So what got my muse working on overtime this AM was the fact that we bought nine boxes that will become a bed (2 boxes not counting mattress & box spring), a dresser (2 boxes), a sideboard (3 boxes [186 lbs]) and a bookcase (1 long box). Each of these boxes looked pretty much the same from the outside. They are all rectangular in all three dimensions and weigh way more than they should because they furniture is made out of pressboard, which is factory and mill waste mixed with mildly toxic petrochemical waste. I like to let the furniture air out in the middle of a room for the first few hours after it sit un-crated to let the formaldehyde disperse a bit before I have to sleep or eat on it (Middle Age, Middle Class Neurosis).
I was thinking while I was building the dresser (46 steps [or stations of the cross], which makes it fairly complicated by Ikea standards). There is a place where there were stacks of these dressers, in their 3 boxes totaling 186 pounds stacked to the rafters, or as high as the engineers said you could stack them without damaging them. Tons and tons of wood/pressboard/hardware dressers in neat stacks ready for shipping into containers for the Ikeas all over the world. Each of these Ikeas will sell hundreds of these dressers and then the scene/act/ritual I performed yesterday will be re-enacted in bedrooms and livingrooms all around the world.
So when Joao, Min, Piotr or Sven looks out over the inventory, stacked to the rafters of his sweltering or frigid warehouse, does he think about all of the people who will open these flat boxes and go through the Ikea ritual of assembly. I am sure that he or she is aware that the boxes will go to millions of places that the worker will never even know of, much less visit. Further, can the factory worker in the global capitalist assembly line even afford the dresser that the American Me considers a bargain too cheap to concern myself of its larger impact (environmental, social, political and labor)? So is he or she aware of the steps that are drawn in pictures by some Swedish artist who is earning a living wage? Follow me along as I walk you through the Sunday service of the Ikea Ritual:
First there is the advent, with the releasing of the pent-up formaldehyde fumes acting as a chemical censer or thurible. In church the smoke symbolizes the prayers rising up to heaven: for the agnostic it’s just the chemical warfare of capitalism against the masses (which we volunteer for, to save $€£¥). Next we open up the pictorial hymnal with the picture of the neutered assembler calling the 1800 number as the only copy. The 1800 number, like the prayers, fumes and smoke goes off the to an ecclesiastic phone tree where one can happily spend the rest of one’s life on hold in multiple languages. (The difference between Heaven and Hell is the Muzac.)
Next you have to take inventory of your own tools. For this you will need to be pure of heart, have a hammer, two screwdrivers, and the allen key of life (provided). For if you are found wanting in any of these ways your dresser will be impure, and you will be angry three times a week when your sock drawer disassembles as you try to get dressed for the job you think is better than the furniture-worker you made redundant by shopping at Ikea.
Then you can put the parts and tools into a bowl, which you will dip your fingers into as if it were holy water, one brief ablution for each step: peg, screw, fastener, etc… However, with of with the tools they have and the tools they include (and if you are particularly pure a power drill with a Philips-head-bit and a bottle of Elmers Glue ™) you can build a piece of furniture that will last until you lose your job and have to move.
Finally, once all of the preconditions are met, you can begin the genuflection before the hymnal and components. Enshrouded in the fumes from the crate you can look at the pictures in the hymnal, ignoring the futile 1800-COPY, and begin to genuflect this dresser into being. Kneel, read the hieroglyphs and try to match the neutered pictograph in each and every detail. It is like a
As I assembled mine into the wee hours of the night there was, no doubt, a person in Asia getting up to slap hers or his together for his or her home. Was this his first Ikea assembly? Does he know that if he wants it to stay together he should use some Elmer’s glue? I think that after the first or second one I built I started reinforcing them with glue because without it, well…
(Faith is a key component of the Ikea assembly process, perhaps just as important as the tools or organization)