Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hey, Look Back There...

I was thinking over the weekend how I've settled in, gotten used to France and its seasonal, rule-following, sometimes (who'm I kidding, always) unintelligible ways. I don't strike out, do things, make mistakes to tell you about or put my foot in my mouth as much as I used to. And that makes me wonder...

Why so settled, anyway?

{wild abandon}
Back then I used to drive (yes, I meant to say drive, remember the diesel fiasco) headlong into foreign situations, push the boundaries of Great White, say all manner of ridiculous, yet hopefully, endearing things to the people around me.
Now, I just stand at the gate, staring ahead, shuffling my feet. Everyone knows I botch their language and so they either patiently listen or cleverly ignore me.

This settling in is what makes we wanders wander. Things aren't as fun when you've figured most of it out. It's an addiction; this looking for mistakes to make, social mores to test, laws of physics to defy.

{more wild abandon}

And so, today I'd like to look back, relive one of my favorite botched, bumbling, beguiling, (work with me) blunders. If you've never heard the story of the Ikea bed, Great White, the Baby and the Boss, then I hope you enjoy it. If you have, I hope you don't mind indulging my need to feel vibrant, unsettled, and alive with newness again.

The Boss and The Bed, originally published in June 2010

I’m really bad at spatial relations. It’s one of those things my brain just can’t do. I can’t judge what would fit where and always cut off either way too much or way too little wrapping paper and therefore it takes me an awful long time to get through Christmas presents.

We’ve been waiting for a month for our bed frame. It’s not because it’s some special, made-to-order item. Just that IKEA didn’t have it in stock until Friday.

Tired of sleeping on the floor and looking for more projects for P-Daddy to tackle this weekend, I decided to take the bull by the horns, pack up the Baby, and go get it myself.

I arrived before they opened and waited with all the other affordable (cheap) yet well-crafted (that depends on who’s following the directions) and attractive (nothing here) furniture junkies. As soon as we got in I made a bee line for beds only to find myself waiting with a sweaty and impatient British couple, a young French guy, and an American couple who kept trying to cut in line.

It was while I waited that the screaming started.
The Baby, not me.
{don't let this face fool you}
I started sweating, yet tried to look serene.

The screaming drew glances, stares, and thankfully, another person to the second register. It was finally my turn and I got the paperwork for the bed.

Downstairs to pick up the box for the slats.
I had the Baby in a small shopping trolley and had to get one of those long, big merchandise ones too. Pushing one with each hand, I maneuvered the box onto the big trolley.
No problem. I was feeling very organized and competent.

Next stop, retrait merchandise, where you collect your bigger items.
When my number was called and I saw the box I panicked a little bit on the inside but decided not to show it. The box was BIG! If you’re thinking that I shouldn’t have been surprised then you’ve forgotten about my problem.

Pushing a trolley with a 180cm x 220 cm box balanced on it while pushing a screaming baby in a smaller shopping cart is not recommended. I miraculously got to the car but this was only the beginning of my problems.

Undaunted by the sheer size of this box compared to the size of the back of my car, I carried on.

After I successfully wrestled the Baby into his seat, I set my sights on the box. ‘No problem, you can do this. Don’t panic. Just don't panic!' I kept repeating to myself.

As I tried to fit this very large square peg into the round hole, a car full of scarved Muslim women pulled up behind me, parking so close to the back of my car that the box bashed into their hood. Oh, for goodness sake! Now I’m sweating, stressed out, and have banged my box into a car and will have to explain this, en francais.

I have to tell you that I was not happy.

I usually try to see the good side of things but the entire production had gotten on top of me.
Angry Aidan was rearing her ugly head. With what could only be described as a scowl, I started complaining to them, saying how the box wouldn’t have fallen on their car if they hadn’t gotten so close to me while I was obviously struggling to achieve an impossible feat.

Before you get carried away, all of this was spoken in English and most likely very fast.

The next thing I knew, the oldest of the group ran up to me, grabbed a side of the box and started fluttering at me something about how it wasn’t ever going to fit. It took me a second to realize she wasn’t unhappy with me at all. Relief!

Someone was actually taking pity on me.

She began ripping open the side of the box while telling me what to do and flapping her arms and ordering the others around too. She was now in charge.

Everyone started ripping and tearing open the box. It was a frenzy of activity to a soundtrack of super-fast French. I couldn’t even get in there and ended up standing aside while they went at the box like some sort of ten-handed, French speaking machine.

They took out the pieces, threw aside the box, and started cramming the head and foot boards into the back of my car.

{the offending bed, delivered safely}

‘Oh, no…there’s a baby in there!’ said one.

‘You must move the baby. You must move the baby!’ cried the boss.

Oh, dear. Where?  Where should I move the Baby to?!?

She looked at me with such patience as if to say, ' You poor child, you really are a bit soft in the head aren’t you?'
Why in the front seat of course!

‘Move the baby, move the baby, or leave the bed behind!!!’
So I moved the baby.

I undid the car seat from all its protective harnesses and moved the Baby, gulp, to the front seat. This went against all of my American girl who had babies in the past 10 years training.

Two minutes later the entire contents of the enormous box were somehow contained in my car and the Baby was delighted to be up front with me. He just kept giggling and pointing, the happiest he’d been all day.

As the spatial relations angels left me in a dizzying whirr of arms, squeezes, and ├ža n’est pas graves, the boss kept calling back over her shoulder, ‘Roll up the windows or the bed will tumble out! You must roll up the windows!!!’

I laughed all the way home.

You never know where help will come from and it will always come when you least expect it.

Bless you boss lady, merci beaucoup a vous, wherever you are.


  1. Oh what a great story! I've been there and done that on my own with the baby and two Ikea shopping trolleys. Now I just go there for napkins and craft supplies. I hear you on feeling more settled and then missing the sense of adventure. Sometimes even the Eiffel Tower doesn't impress me anymore, but maybe that's just seeing it on the 30th straight day of grey skies and freezing temperatures!

  2. I think anyone who has shopped at IKEA in France with a French size car rather than an American SUV has had that sinking feeling about trying to fit in your IKEA purchase into your car. We certainly have. Thanks for taking us with you down memory lane.

  3. You'll have many more adventures Aidan, keep leaving the house and they'll find you. Maybe you need to take another trip to Ikea? I understand that restless feeling, it was nice being challenged by something other an being a mother and I miss it all so much...

  4. What a great story...it reminds me of our first IKEA trip here in Bordeaux...French station wagon, 3 kids (no baby) and my husbands decided to buy a cubical wall unit - which he did have to unassemble before leaving the store, no box - just a nice floor model on sale! Well, he is a bit like you - I offered to take kids home (only 15 min.) so all would fit in car - he insisted it would all fit. Well, he was sort of right...it did all fit - in the back, on the floor, on the kids laps, on my lap and the oldest and I had to keep the longest pieces from moving forward to slam into the front window...definitely a camera worthy moment! Sort of that Clown car moment! Thanks for the great memories and do have more adventures - yours are great!

  5. Listen, any time you are feeling too settled in---please jump on down here where you can join me in my humiliating, fresh off the boat adventures! Thank you for the glimpse into a future where the day to day is less momentous, and the past fond-debacle filled memories!


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