My boss sent me home early from a business trip last week. It was either because of that photo I took of the Laker Girls or to save money and give me a day off.
As fate had it, I ended up at IKEA.
On a Friday night.
With my wife and four kids, who range in age from 11 months to nearly 9 years old.
Thanks a lot, boss.
Other customers were shocked to see the entire Genessy clan there on a weekend night. Probably perturbed, too. After all, Tuesday is Kids Eat Free Day at IKEA. As the Swedes set it up, Wednesday through Monday is supposed to be Kids-Free Time at IKEA.
To the world’s largest furniture retailer’s credit, it does have an emergency backup plan in case children ages 12 and under infiltrate the premises on non-free-eating days — a playland.
Only problem this past Friday night?
The Smaland child containment zone was full for the night. How do you say major problem in Swedish? This unsettling development meant we had to roam through 310,000 square feet with kids. That’s why I blame IKEA for everything that happened, including the emergency alarm being triggered, over the course of the next three hours and nine minutes. Not that I was counting the minutes between 6:19 p.m. when I left our 2001 Suburban and 9:28 p.m. when we left the parking lot’s family section.
I also blame IKEA for causing more fights at our house than almost anything else. Those #%*! colored plastic dishes! It’s amazing how many kids want the one (pick-a-color) plate when 17 (any-other-color) plates are also clean and available.
Don’t get me wrong. I love IKEA as much as the next budget-conscious man who’s trying to fully furnish a phone-booth-sized home with funky-looking stuff that must be stylish because it comes from Europe and has names like (please read out loud with your best Swedish Chef voice) korken, strandmon and jonosfär.
The night started off fine. A pregnant lady in the cafeteria exchanged googly eyes with Baby Jack. The cashier didn’t mind that our oldest son went back for seconds of the free samples of mjölkchoklad (chocolate). None of our meal required assembly.
What happened after that relatively delightful dining experience is mostly a blur.
The shopping portion began in the toy area. I stood in an aisle as the three children who weren’t buckled into the cart — IKEA should have carts that let you buckle kids up to age 17 — grabbed and tossed and begged and ran wildly from each bin and grabbed/tossed/begged/ran wildly more and … acted like kids in a toy store! The nerve!
During this madness, a man walked by, looked at exasperated me and gave me an I-feel-your-pain-but-am-glad-it’s-you-not-me grin. Turns out, he’s a Jazz fan who follows me on Twitter. Long after Dustin had escaped and about two hours before my torturous trip mercifully ended, he noticed these tweets I’d sent out:
Dirk Facer and Brad Rock, in L.A. for the Utah-USC game, are covering Jazz-Lakers tonight in Anaheim for the D-News.
— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) October 26, 2013
My wife dragged our four kids and I to IKEA. I’ll be providing coverage of Swedish furniture and meatballs.
— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) October 26, 2013
“I thought that was you,” Dustin wrote back. “I was the guy looking at you a little longer than necessary. I was in the same mess.”
He was smiling.
I don’t want to blow my cover and let the world know that my life isn’t LOL moments 24/7, even on holidays and during silly children shenanigans, but I lose my patience easily. At times I get grumpy. Sometimes I get ornery. Many times I snap at my children. And, in times I later regret, I grumble at my wife. I also scold myself for allowing me to get into situations like this (the shopping-at-IKEA part, not the having a wife and children parts — at least not that I can admit out loud).
Truth be told, my wife didn’t make me tag along. I was going to stay home to watch a football game. She even claimed it was fine with her. Even so, loud warning bells chimed in my head.
“Do you want me to come?” I asked, thinking of possible fun family time.
“Sure, but only if you WANT to,” my wife replied. “Oh, and you have to promise not to be a grumpy butt if you come.”
Before she knew I was coming, Heather told me she had to get some closet-organizing stuff for our relocating 4-year-old’s new room downstairs. I figured we’d grab a skubb or an algot set, maybe kick back on a poäng chair while the kids played for an hour, grab some of Sweden’s best exported product (meatballs, not ABBA or Swedish fish) and be on our way. If I applied enough loving pressure on my wife, I figured it was possible to get back for the second half.
Little did I know, my wife had a list. She’d previously told me about this list. Multiple times, apparently. Get this: The list slipped my mind.
I might’ve found this out sooner, but the 4-year-old I was watching somehow escaped while I was responding to a very disturbing message on Twitter. After A) responding and B) quickly retrieving Aidan, thankfully before he broke anything, we found out that IKEA really means it when posting signs that say: “EMERGENCY EXIT — ALARM WILL SOUND.” Completely on accident, too. Ethan simply let go of the cart when his mom asked him to grab a box for the new dishes I didn’t know we needed. The wheels didn’t stop spinning until the cart gently rolled into the off-limits door just before I grabbed it, setting off the shrill siren. And the alarm was almost as loud as me.
