Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Which Books Nearly Lead to a Disaster; or, The IKEA Incident

This is a story that should have made it into the 2010 in Review post the first time around, but somehow slipped my mind until now.

As you may or may not know or remember, our car broke down in November 2009. At the time we didn't have the money to fix it, so my cousin and his wife let us borrow her car (which they weren't using at the time) until we could get ours fixed in January, when we would have an influx of cash.

Along with fixing our car, we used a bit of said influx to get some badly-needed bookshelves from IKEA on which we could put our massive collection of books. And it occurred to us that Bertha (my cousin's car—I'm just going to refer to my cousin's wife as my cousin from here on out because it's so much easier and that's how I think of her anyway) was bigger than our car was, so it would make more sense to pick up said bookshelves in Bertha. Accordingly, we sallied forth to that great Swedish furniture store, which is located about half an hour away from our house.

At the store, we wandered through the showroom checking out furniture (half of which looked like someone hadn't gotten the memo that the seventies ended several decades ago), enjoyed a cinnamon roll, picked up the bookshelves we wanted from the self-serve warehouse, checked out, brought the car around to the loading zone, and started to fold down the back seat so we could load up our purchases.

It was at this point that our brilliant plan hit a major snag.

We couldn't figure out how to lower the back seat. We hadn't needed to lower it up to this point in our borrowership, and so it hadn't occurred to us to check on that prior to going to IKEA. Because of course the back seat would flip down—and it would be pretty self-evident how to do it once we started trying.

Except it wasn't. We poked and prodded and pulled and pushed (gently, as it was a borrowed car) on anything and everything that looked like it might be or contain or hide a mechanism for lowering the seat, all to no avail. So we called my cousin to see if she could tell us how it worked.

"Huh," she said when we asked her. "I don't think we've ever tried lowering the seat before in that car, so I really don't know." (Proving how amazing she is, she even offered to come pick us up in their other car, which we politely declined, as we were certain we could figure it out, and besides, IKEA, not to mention our house, is waaaaayyyy out of her way.)

The next step was, obviously, to call my brother and ask him to check up on the internet to see if he could tell us where the seat release was on the car. (Yeah, we don't have smartphones.) He said he'd look into it and call us back in the next five minutes or so.

Let me pause here for just a moment to mention that at any given moment there is a 75-ish% chance that Shallow Man has no idea where his cell phone is. Also, with the particular phone he had at the time, at any given moment there was a 90% chance that the battery was dead. I'm no statistician, but even I can tell you that this leads to a large amount of time spent looking for Shallow Man's phone with no way of finding it in the traditional way (i.e., calling it and following the ringing) because the battery has just died. This is what had happened earlier that morning, meaning we had one cell phone between us, namely mine. And right after I hung up with my brother, my cute pink phone gave out that ominous beep that puts fear and trembling into the hearts of strong men (and women): Low Battery.

I tried not to think about it too much, but as we continued poking and prodding while we waited for my brother to call back, it became increasingly apparent to me that his response would be unnecessary because I already knew what he was going to find:

This seat did not flip down.

It had never occurred to us that such a thing might happen. Bertha was a good 9 years newer than our car. Our car, even when it was new, had a definite paucity of features. Our car is not and never was (and, let's face it, never will be) the coolest, most tricked-out car on the block. So if our back seat folded down, obviously it was the most basic of features and would come standard on every car.

Apparently not on a 2005 Chevy Malibu.

My brother finally called back (I'm sure it was a much shorter time than it felt like to me) and confirmed my suspicions. I thanked him for helping us and then asked if by any chance he could bring his SUV and come help us out. I felt bad for even asking because he lives about 20 minutes away from IKEA in the opposite direction from our house. As it turned out, though, he was watching the kids and waiting for his wife to get back from grocery shopping and couldn't come right then anyway. So I called my mom and dad, who live maybe 3 minutes away from my brother.

They weren't home. My little sister, who answered, told me they had gone to see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and that the show had started maybe 15 minutes earlier so it would be a long time before they were done.

I was getting a bit nervous at this point, and tried calling my cousin back to take her up on her offer of a ride after all.

No answer.

To recap:
We are, at this point, 30 minutes away from our house, with three large Billy bookcases (say hello!) and other assorted purchases, a back seat that won't flip down, no rope or bungee cords, the only people who I know for sure have cars big enough to help us are unavailable, and our only means of communication with the outside world may die at any moment.

