Saturday, December 18, 2010

18/12/10-IKEA hell

        People here lie.  Everyone lies.  Everybody tells you what you want to hear even though it's all a far cry from the truth.  I know I have to catch up on Barcelona but I want to write about today first while the emotions are still fresh and freely flowing.  Sean and I slept in today or at least tried to.  I woke up with another headache and neck cramp from the awful bed and Sean can't understand why he's still tired after being in bed for nine hours.  It's a simple answer.  We have a bad bed.  I have stressed this before that a good mattress on which you can get a solid night's sleep makes ALL the difference in the world.  It's worth the money.
       We woke up to snow falling heavily in big wet fluffy flakes.  It accumulated quickly and we guessed that the city was shutting down.  We had planned to go to IKEA once again to pick out a bed, dresser and some other much needed organizational goods.  Sean checked the London transportation website and it looked like all the lines we needed were running smoothly.  We watched the roads from our flat and saw buses pass by so we thought hey maybe the city really does NOT shut done completely with snow.  After lunch we headed out and made our way to IKEA.
        I can now understand why things shut down here with even an inch of snow.  There are no snow plows, no salt trucks, no snow shovels.  Everything quickly turns to a slick icy sleety mixture on the packed roads.  Instead of shovelling sidewalks, businesses use push brooms to clear the snow which really, all it's doing is creating a nice smooth glassy surface.  Sean and I had a hard time walking to the tube stop.  Even in my boots I thought I was going to slip and bite it.  I ducked into Starbucks to grab a peppermint mocha and then stopped in the green to take a photo of the snow.  It really was pretty and it's funny how everyone comes out to build a snowman.  We saw so many snowmen today. So many! They were everywhere; parking lots, greens, sidewalks.
Turnham Green turned white

