"You need to go to IKEA," they said.
"It'll be an experience," they said.
They were not kidding, it was an experience. And I managed to get out the door for just under a hundred bucks. Not bad for being 832 miles from home, and in a foreign country!
It was a day, much like any other day, except, of course, that it was the day after Black Friday. And ... from our kids' place, we drove for two hours, crossed an international border, traveled halfway around Lake Ontario, and made it into the very shadows of Toronto. (Okay, not technically halfway, but we did get to the north shore.)
I don't know if any of those factors affected the crowds. My daughter said they were about normal, but I was overwhelmed before we got in the door. Fortunately, the grandchildren were there to comfort me.
As it turns out, IKEA is a huge, busy place. They are actually a destination shopping store. That seemed unimaginable to me. But then, my idea of a good shopping trip is that all the items on the list will have been vetted, put in order of how they will be encountered at the store, and loaded into the cart efficiently. Getting through the checkout quickly with no problems scanning the bar codes equates to bonus points. The coups de grâce of a shopping trip for me is that I have parked in a space near the cart corral, and that I can pull straight out instead of backing out. My needs in life are pretty simple.
Back to IKEA.
I might have mentioned that it was a huge store. In truth, it was an enormous labyrinth of chambers. Each of those chambers was ingeniously laid out to simulate a particular room in a home. And every room you would find in a home was represented many times over. I lost track, but there must have been a hundred chambers.
They did not have the rules of the "Escape" game posted clearly, but I determined early on that the goal was to navigate through all of the chambers without getting anything stuck in the cart. I was never sure about the time limit, but I am sure we exceeded it. Within the Escape game, there were "wild card" obstacles, such as strangers. They were everywhere we turned, which really complicated the navigation. I think it would have helped to be fluent in at least ten languages. That could have improved our time score significantly, but would have necessitated talking to strangers. And we all know that reduces your score. So maybe we broke even there.
The really challenging part of the course was that each chamber had some Siren that called out to the participants. Apparently I'm deaf to their frequency. It was a good thing for my wife that I was there to keep her from getting eaten or enslaved. I considered tying her to the mast, but decided against it as we might have been disqualified for cheating. I surely didn't want to have to go back to Start. In the end, we did actually beat the game, but we were pretty well exhausted.
The irony of the whole trip was that two of the three most expensive items we came away with ... were for me. A dresser for my work clothes, that was nearly 75% off, and a really nice french press coffee maker were the prizes. I have not had a few minutes to assemble the dresser, so there may yet be another adventure lurking in those heavy boxes. But I have been enjoying the "new" way of making coffee.
In all, it was an interesting experience. And the marketing engineers of IKEA are clearly genius. I guess, for the money spent, we came away with some pretty good entertainment.