I really love being white, which is fortunate, because I’m really good at it,. That said, it’s not like there’s really anything to hate about being white in the first place. Hating being white is like hating having free steak delivered to you, or your own Learjet – like Louis C.K. says, white people aren’t inherently better, but being white is far easier and less stressful than the alternative. Pretty much the only downside is that between Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and the Pope, white people have a pretty solid reputation for ignorance and bigotry.
The one time that I do start to feel a bit self conscious about my ethnicity – as though you can call living in Culver City and liking Huey Lewis an ‘ethnicity’ – is when I go to Ikea. Because while Ikea is staffed and patronized by a large number of racially, ideologically, and economically diverse people, when somebody asks you how your weekend was and you say, "I went to Ikea on Saturday.”, the un-PC knee jerk response is still, "Yeah, I’ll bet you did, honky.”
So I went to Ikea on Saturday – with my white friends, in my Subaru – to pick up some home furnishings and eat some cheap meatballs, not in that order.
My room was pretty short on furniture. For the past eight months, the corner of my room was home to several decaying cardboard boxes, the veterans of several college-era moves, loaded with various books, DVDs, and trinkets that I had no storage space for outside of the boxes I brought them to California in.
Until recently, though, I’d never had enough disposable income to justify a trip to Ikea, because as we all know, that minimalistic paradise may as well be a vengeful blue and yellow god who tricks countless mortals into sacrificing large stacks of money to him in return for the false promise of a living space as cozy as the ones in the showroom.
Being as my immediate concern was paying my rent in a timely fashion, I opted to hold out on an Ikea run until I had some income to dispose of. I mean, I needed furniture, but needing furniture isn’t the same as needing food or medicine. There has never been a furniture emergency, unless you count when poorly constructed bookcases tip over and crush their owners, in which case I will probably suffer a furniture emergency in the next week or so.
Point is, the work I’ve been doing in advertising is considerably more lucrative than getting coffee for people, so this weekend I opted to go out and drop around $100 on home furnishings before I inevitably screw this job up and have to go back to living on a tight budget again.
Ikea is a roller coaster ride, from start to finish. On the one hand, you’re excited and inspired by all these beautiful dwellings around you and thrilled at how little you’ll have to spend to make that shelf your own. On the other, you’re contending with gigantic crowds, hopelessly lost in the ergonomic maze, and, if you’re there with a significant other, probably having a fairly pouty and melodramatic fight.*
*I’m not stealing that joke from 30 Rock, 30 Rock stole that bit from a thing that always happens in real life.
After you leave, though, is probably the ultimate low point. Driving away, your car loaded down with hundreds of dollars’ worth of cheap balsawood, it begins to sink in that the battle is only half over. There’s one more step between buying your Ikea furniture and having it in your house, and that’s building the fucking furniture.
I have limited Ikea construction experience – I’ve disassembled and reassembled my desk, LACK, several times, but that’s pretty easy seeing as it’s only got four parts. I had been cautioned to stay away from anything with moving parts – such as drawers – unless I had an engineering degree, so I did just that. But I did not expect that BILLY, my seven-foot tall bookcase, would drive me to the brink of insanity and then send me over it, screaming and yelling all kinds of profanity.
I know some people say that putting together Ikea furniture is easy, but in my defense, those people are idiot liars because putting together Ikea furniture is fucking impossible. I spent an hour and a half just pounding dowels and trying to get planks installed facing the right direction, and that was before things even got frustrating.
I first realized I was out of my league when I found that the sort of screwdriver the asexual humanoid was using in the instruction manual was not included with the supplies, so I had to drop everything and go to Rite Aid in search of a screwdriver and a hammer. The good news is that while their limited tool section lacked a hammer, it did have a screwdriver with a hammerhead in the base. The bad news is that it was made by a company called Latitude, which proudly produces tools for women and women only.
So I bought the hammer/screwdriver designed for women with the turquoise handle and went home to continue being vexed by a Scandinavian bookcase. I do emasculating things with such depressing frequency that I think it’d make more sense to just start mentioning when I do something that actually is relatively manly.
I returned home and spent the next two and a half hours on the floor of my bedroom alternately screwing and nailing BILLY. The process was far from enjoyable for either one of us – he was obstinate and unyielding, while I, due to my lack of experience, was mostly just frustrated. Finally, though, after a lot of sweat and anguish, I was able to finish, and ultimately I’d say I’m pretty satisfied.
Oh yeah, that’s right: BILLY is black. Needless to say, making him hold all my possessions like that is triggering my finely tuned white guilt right about now.
Truman Capps disappoints his older readers to no end.