As I freaked out, Heather calmly continued putting 79 cent dinner plates into the box. No stinking alarm was going to get in her list’s way.
Employees were alerted. Sydney complained about her ears hurting. Aidan put his hands over his ears and made me laugh by saying, “Somebody cover my eyes!”
While I was frazzled by our kids, and suspected that IKEA had assigned an employee to follow us around, my sighing, groaning and other antics of impatient behavior were beginning to annoy Heather. Yes, this is an admission of guilt on my part.
“THEY are not even being THAT bad,” Heather told me with a tone that only meant that her husband was being that bad. “Plus, I handle them by myself when they’re much worse.”
Moments later, I saw the labels on the flatware packages and temporarily forgot my agony. IKEA should consider adding jokes to their packaging like Läffy Täffy.
“Does this food taste like svit to you, too?” I asked my wife.
“No,” I answered for her as she (probably) rolled her eyes. “It’s just the fork.”
“Honey! Are you sure you want to eat steamed broccoli with lärd!?”
Before I could ask my wife if she’d like to go on a dinner-movie date to see “The Girl with the Dragon Teaspoon,” my family was distancing itself from me.
I’ll hand it to the Swedes, they packed a lot of stuff in their store that my children wanted to take home, touch, play with or fight over. I’m sure the same phenomenon happens at American dollar stores in Scandinavian nations.
“Dad, can I have this soccer ball for my birthday?”
“Dad, can I have this umbrella?”
“Dad, can I have this kitchen timer?”
“Dad, can I have this bed?”
If you’re a 6-year-old girl who wants a stuffed-animal fox, you no longer have to wonder what does a dad say.
Inger! Inger! Inger! Nej! Nej! Nej!
The worst phrase I heard during our shopping trip? OK, not including while heading to the exit door 10 minutes after the store closed, “Dad, I have to go to the bathroom! Me too! Me too!”
It’s never a good thing when you’re a couple of hours into a place like IKEA and your spouse says, “I wish I would have measured it.” Translation: “We have to return.”
For the record, I wasn’t a party pooper all night. I didn’t spend ALL my time mumbling and tweeting. I even stopped pouting and exchanging I’m-tired-too looks with Baby Jack long enough to do a quick fashion show with my kids and some faux sheepskin rugs. I also bought them six for $5 cinnamon rolls, waited to yell until were outside of the store and a shoe was launched off of a foot and into a glass window, and didn’t share this tweet I received from Billy Bob @1234BBS after joking about being on the Swedish meatball beat instead of being at the Jazz game in Anaheim, Calif.
The Utah meatballs are no longer made from horse meat. At least that’s what IKEA says now after getting caught.
There were other good moments, like watching a group of teenage girls play IKEA Bingo. Strangely, “Find an out-of-control family” was not one of the boxes to check off.
More things that made me smile:
• Seeing a moose rug named Gosingen.
• The fact we only spent $226.59 in three-plus hours. That receipt would have had another 0 before the decimal point during a Costco trip of similar length.
• The brief conversation that ensued when I asked my wife why we needed heat-resistant silicone oven mitts. Heather: “Remember what you said the last time you used them!?” Me: “What?” Ethan: “Ouch.” Me: “Oh, yeah.”
• Watching Sydney read “The Princess and the Happiness” children’s book while walking.
• Appreciating that my wife had enough faith in me to ask, “How wide is Sydney’s closet? You know, the part where you can put dresses?”
• Hearing Aidan say, “Whoa! What is THIS place!?” when we entered the gigantic warehouse portion of IKEA.
• Turning a corner to see Sydney and Aidan racing each other in colorful storage containers with wheels.
• Thinking about tying my four kids on the top of the Suburban with the free twine provided at the loading dock.
• Hearing Aidan say, “We’ve been at IKEA for a long, long time.”
• Hearing somebody on the P.A. system say, “We’ll only be open for 15 more minutes…” It’s very possible they were supposed to be open for a couple more hours and just wanted my family out. Obviously, Sweden isn’t ready for us. It was encouraging, however, that we never had more than two kids crying at the same time and that I only got into one fight with my wife in the store (admittedly, my fault).
• Watching a couple headed to the cashier with a big cart, carrying a hugely awkward box, and overhearing a man ask, “How are we going to fit this in the car?” This meant three things: 1. The item could have been every single item in IKEA, 2. Swearing will take place when required assembly takes place, and 3. The man simply posed one of the two most basic questions everybody from Draper, Utah, to Älmhult, Sweden, has asked when approaching the exit doors.
The other most basic question?
What part of TUESDAY IS KIDS-EAT-FREE DAY AT IKEA does that grumpy-butt dad who owes his family an apology not understand?