Moodswing - Crowd control

I hate being herded, even at IKEA

It turns out I hate being herded, which is news to me, because I'd have thought I'd be as passive as diseased cattle when it comes to being told where to go and what to do, and grateful for the suggestions. Honestly. But hell no.

"What was that about?" Daniel asked me. It was an admirably low-key question after all my shrieking. We were at IKEA, the big, blow-ass mega-plex that - since it opened a few weeks ago - now dumps an average of 10 truckloads of badly crafted Euro crap into the living rooms of Atlanta households every minute of each day. It was Daniel's fourth time there and my third, and it was wearing on me. Here all this time I thought I loved this place. And not just because it enables me to stuff my house with spares of everything I already own - at a fraction of what I spent on the originals - but because IKEA and I have a history, dammit. We go back. Years ago, when I lived in Switzerland with my mother during a pre-Clinton period when her job building bombs for the government was profitable, we discovered IKEA together, hand in hand practically, zeroing in on the place like two cheap-minded missiles of the same mettle returning to the mothership. We went there at least twice a month, stocking up on fondue pots, butter dishes, dresser sets and extra-firm mattresses stuffed with tufted horse hair, among other things. Many other things.

But it turns out I do not love IKEA, after all. It turns out I kind of hate it. I don't know why I'm surprised. I should have been suspicious of myself starting at my discovery, years ago, that I have a near pathological freak factor concerning crowds and how they enable people to easily cut in front of me in line. Take those pricks who try to nudge their way in front of you at the cineplex snack bar, like sneaky little shit heels who think they can seep right into a crack in the queue and no one will notice. Ha! I will die before I let that happen. I will fuse myself to the back of the person before me, and seal that crack before I let any hateful, cheating little cross-eyed crap suckers through. Occasionally, though, my vigilance is insufficient and somehow someone gets in, and in those cases, I experience such a suppressed eruption of rage and loathing that once someone mistook it for a seizure and volunteered to call an ambulance.

So you'd think I'd recognize this as a precursor to the above discovery regarding my abhorrence to being directed around like a meek sheep, but my reaction when it happened still startled me, and before I say anything more, I just want to apologize to those people at IKEA - the good sheep - who were detained by my bad-sheep tirade there last Monday. My wet-diaper defense is that the IKEA employee was trying to send me nowhere near where I was trying to get. Admittedly it would have helped if I was more attuned to the universal law of crowd control, which mandates that your personal goal, as an individual, of where you're trying to get is to be immediately replaced with the collective goal, as a throng, of simply getting you away from where you are, but I was handicapped by my lack of self-awareness and the illusion that I make a good sheep.

"You, go that way," the employee said to me, which immediately caused me to foam at the mouth. Then it all just came flooding back to me, why I really hate this place.First, I don't know if you've noticed this at all, but Europeans are really bossy. I remember my mother and I were constantly being bullied around at the old IKEA. In fact, come to think of it, I'll venture that we were actually coerced by hefty, apron-wearing Swiss women into buying half the crap we did. What is Switzerland, anyway, but a state of heavily controlled pseudo-neutrality? Not that the employees at the Atlanta IKEA are actual Europeans, but the store itself is based on a European concept, and some of that concept must include sternly directing people to places they don't want to go. When it happened to me at the Atlanta store, it triggered all kinds of memories and realizations, some welcome and others not, but among them this: Whether I'm part of a crowd or not, I seriously hate a state of control imposed on me.

"You, I said go that way," the employee continued to tell me, and when I continued to ignore him, he stood in front of me and obstructed my passage, thus commencing the aforementioned detonation. When we finished shrieking at each other, it was obvious neither of us was entirely in the right, but just as obviously one of us was going to have to back down and let the other cling to a filament of dignity and continue with their day. In the end, I was the one who came up clinging. By no means, though, do I declare that makes me more dignified. "I thought you loved this place," Daniel said to me as we fended our way to the exit.

"I thought you did," I said. We didn't answer each other, but simply laughed instead and continued on our way, content with the knowledge that, whatever the cost - and at least for the moment - we were going against the herd.

Hollis Gillespie's new book, Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories (Regan Books), is now available in bookstores. Daniel Troppy's artwork is now on display at the Fay Gold Gallery in Buckhead.??