“I’m feeling really sick!” DH even put his hand to his chest. My eyes widened – he couldn’t be having a heart attack. Not on the road. Not turning off the highway into Festival Centre. Not when he has stringent medicals every six months with EKGs and all sorts of tests.
“I think I’ve got …” He coughed. A hand rose to wipe his brow. “… Ikea-itis.”
“Ah-ha,” I said, giving him a sideways glance. I should add that I was feeling a little guilty as I’d sort-of tricked him into coming. A casual, “Well since we’re over this side of town, we might as well pop into Ikea for those curtains.” I said it brightly as though I’d suggested a trip to the pub. We’d locked eyes. He drew a deep breath and blew it out slowly through his cheeks. Let’s just say, I promised him I’d make it worth his while.
As the cheery blue-and-yellow logo came into sight, I ran through my list in my mind.
“Just curtains,” said DH.
“Sure,” I replied.
I grabbed a bright yellow bag from the smiling man standing by the entrance. DH raised an eyebrow: “You really need that?” He sounded worried.
“Just in case,” I shrugged.
We agreed DH would wait in the food court while I looked at bookcases. Then we’d meet by the curtains. Well, I took a bit longer than I meant to – but that always happens in Ikea, doesn’t it? It has a way of sucking you in so that 45 minutes later you’re still lapping bedrooms and office furniture.
My phone rang. DH.
“Where are you?” He knew a short-cut, he said. He’s worked out all the short-cuts in Ikea – doors that look like fire-escapes; doors barricaded with trolleys piled high with boxes. He’s been through them all. I sighed. “Okay, straight to curtains. No looking round.”
The haberdashery section was relatively quiet – just an Emirati woman buying drapes for a 10-bedroom villa, and a harassed mum with a stroller, who gave up when her child started screaming. I told DH he didn’t have to stay. I could handle this. How difficult could it be? (and, anyway, as he pulled out a twill-weave curtain in battleship grey – a colour I saw too much of staring out of my bedroom window in London – I realised we’d never agree.).
I spent a happy 15 minutes browsing. Wool-blends, chiffon, cotton duck, velveteen, non-sheer silk (with “great drapability”) – I was spoilt for choice. Until it came time to order. At least four times, Sanjay shook his head: “No Maam, not in stock.” “Ran out yesterday, sorry!” “Maybe in two weeks.” I began to think they didn’t actually sell curtains – maybe the pretty fabrics were just decoration.
Finally I settled on two designs they actually had material for. I gave Sanjay my measurements (the windows, not mine). I nervously pointed out a scribbled number that could easily have resulted in drapes 60cm too short (who knew curtain assistants have handwriting that’s as indecipherable as doctors’?) They were going to get it right first time. I wasn’t coming back, other than to pick them up.
Sanjay did something on his computer and told me he’d get me a trolley. Odd, I thought. I’d naively assumed he’d keep the material to turn it into curtains. “Oh no, Maam. After check out, you take it to customer services, aisle 5.” By now, my phone was ringing again.
After making it through the check-out queue, I pushed the trolley to customer services. DH looked longingly at the exit and glanced at his watch. Of course, there was nobody manning aisle 5.
It was a funny old corner: cardboard boxes in all shapes and sizes, Ikea workers scuttling in an out of a warehouse like ants, customers languishing on seats. And, of course, to hand my would-be-curtains in for tailoring I had to take a ticket from the machine and wait for my number to flash up on the screen.
Nearly three hours after walking into the store, ‘just to buy curtains’, we made it out … still speaking!