Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Five Observations/Meditations on IKEA

Over the last two weeks, I have driven to the IKEA in East Palo Alto six times (86 miles, round-trip). These are my thoughts.

1. IKEA is a bonanza for people (like me) who enjoy coming up with new nicknames for friends and family. Whenever I go there with my sister, our conversation quickly degenerates into name-calling based on the ridiculous IKEA product names. It goes something like this:

ME: "What do you think of this table, BRATTBY?"
MY SISTER: "You're the BRATTBY."
ME: "No, you are. BRATTBY."
MY SISTER: "Well, then you're a JOKKMOKK."
ME: "No, you are."

2. The combined weight of the faux-Scandinavian product names is so great that by the "Marketplace" section of the store, I find myself, totally unconsciuosly, saying "ja" instead of "yes."

3. In Fight Club, Edward Norton's character orders, from a store called "Furni," an Erika Pekkari dust ruffle. I always thought this was a funny line. Imagine my surprise to find an Erika Pekkari sheet set at IKEA last week--it turns out that she really exists!

She also finds that scene to be funny. Yay for Erika Pekkari!

4. IKEA offers a line of coffee tables called LACK.

As an occasional reader of Lacan, I find this product name to be hilarious. As Terry Eagleton glosses Lacan on desire: "All desire springs from a lack, which it strives continually to fill." Basically, the root of all desire (and of language, interestingly enough) is lack. Or, the way I like to think about it, LACK.

If I designed a coffee table, I would call it objet petit a.

5. IKEA online offers help to customers in the form of a "chatbot" named Anna. In my experience, she is totally unhelpful. I thought I would tell her this. This is how our conversation went:

ME: "You are unhelpful."
ANNA: "You are perfectly entitled to hold any opinion you want about me. Furthermore, your comments improve my knowledge base. Thank you!"

Those Swedes--even their chatbots have equanimity.

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