I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, a cultural thing, or if I’m just a strange person, but it seems to me that I strongly dislike those very things that are most popular among the population today. Two examples of this are Ikea and Duck Dynasty.
Recently my family and I were looking for a new desk chair for my granddaughter and, having exhausted all the usual avenues such as office supply stores, Target, Sears, and countless others without finding the “perfect” chair (yes, my granddaughter is picky), we decided to make our first-ever journey to Ikea. I had heard wonderful things about the store, the atmosphere and most especially the prices. So off we went on a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon, full of hope, eager for a new shopping experience. Now, it should be noted that I am not a shopper and I just go along on these ventures to: a) spend treasured time with my family, and b) provide a credit card when needed. Otherwise, my idea of shopping is to sit at home with a cup of coffee and peruse Amazon. Upon entering Ikea, the first thing to note was that right inside the front door is a child care center. I viewed that with mixed thoughts … most children are not that comfortable being left with strangers, but otherwise it was kind of a nice touch, giving parents an opportunity to shop without having to drag or carry a tired child through a big store, worrying that he or she might touch and break something costing a month’s pay. And make no mistake, it IS a BIG store! Then up the stairs (escalator) we went in search of office furniture. Though we weren’t there to browse, we certainly expected to do a bit of browsing on our way to the office furniture department, but the only goal of the day was truly an office chair. The people who developed the Ikea concept, however, had other ideas. For those of you who have never set foot in an Ikea store, if you could remove the roof and get an aerial view of the store, you would see one huge maze, similar to a mouse maze, from which, once inside, there is no escape. Some people seem to be okay with this, but those who are even mildly claustrophobic will become very uncomfortable as soon as they understand that there is not a single place where you have the option of going left vs. right, or finding a more direct route to the department you are seeking. There are no shortcuts, no way of bypassing bathroom fixtures or pots and pans. You will follow the arrows, which are completely unnecessary, since there isn’t any other way to go anyway. There are few sales associates of whom you might ask directions, but again, it wouldn’t matter, as there is only one path. Along the way, the path is dotted with kiosks providing samples of food. I later came to realize that this isn’t just a nice touch, but a necessity for those who have been stuck in the maze for hours, or perhaps days with neither food nor water and their energy is beginning to wane. At one of these “tidbit stations”, I asked the clerk who was busily handing out samples of some hot appetizer, how best to get to the office furniture department. “Just follow the arrows”, he advised. I wonder why, from this point forward, I found myself humming “… follow the yellow brick road … follow the, follow the, follow the yellow brick road”? Very appropriate, though, since about the same time I was struck by the thought that “ … you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy”. Another fifteen minutes of this and I was becoming both claustrophobic and irritated, as I now realized that the design had a very specific purpose, which was to manipulate the shopper. There is no way to shop at Ikea without passing by every single item in the store. The infamous arrows take the shopper back and forth, round and round, and ultimately past every display, every item, every nook and cranny in the whole building. Did I mention that it is a very big building? It is the same concept, only on a MUCH larger scale, as Kroger or any other store placing certain items at the endcaps and in the checkout lanes, where the shopper cannot possibly miss them and the impulse buyer is doomed. Happily, I am not an impulse buyer. The average Ikea store is about 300,000 square feet, and shoppers are guided (herded?) through each and every one of them.
