Life

Jake O'Kane: My date with 'the Swede' means hours of frustration and suffering

Sweden is famous for two things: Vikings and Ikea. Although both have visited Ireland, it's the latter which has caused most strife. There's no better test of a couple's compatibility than the building of flat-pack furniture

'My heart sank, as I was sure this would mean a return to the Ikea maze'
Jake O'Kane

AS A child, I used to take my toys apart to see how they worked. You could do that in my day without the fear of electrocution, as most toys were made of tin with mechanical innards. Unfortunately, once dismantled, my interest invariably waned and, after a slap from my mother, the destroyed toy went in the bin.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m more a wrecker than a fixer.

I found this out when I purchased my first home. It was a small terrace house, the perfect bachelor pad. Knowing wallpapering was beyond me, I assumed I could at least paint the hallway. What I didn’t factor in were my OCD tendencies.

Having finished two coats, I stood back to appreciate my handiwork but noticed the line where the wall met the ceiling wasn’t straight. Reasoning this was due to the size of my brush, I bought a smaller one, climbed my ladders, and made the necessary alteration.

Yet again, the line was off and so began my war with the wall. Two weeks of constant retouching reduced my brush size to that used by model makers, yet even this didn’t work. On the verge of a mental breakdown, I finally gave in and hired a painter. I watched in wonderment as, with a brush the size of his hand, he deftly cut in a perfectly straight line. I realised my painting days were over.

When my wife recently announced we needed to buy a desk for my daughter from Ikea, my heart sank. I know Ikea is an acronym of the shop’s founder’s name, ‘Ingvar Kamprad’ – or, as Lord Kilclooney pronounces it, ‘the Swede’ – and the initials of Elmtaryd and Agunnard where he grew up, but to me it means hours of frustration and suffering.

Operating a strict one-way system, Ikea stores remind me of the complicated mazes scientists use to test rat intelligence. It took a while to discover there were short cuts; the rats would’ve found them sooner. I’ve become so adept I no longer even enter the store, instead I note the number of the item I need, walk straight to where it’s shelved, get it, pay for it, and leave.

Sweden is famous for two things: Vikings and Ikea. Although both have visited Ireland, it's the latter which has caused most strife. More relationships have crashed against the rocks of impenetrable Ikea construction manuals than were ever lost to marauding Vikings.

There’s no better test of a couple’s compatibility than the building of flat-pack furniture. I’d even go so far as to suggest churches dispense with pre-marriage courses involving psychometric tests and instead get the couple to build a flat-pack desk. They’ll know within an hour which couple will stay married and which will get divorced.

In our case, the conflict is solely due to male ego. Like many men, I view instruction manuals as an insult to my masculinity, holding the erroneous belief that I’m capable of assembling furniture unaided. Thankfully, my wife takes a systematic approach, counting and laying out in neat piles all constituent parts before beginning.

I finally accepted her way was best after building a bed only to discover two screws were missing. Even worse is completing your masterpiece and finding ‘extra’ screws or bolts, leading to a dismantle and start over.

My daughter’s desk arrived in two boxes, and it wasn’t until we opened the second box that we discovered it was a different colour to the first. So keen had I been to get out of Ikea, I hadn’t checked colours and grabbed the wrong box. My heart sank, as I was sure this would mean a return to the Ikea maze, but – to my amazement and joy – my daughter announced she loved the idea of different colours as it made her desk special.

So, my daughter has her unique multicoloured desk, which she adores. Better still, I remain married – if only just. And will I return to Ikea? Of course I will. There will always be the next bed, chair, desk or bookcase. For those interested, I’m willing to supply my map of shortcuts, for a small remuneration.

Best of all, in accepting her desk of many colours, I know my OCD tendencies haven’t been passed on. This means, when my daughter finally moves into her own home, she won’t need her old man to help paint her walls.

And for that, I give genuine and heartfelt thanks to God Almighty.

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