I don’t hate Ikea. Of course, I’m Swedish, so I’m not technically allowed to hate Ikea (it’s part of the contract the Swedish overlords make you sign when you turn 18). But if Ikea were my girlfriend, I would probably grab her forearm real hard when she got mouthy with me while walking through Target, shake the shit out of it, and be like, “What’s the matter with you?!” through frustrated, gritted teeth.
Because if you’ve never put together something from Ikea, you have no idea what a rollercoaster of emotion it is. This is amplified when adding a plumbing (i.e. water) element.
And it might as well be a mainline of Clomid into your eyeballs when you attempt to put together your bathroom vanity after moving for the last week while fighting off a cold. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll harbor fantasies about murdering a fellow customer who will not just shut the fuck up at the Home Depot. It’s wild.
I generally don’t enjoy home improvement projects. My wife tells me I’m not as terrible at them as I think I am (except for painting – I am even worse than advertised at painting and have no idea why), and that’s basically true. If left to figure shit out on my own, I’m like hen shit on a pump handle. But give me some directions and the proper tools in little sealed plastic baggies, I can figure it out and get whatever it is built with reasonable aplomb. It’ll be slower than average, but it’ll get done.
My wife, on the other hand, seems to enjoy handy projects. She’s diseased. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that she wanted to tackle installing a new vanity in our bathroom. That meant ripping out the old one, moving it out to the garage for later sale on Craigslist, assembling the new one, securing it in the wall, caulking (Cock!) the sink to it, hooking up the plumbing, and praying to God no water came out. This was about six more steps than I wanted to undertake on a Friday afternoon, but y’know, marriage, and of course I’ll help!
The old vanity came out with remarkable ease. It helps that the ruthless profiteers who flipped the house we bought cut a bunch of corners in many of the details (hooray capitalism!), but still, you take victories where you can get ‘em.
Now then, with the old shitty, stock vanity out of the way, Ikea. Oh, Ikea. I remember when my roommate Jamie and I built my desk in college, we were thoroughly impressed with the detailed Sauder instructions. They were the most comprehensive set of assembly instructions ever compiled, and Jamie managed to put that desk together with no mistakes even while taking shots of Jagermeister throughout the process.
Ikea instructions are like that, only the complete opposite. The first page features a line drawing of some bald eunuch standing over whatever modular piece of crap you carted home from the giant blue box south of town. The following pages feature no words (except for one on the last page that showed drawer installation being completed with the word ‘click’ which isn’t even a word, it’s onomatopoeia), and only vague pictures that serve as ill-shaped puzzle pieces you’re forced to jam together in your head to understand how one action leads to another.
It’s a lot of educated guesswork, which, if this is a brain game from 7th grade, is tremendous; but since we’re trying to build something that has running water coursing through it all day, it’s incredibly stressful.
So you get the basic structure together. Fine. Putting together furniture is no great mystery. With a few added accoutrements, you’re basically assembling a big wooden box. You secure it to the wall, then squirt a layer of caulk (Cock!) on the top of it, and drop the sink in place. Bully. Now it’s time for the actual plumbing part.
And this is where you’ll slowly spiral into madness because apparently plumbing is not one of the core competencies of Swedish people. How else to explain the inanity of their directions?
In a nutshell, the instructions read like this. OK, take this piece, put it here, and screw it in. Then take this other piece and connect it to the first piece. Then add to it pieces three, four, and five. Now that this angular, preposterous looking PVC pipe concoction is together and jutting out in all sorts of directions. Take the first piece off, disassemble part two from part three, SAW OFF~!!! two inches from one of the pipes, reconnect it, and put the fucking thing back together. Ok…
Now, take pieces six, seven, and eight, screw them to each other, and hook them up to piece five. Once that’s fully in place and looking like some unwieldy modernist art monstrosity, disassemble (NO DISASSEMBLE, STEPHANIE!) it from piece four, and SAW OFF another two inches from a different part, then put it back together.
Fuck, Ikea! Why can’t you just give me pieces that are already the correct size? What’s all this sawing shit? And seriously, fuck off for making me put this thing together, take it apart, and rejigger it a billion times before it’s ostensibly right. It’s like getting driving directions from a 14 year-old. Oh, you were supposed to turn back there. Goddammit! Can you please give me directions in advance of each move?
It’s here I should mention we went to the Home Depot three goddamn times that afternoon. Trips 1 and 2 were fine. You get what you need and go on your way. Three times to anywhere is too many, and you know if you’re buckling in for that third time, you’re a fuckup, and you get what you deserve. I can handle that, but what I can’t handle is someone honing in your conversation with the friendly Home Depot employee, the vast majority of which, by the way, are delightful and incredibly customer service minded, and trying to offer advice without the benefit of context.
So to you, Mr. I’ve-Been-a-Professional-Plumber-for-25-Years-and-There’s-No-Way-It-Can-Fit-This-Way, please please please, go have a Coke and a smile, and leave us the fuck alone. My wife is among the most bubbly people on planet earth, so when I see her physically exerting herself to shoot laser beams out of her eyes to make your head explode, best to go outside and play a game of hide-and-go-fuck-yourself instead of droning on about our plumbing situation you don’t understand.
We return to the house thinking we’ve got this fucker dialed in after undoing the brain damage from Helpful Plumbing Citizen Buttmunch. It’s only here do we realize the fatal flaw. The butler did it. The call is coming from inside the house. He was Keyser Soze the whole time!
The fucking Ikea instructions don’t show how this vanity enters the wall. It goes from showing how this thing looks assembled with one pipe jutting out like a gauche bridge to nowhere to a photo of it fully assembled.
It’s the bathroom fixture version of the joke I tell when people ask me about my plans for this website:
1. Write blog posts
It’s a dangling modifier. It’s a cliffhanger to a show that got cancelled. It’s goddamn infuriating because we’ve now been at this for 6 ½ hours and we still don’t have a clue how to make it so we can brush our teeth tonight without flooding the bathroom and giving the cats a fun new way to bathe involuntarily.
So we roll up our sleeves, use what we’ve got, and finagle it together. And it works. It works! By Joe, it works! We did it! We’re dry! We’re geniuses! Let’s go get wings and beer to celebrate!
12 hours later: Oh shit, water. I can fix this.
24 hours later: Oh shit, more water.
48 hours later: OK, we can’t use this sink anymore.
96 hours later: Hi, I’m Tom from A Perfect Plumber. What seems to be the problem?
Well, Tom… For starters, we shopped at Ikea…