So we do what any self-respecting people in our situation would do:

Call for backup.

Lost in Translation and her husband live just past the halfway point between our house and IKEA and also happen to be awesome.

I took a deep breath, said a little prayer that my phone wouldn't die before they answered, and dialed.

When LiT answered, I said without thinking, "Hey, would you guys be able to come bail us out?"

Stunned pause on the other end.

I realize my mistake. "No, no, we're not in . . . I meant figuratively bail us out, not literally." I explained our plight, and she said they'd be there as soon as possible.

I thanked her profusely but tersely as my phone beeped again, and told her, "Yeah, my phone may die at any minute, so if you call and no one answers, we're just waiting in front of the store at the loading area."

It took them a little longer to arrive just because they had to clear out the trunk of his car, but they got there soon enough and then all that was left was to wrangle three bookcases and assorted other purchases (I think this was the same trip we got a new desk/table for Shallow Man's office, but I can't remember for sure) into their little-ish hatchback and our unexpandable trunk. I don't know how—maybe Mary Poppins or Hermione Granger was watching over our cars—but we managed to squeeze it all in. LiT ended up riding in our car with us because the hatchback was packed to the gills (not that a car has gills, really; maybe if it was an amphibious vehicle. . . .) with bookcases. This was harder on her, just because it meant she had to listen to our repeated thanks for the 30-minute drive to our house.

We ended up taking them to dinner at our favorite Italian place as a token of our appreciation (we're always glad of an excuse to eat there anyway), so it all turned out okay in the end. My phone had continued beeping at intervals during the entire time we were waiting in the parking lot and on the drive home. It finally died as we pulled back up to our house after dinner, and I have no idea how it lasted that long. (This actually led to another adventure, when we discovered that when Shallow Man's phone had walked off it had apparently taken the phone charger with it, so we did end up being incommunicado for the next couple of days until the charger turned up.)

So the moral of the story is: Having a back seat that flips down really should be a standard feature on all cars. Also, LiT and husband are awesome.

Or maybe it just means that there is such a thing as having too many books.


KTE said...

You blasphemed! A great post full of my favorite people and things and you end it with blaspheme. I cannot even believe. I mean come on, too many books? Perish the thought.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

It reminds me of when I went into labor at IKEA and couldn't drive myself home. Oh yeah, and my husband was at work (in downtown SLC) with no car. Why do such things happen at IKEA? Does the the bubble of cheap, Swedish efficiency create some sort of bad luck vortex?

Erin said...

Great post! Reminds me of when we bought a big television at Costco and couldn't get it in the back seat. We stood in the parking lot looking like idiots for a few hours until help arrived. Also, I purchased a treadmill at Walmart and (long story deleted) ended up renting a giant uhaul to get it home! Yes... I've definitely been there!

Lost in Translation said...

Bahahahaha. What a funny memory.

Particularly the, "Can you come bail us out?" part. I thought Ah, hell. What have they done THIS time? All in all, it turned out all fine. The bookshelves made it home and we all got to go out to dinner. I'm glad we could help out, and that you weren't stranded at IKEA forever. Though, really, between the café and the copious furniture arrangements, I wouldn't mind moving in there for a week.

I will have you know that my word verification horrifies me: "isfat." I find this remarkably unkind of it to tell me, particularly as I am still in the awkward "Pregnant or donuts?" phase of physical pregnancy appearance. *sob*

elliespen said...

LiT, I laughed really hard about your word verification. But it was a sympathetic laugh, because I remember at one point of the pregnancy turning to Shallow Man and saying, "I definitely look PREGNANT now, right? Not just fat?"

And I also think it would be okay to camp out in an IKEA for a week. Each day you could live in a different impossibly small fake apartment.

elliespen said...

Oh, and KTE, when a substantial minority of them are old law or political science textbooks, I think "too many" becomes much more of a possibility. I know, I know, I have a hard time believing it, too.

The Geek Out Crew said...

"Ah, hell."

Heh - how appropriate!

Carrie said...

Aw, sorry I was at the store. I remember Matt was a little sad he couldn't save you. I'm glad it worked out, though. *whew* Next time, we got your back! :)