Swedish Karma

Now that we’re back in Florida, we had to make a run to Ikea, both for a much-needed fix of ingenious Swedish design and also to spend our gift cards on some patio furniture. We struck out, or I suppose Ikea did, in the outdoor comfortable chair department, so we decided to wait until the new line comes in and, in the meantime, circle around the store and look for new things to replace those in our apartment that need replacing. Like our living room floor lamp. It’s one piece of thin plastic stacked on a layer of not-as-thin plastic, and while it’s been good to us for the last four years, it’s time we moved on to something a little less broken. In the lamp showroom, we absolutely fell in love a three-globe beauty with a heavy, brushed-nickel base. However, looking at the price tag, it was one of the only non-cheap things at Ikea. And $80 is too much for a girl on a budget to spend on a lamp. A girl who, these days, has to live off of water and sunshine (see: struggling writer).

Heads hanging, we went off to look at some plants. Not to buy quite yet, just to make a list of what we might want to pair with our new patio furniture when we get it in the spring and our balcony project is coming together. Among the foliage was one of the most pitiful looking plants I’d ever seen; roots dried, it had toppled sideways right out of its pot. Some of the stalks holding flowers were bent in half, the flowers shriveled and dying. The whole plant was wilted, miserable. I knew that whatever life was left in this plant would be taken to the back room, dumped in some industrial-sized garbage bag and thrown out for trash.

“We’re taking this.”

Patrick just nodded. We’ve finally reached the point where he gets it now. No need to explain myself to him. I can’t help feeling bad for things, even things I know don’t have feelings. It just tugs at my heartstrings when pitiful things don’t get happy endings. And Patrick doesn’t even try to reason with me anymore. When we’re in the grocery store, he knows I’m going to buy the ugly, bruised tomatoes no one else wants. And he knows it’s because no one will buy them that I want them. Those poor tomatoes, I’ll tell him, rotting in the back room of a grocery store. All alone. It’s haunting to me. I know it shouldn’t be. I know it’s not rational or practical. But sometimes I can’t help the way I feel. And Patrick knew that if he talked me out of buying that plant, I’d spend the next several weeks staying awake at night upset thinking about what might have become of it.

I went to find an employee in the plant section to get a discount on my little charity case, as my father-in-law would be appalled if I paid full price for a dying plant. Actually, he’d probably be appalled if I paid any money for a dying plant, or if I spent any money at all for any reason ever.

I was directed to the “as-is” section in the front of the store. It’s sort of Ikea’s version of the land of misfit toys – chipped mugs, display rugs, couches missing buttons, pillows without zippers. It’s the place where bits and pieces of Swedish design come to wait for the day their new owners whisk them away out of the discount bins and into a new home. (There I go again, thinking inanimate objects have feelings).

We walked to the doorway in the back of the section, and I handed the guy my lopsided plant, dirt falling everywhere. As we’re looking into the back room where his computer is, we see it – among a swarm of home goods waiting to be discounted – the lamp. THE LAMP. Turns out it was a display model from the show room upstairs, but it was hardly used, no scratches or dings or wear-and-tear whatsoever. The guy must have liked us, because without any haggling, he knocked the thing down 50 percent. He had to say on the ticket that it was used and returned without a box. He even threw in the bulbs for free.

And that’s the story of how my strange neurotic tendencies got us the lamp of our dreams.

Also, after a relocation, nutrient-rich potting soil, some filtered water and just one day, the plant is looking plump and happy.

Oh, and just to add to this feel-good story, the lamp has a floor pedal for an on/off switch because it’s FANCY. So guess who we’ve put in charge of manning the switch? It’s an important job, you know, can’t very well be left to just anybody.

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