Turnham Green

       We slowly made our way shuffling to the tube.  The attendants said everything was running as usual but it wasn't.  They lied.  Just tell us the truth! Let us know there's a 30 minute delay.  We stood on the platform and waited for our train.  Poor Sean forgot to pack boots for London and was wearing sneakers.  His toes were already frozen.  We waited and waited and waited and to be honest, at that moment I knew that we should have turned around and gone home.  This was a bad idea.  Then I thought, hey we're going to IKEA and it can't be THAT hard.  Deep down though I knew we should go home.  Finally, the train came after 25 minutes of waiting.  Usually it comes within 5 minutes or less.
      Last time we went to IKEA we took the underground the whole way there then walked over a mile to the store.  It was about an hour trip total.  This time we took Oge's advice and took the train west to catch a bus which went right to IKEA.  It took him 50 minutes and he didn't have a long walk.  Today we tried Oge's route.  We failed.  It failed because people lie here.  We got on the train and slowly headed west where we then hit the road and tried to find the 112 bus.  There was one stopped on the side of the road on his lunch break and he said he'd probably be leaving in 30 minutes to pick people up.  We headed down the hill and stood with the rest of the crowd waiting for the red bus.  We waited and waited and waited.  Finally it came and everyone SHOVED to get on.  Sean and I apparently did not shove hard enough because the driver shut the door before we could get on.  The bus was full.  The driver yelled to the rest of us on the street that the next bus was only 3 to 4 minutes behind him.  Ok. That's not so bad. We'll wait for the next bus.  We waited and waited and waited.  It was not 3 to 4 minutes.  More like 20.  The bus came.  We shoved to get on.  A little kid tried to get on in front of Sean and honest to God, I saw Sean shove a kid and push him out of the way.  In Sean's defense though the kid was a brat and was super annoying the whole bus ride.  I'm glad he pushed him. He didn't push him hard. No harm was done.
      Awesome, we were on the 112 bus and we'd be at IKEA in about 20 minutes.  Not bad.  But then the bus sat in traffic.  We sat and didn't move.  I feel asleep on Sean's shoulder and woke up to us not moving.  The brat was sitting behind us and squaking about something.  We had gone about a tenth of a mile from where the bus picked us up when all of a sudden the bus pulls over, turns the lights off then announces that the bus is terminating here.  Seriously? Really? We just paid, went 20 feet in 30 minutes and now we have to get off??? The bus driver told us another bus was 3 to 4 minutes behind. Yeah right! That's what the LAST bus driver said!  Sean looked up on his iphone that it would about a 3 mile walk to IKEA.  Fine, we're walking, at least we may be able to warm up.  We didn't walk, we did a little semi trot/jog through the few inches of snow and unshovelled sidewalks.  Every now and then we peered over our shoulder to see if another 112 bus was coming up behind us but nothing.  We passed through the oddest of neighborhoods.  It was all leather furniture outlet stores and weird Chinese food markets.  I was relieved that it was still semi light out because I don't know if that was the safest of places.  About two thirds of the way there and 30 minutes into our mini jog the 112 bus pulled up and we sprinted to catch it.  Sean had to pee and so did I.  Our toes were frozen.  Sean forgot his gloves and I just wished we had stayed home in our cozy little kitchen all nice and warm watching movies, eating left over mac and cheese and lounging around.
      We rode the bus about half a mile then got off in front of IKEA.  FINALLY!!!! Three hours later and we had made it.  It was dark out now and the parking lot was empty of cars but full of snow.  Everyone else knew it was a bad idea to leave the house in a London "snowstorm."  We wanted the rest of our furniture and nothing was going to stop us.  Our first stop in IKEA was the bathrooms.  I met back up with Sean at the info booth where a guy was saying that IKEA was probably going to close soon due to weather.  Oh convienent.  We ran to the bedroom section and started laying down on the mattresses.  How odd they all were.  The ones labelled firm were incredibly soft and the ones labelled soft were hard.  Sean even asked the sales girl how long the beds had been out on display.  If people had been laying on these things for the past year then sure, the firm were broken in to a soft.  They couldn't answer our questions.  They were useless. They lied.  But within 10 minutes we found a mattress we liked and rationalized that if it was firmer than what was on the floor then it wouldn't be so bad.  We got the numbers, sizes and found a foundation to fit it and all within budget.  The pressure to shop quickly!
    Next it was off to find a dresser.  Sean picked out a really expensive ugly one.  I found the bigger, cheaper, nice looking one.  Back to the beds to find some night stands since we were still under budget.  Quick quick two nightstands onto the list of boxes we needed to find in the warehouse.  Furniture was done and the store hadn't closed yet!
    Downstairs is my favorite part of IKEA.  We grabbed a cart and filled it with pillows, much needed mixing bowls (Ooooooo I have needed mixing bowls!!!!!!), storage containers, clothes rack, $2 fleece blanket, more pillows, more bathroom storage racks, and even some picture frames for some of my newest watercolors.  While Sean wasn't looking I threw in some red straw Christmas ornaments.  This was truly retail therapy for the both of us.  We found the bigger items in the warehouse section of the store and had two more flat bed carts of our boxes.  The only thing we couldn't get was the bed frame and the mattress.  They would get those for us when we checked out.
    The check out lines were non-existant.  No one was in IKEA today.  We made it through in record time then headed to the pick up/delivery corner.  Sean ordered us a delivery for the mattress, a cab home then we both waited for the rest of our big items to come out.  They called our number and wheeled out our cart and told us the bad news that the mattress we paid for was out of stock.  Um. What? This is not right.  We paid for it, you told us you had it, you said you were getting it and were going to put in on our cart, and Sean already paid for the next day delivery.  If it's sold out tell us it's sold out!  WHy would you lie to us???? We could have picked out another mattress! We didn't have to go through the headache of figuring out delivery. How can we pay for something that you don't have?????  They said they were getting another shipment of the mattresses in within the next week or two but even then it's first come first serve even though we already paid for it.  I was so confused.  We paid for it, but we may not get it. We paid for delivery but there's nothing to be delivered.  I want to go home.   The cab driver loaded what we did have into his mini van and I sat with the rest of our bags while Sean went to customer service to sort it all out.  I don't know what happened during those 40 minutes he was gone but I can only imagine.  IKEA you lied to us.  You told us you had those nice plush mattresses.  You let us pay for one.  You let us set up delivery for one. You lied.  YOU LIED TO US!!! IKEA I loved you once! You betrayed me!
        Sean was gone a really long time but finally he reappeared and announced that he got his refund and we would go home with what we had in hand and order the bed online or find something else.  He was frustrated, I could tell because his face was beet red.   We jumped into the cabby's van. This guy looked familiar and I asked if he drove us home from IKEA before.  He had! This time we were not dealing with traffic and burning cars but dealing with snow, ice and unplowed roads.  Sean sat up front with him and chatted about EVERYTHING.  We told him about the terrible day we were having, our problems with customer service and how everyone lies here.  Our driver's name was Akim and he did not lie to us.  He told us it may be a slippery ride home and that things may get ugly. We trusted him and his outdated minivan.  He didn't sugarcoat things and tell us we'd be home in five minutes.  It may take a while.   We learned a lot about Akim on that second trip home with him.  He told us how he is originally from Somalia and how he came to London about 12 years ago to study computer science only to be drawn back to his native land to save his family.  Somalia was in the throws of a civil war and Akim had to go back to guide his five children, his mother and aunt to safety.  He brought them to London and never looked back.  Now he drives cabs from IKEA but at least his family is safe (and his house is entirely furnished with IKEA goods).  We asked him about Somalia and if he'd been back, if he'd ever go back home, but he wouldn't, it's not safe, he'd be robbed and killed within minutes. Wow.  Here we were planning on going home within days but poor Akim hasn't seen his childhood home in over a decade. The rest of the ride we talked about sports, the weather and his thoughts on London.  It was such a nice short and safe ride home, maybe 15 minutes tops.  He told us where to catch a local cricket or rugby game and how he liked American basketball.   Akim helped us unload all our boxes into our snowy alley.  We got his business card and hopefully we'll see him again.  We were his only business today in this snow.
     That was a humbling ride home.  Here I was almost in tears because my big toe was frozen and then they didn't have the mattress we wanted.  At least I wasn't fleeing for safety from civil unrest in my homeland.  I wasn't yanked from my schooling.  I can go home to where I grew up and not fear for my life.  I was upset the 112 bus kicked us off and took our two pounds.  There are much bigger problems in the world and I'm glad that I get those little moments that bring me back to reality that really we have it good.  We need to be thankful and count our blessings.  Or bad days are nothing compared to what others are going through.   Things aren't so bad and maybe we'll go back to IKEA just to get a cab ride home from our friend Akim.  In the meantime we'll enjoy our new IKEA goods and count down the days till we get to go home!!!


  1. Wow. Very thought provoking.
    In the meantime, I am going to go out and buy every snow shovel and bucket of salt possible and send them to you so you can sell them on the street corners and make millions and buy a big huge puffy bed and pillows and blankets.

  2. It always does seem when we are having the roughest of days, there is someone we meet along the way to puts it all in perspective. Our bad days are really not that bad. You and Sean have each other to navigate the IKEAs of the world and will be back in 'normal' America soon, at least for a bit. Keep your chin up Carla, it will get easier.