What in the name of all that’s holy possessed me to drive 30 minutes to Ikea in North York on a Sunday afternoon of a long weekend? Is it madness? Nah.

Hub had installed the wall plugs and brackets for the new curtain rods in my freshly painted office. I’d picked black because they were dramatic and I’d thought they’d be a nice contrast with the bright-white sheer draperies that we bought to cover the lovely new windows that give me a person’s eye view of our back yard. Once they were up, though, I didn’t like the black. Too contrasty. We had lunch while we chatted about whether I’d live with the three Betylig brackets and Racka rod or Hub would uninstall them, package them back yup and I’d return them.  What to do…what to do. Nope, they’re coming down, I said. The thing is, I hate open windows and I certainly can’t sit at my desks without window coverings, so the die was cast – I’d have to trundle south to return them to the store. Now in my simpleminded wishfulness, I figured that since it was such a beautiful day, folks would be doing things like picnicking or Caribana or the Newmarket Jazz Festival.  But noooooo.

By the time I’d found a parking spot on the top deck of the parking garage and stomped down the stairs, I was annoyed. As soon as I stepped inside the sliding doors by the food market, I was faced by a crush of bodies of all shapes, sizes and colours – men, women, children, car-sized baby buggies (thank goodness no bloody pets underfoot). Ah, a day out of the house. So they were meandering around, blocking the aisles. I was armed with a curtain rod 7 feet long and a bad attitude. The lineups at the $1 ice cream/$2 hotdog counter clogged up every potential detour. Lord have mercy.

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The calm area of Ikea Returns

So I zigged and zagged to the Returns area. It looked like the boarding area for a cruise line. A staggering array of people clutching opened packages or wheeling flat buggies loaded with cardboard cartons. No quick in-and-out this time, my lady. Damn. I managed to sprint by an old lady and a young guy with a squalling kid in a buggy crammed with pillows and snagged #273. I glanced at the numbers on the service screen about the yellow-shirted Ikea Associates. The lowest one was 241. Do I stay or do I go? The lineups at the cash were just as bad so even if I managed to wend my way through the snakepaths that are the sales floor, I might get stuck behind someone buying a dozen Smuglig and an assortment of Gamlickt dinnerware, all individually priced. Stay. Wait.

I perched my butt on the edge of one of the benches and watched the crazy swirl of activity. Noticed the attractive young black woman behind the counter. She had a swirl of braids on the top of her head like a Betty Grable frontal bun, accessorized with turquoise eye shadow and crimson lipstick. What a treat. I walked over and told her I loved her look. Why not. I truly did. And she was dealing with dozens of crazy-pushy people one after the other. All I had to do was sit.

My cell phone battery was at 11%.  I didn’t want to chance spending half an hour wasting time…um, researching and running out of juice. Ten minutes in, it occurred to me that returning $10.72 worth of  drapery hardware had already cost me that much and more in terms of $ per billable hour. Could I pay someone $10 for a lower number? Dumb idea. Stay or go? Damn, I wasn’t on anyone’s clock but my own. I had no desire to thread my way through the crowded aisles with a honking long curtain rod in my hand. I was not in the mood to hike back to my car to stow it. Stay.

And I did something I don’t usually get much time to do. I sat. And thought. I came up with a killer new opening to my novel (now that my mentor Sam says to chuck the first 15,000 words) and jump into the action. Thought up a new plot twist to amplify the villainous nature of the protagonist’s cyber-stalker. Tried but failed to come up with a recipe for using half a leftover baked ham. Needed Chef Google for that. La-la-la-la.

The numbers rolled up fairly quickly – the staff are that good. Some woman with a skater-dude partner (backwards cap, baggy shorts, fluorescent pink shirt) was trying to return some custom kitchen doors and giving the young man trying to help her a hard time. She was bobbling her head in a totally blond way trying to bewitch the Associate while man-boi was stuffing their toddler’s face with potato chips to keep him quiet.

When my number was called, the young black woman was the one who processed my returns. I leaned in and said, “Is there another way to get to the sales floor without going through the maze?” She laughed and crooked her finger. I followed her to the “Associates Only” door. She swiped her magnetic badge and voila, I was only three turns and twenty meters away from the drapery department. Sweet. Got my new items, whipped down the unclogged side aisles to the swipe-it-yourself check out and was back to my car within an hour. Even sweeter.

20140803_162656Hub – ever patient – replaced the fittings and we installed the curtains. And yes, I mounted that dreaded little step ladder again to get ‘er done. No mishaps with bashing my ribs  this time. The look is exactly what I wanted – airy and bright, but with privacy. Now I just have to finish cleaning up my work space and get them hemmed. Tomorrow. Maybe.