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Those Blue-and-Yellow Box Store Blues

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Those Blue-and-Yellow Box Store Blues photo

There’s no better setting for an existential crisis than IKEA. This one starts and ends with a TIDAFORS EDSKEN dark gray sofa.

I’ve been wanting a new couch for a long while now. Mine owes me no more favors: it’s comfortable and long enough for a tall person to stretch out on, but it was a Craigslist find in 2007 and now it eats people, so it’s time to upgrade. 

My friend Krista is moving into a one-bedroom apartment, and needs a lot of big furniture. I found the TIDAFORS when we hit up the Schaumberg store in June. I fell in love. It has everything I need from a sofa: it accommodates my height, its armrests are great neck rests and its cushions haven’t been destroyed by untold hours of sitting, lounging and afternoon napping.

A new couch is a big investment, but this weekend I was ready. I’m famously bad at outfitting my living space, yet the nesting event horizon has now been crossed. I might be in school, but I’m not in an undergrad tenement anymore. I want a new couch – I deserve a new couch! I just turned 29; I’m allowed to get nice furniture. (IKEA still qualifies as nice furniture to me.)

Krista had rented a ZipCar, so we had to be mindful of time, but thanks to our June expedition, we pretty much knew what we wanted. We gave ourselves about 90 minutes to work our way through the stock floor, pulling what we needed from Aisle 36, Bin 12, ad infinitum and wheeling our oversized flat-packed items back to the checkouts and beyond.

One problem arose, neither anticipated nor investigated: The TIDAFORS EDSKEN dark gray sofa was not in stock.

Three more TIDAFORS EDSKEN dark gray sofas would be arriving on Monday, and five more would arrive on Friday, if we wanted to come back.

Anyone who has been to IKEA knows that around hour five of the endeavor is when all those artfully organized showrooms and useful-yet-inexplicable implements and inane Scandinavian nonsense words tip over from thrill into madness. Could I come back? Could I bear to haul up to Schaumberg again? Would it even be worth it, if I don’t know where I’ll be living in January?

That last part is the actual crisis. I graduate from Northwestern University’s masters program in journalism in December. I came to Chicago in 2002, as a first-year at the University of Chicago, and have lived here ever since, save for an ill-advised post-college foray into the San Francisco Bay Area and the requisite crash-and-burn afterward in Ohio.

I love Chicago. I love it in my marrow. This city gets me, and I mesh with it like I don’t with other places. I’ve gotten so much better about taking advantage of it, learning how to swing dance and commuting by bike and developing opinions about improv. In these months at Medill, I’ve gone into neighborhoods I’d never seen before, and never would have seen: Albany Park, Little Village, Noble Square, Portage Park. Just recently I spent an hour or so at Buckingham Fountain (the hour was 8 to 9 a.m.), and got completely, joyously soaked with my classmates when the spout shot up and blew our way.

I still feel like I just got here. But I graduate in December, and I don’t know where my work will take me.

In some ways, I admit this is exciting. There is something tantalizing about fresh starts and new cities. Many of my classmates are coming to Chicago cold, and they get to enjoy it for the first time. There really is something to that.

It still hurts my heart to think about, though. And this was my feeling as we raced through IKEA. Patrons of IKEA are arriving. They’re settling in. They’re nesting. You don’t buy a new couch if you’re just going to leave soon. CRÏSIS.

It seemed like a sign, not to come home with that TIDAFORS. I did brood about it on the drive back, and that evening too. Maybe my Craigslist couch could do for another few months. Maybe it’s better just to wait.

I’ll tell you something, though, that I didn’t realize prior to this trip. The difference between paying for delivery from the Schaumberg store and paying for delivery online is only $40. And if there’s one thing this city has taught me, it’s that, in the end, putting off nice things only means you’ve denied yourself something pleasant when you didn’t have to.

We didn’t succeed with the TIDAFORS, but something else came home with me: a wall clock (PUGG, I think). Yesterday I hung it on my dining room wall, which has been empty since I moved to this apartment in 2010. Maybe it’s ticking down the time until I leave, but it’s also reminding me to stay in the moment. December may be coming, but I don’t have to pull up anchor yet.

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