxed a tad, knowing I wouldn’t get lost or swallowed up by thoughts of someone forcing me to buy something. Everyone, it quickly appeared to me, knew the deal. They calmly measured items, tested paint swatches, lounged in carefully configured rooms. I saw some children running around in small packs. Other kids played video games on phones while their elders pushed them in giant carts. Some young adults held hands and giggled over some of the merchandise. Other pairs were more serious as they appeared to weigh options for their home or apartment. Several women were so close to giving birth I wondered if there were medical staff on site, for just such an eventuality. To my eyes it was a herding community of hunter/gatherers, on the move for bargains for sure, but also, looking for a sense of belonging.
Several signs, large and small, supported shoppers with these dual quests: Near the Bistro, “Why we ask you to clear the table.” Near the cash out, “Sometimes you just want to pick it up.” I only saw a few employees but I expected there were hundreds busy working in what amounted to a small city. My loudly muttered comment that the restaurant line-up was too long, was overheard by a cashier who called to me reassuringly, “No it isn’t sir.”
There was order, uniformity and connectivity in this place. If you had the correct product code you could find your item, eventually, predictably and feel the satisfaction of having done it yourself. Out in the parking lot, cars, SUVs and small trucks were loaded for the trip home. All shoppers had a look of fulfillment, not exhaustion, on their faces.
I thought to myself, what would Darwin think of this place: IKEA, the idea.