By now, we had found the office furniture and determined that there was no chair that met our criteria, so we were ready to leave. It had become obvious that the exit was still a long way off, so we decided to simply turn around and come back the way we had come in. You are not supposed to do that. We found ourselves going against the flow of shoppers and I am fairly certain that if there were actually sales associates on the floor, we would have been forcibly turned back around and made to follow the arrows with the rest of the pack. I have always had a tendency to go against the flow, and this was no exception. However, after retracing our path and finally arriving back at the entrance, guess what we found? Remember the old joke where somebody asks an old-timer in Maine how to get someplace and he responds with “you can’t get there from here”? Well, this is a case in point. We were standing there, looking down at the entrance, the door to freedom, as it were, and it was just a few yards down … we could see it clearly … but we couldn’t get there. Because … the escalator only goes one way … UP. The only option available to us was to turn back around yet again and start following the arrows again like good little sheep. It didn’t take long for me to decide I had all I could take of this, as I was truly starting to hyperventilate and had gone from mildly irritated to highly annoyed to furious. Stationed along the way at intervals, which I’m sure is required by building and fire codes, there are emergency exits which are clearly marked as being for emergency only and with an alert saying that an alarm will sound if the door is opened. At this point, I didn’t care if an alarm sounded and a SWAT team descended upon me … I just wanted OUT! Against the objections of my family, I threw the emergency door open and stepped into a beautiful sunny day and stood taking deep breaths of fresh air and waiting for the alarm, for the security guard, who did not appear. So, I headed back to the front of the store to find my car and await the arrival of my family who, I hoped, would ultimately find their own way out of the store and back into earth’s atmosphere, preferably while it was still daytime. It would actually be nearly a half-hour before they returned and they, ultimately, did the same thing as I, exiting via an emergency exit, as after much walking they deduced that they were actually no closer to the exit than they were an hour earlier. We were reunited, I am happy to say, but I am concerned that some others may still be wandering the depths of the maze. The parking lot was filled to overflowing, and while I was waiting for my family, I had time to think about this and concluded that it is possible some of those cars have remained there for months, as their owners are still trying to navigate the maze and find the cheese at the end.
I will never return to an Ikea store, but to be fair I would like to say one thing in their favor. I have a friend who is an Ikea employee and I understand that they treat their employees extremely well with very generous vacation time, bonuses and gifts. That is a rarity these days, and I am happy to see a company that understands the concept that their most important asset is their employees. I’m also betting that employees have secret shortcuts to get from one point to another without being forced to “follow the arrows”. If only they had as much respect for their customers as they do for their employees.
As for Duck Dynasty, I have less to say, as I have, admittedly, never watched the show from start to finish, but have merely caught a few snippets. However who could miss the merchandising and marketing onslaught? Note, please, that I will not address the homophobic remarks made by Phil Robertson, aka Papa Duck, in this post, as it is not my intent to get into a discussion of religion or LGBT rights in this post. Suffice it to say that I find such an attitude voiced by a public figure to be deplorable. My aversion to the show stems from the absurdity of the show’s concept and its decidedly unappealing cast of characters. It is, first and foremost, one of the many in the growing trend of “reality” shows, a concept that I simply cannot grasp. Who needs to watch somebody else live their life? I’m busy enough living my own life! That said, this one is as ridiculous as the rest … the concept is watching this family of Louisianans go through their days as they become wealthy by making gadgets to be used by duck hunters. Sound interesting? No thanks. I’d rather be cleaning the bathtub or folding laundry. I would rather be watching grass grow. I would rather … almost anything! However, the show and its cast seem to have a huge following, which I just don’t get. My niece became particularly piqued with me when I expressed my aversion … apparently people take their DD watching seriously. I just don’t understand it … are people that bored with their own lives that they actually look forward each week to watching other people do boring and contrived things in their lives? A topic for another day, I suppose. Suffice it to say that I dislike all reality shows, but most especially this one, and yes, perhaps part of my particular aversion does stem from the narrow-mindedness and stupidity of Mr. Robertson’s remarks, but I cannot imagine that I would like the show anyway.
To be sure, these are only two examples and there are certainly many, many more, but the total picture is that I do not seem to fit in with the majority these days. So I ask again … is this a general thing or am I just out of sync with the rest of modern American culture? Or perhaps I was mistakenly plunked down on earth in the wrong century. Sometimes I think I would have fit better in the 18th or 19th century. (If you choose to respond to the question, and I hope that some of you will, please be kind, respectful and keep it clean!)