It felt like a prison.
I was trying to get out, searching desperately for an exit, but every time I turned a corner, it led only to yet another hall crammed with people.
I was in IKEA hell.
Nobody told me, not even the chipper lady in the bright yellow vest handing out a multi-page store map, that once you went up that escalator, you wouldn’t be allowed to get out of your seat until the end of the ride. Exit signs led to emergency doors, which warned that an alarm would go off if opened. My only choice was to keep moving along with other shoppers like cattle in a chute.
For the first hour or two, it felt like heaven. There were cute little rooms set up in elegant Swedish chic where one could imagine one’s self entertaining a black-turtle neck wearing visitor named Lars. I even got to see a blogger named Vanessa do a DIY demo of how to upholster a bench. Forget the North Korean invasion; it’s Sweden we need to watch out for, people.
Amazingly enough, faced with chairs, tables, couches and lamp shades that I never knew until that day I needed, I only came away with pages upon pages of illegible model, aisle and bin numbers — and Swedish meatballs from the bistro.
When I finally stumbled out of the store, into my truck and onto the freeway, I glanced back with awe at the parking lot. It was like Tooele Walmart’s parking lot at Christmas, except in every fourth stall there was a pink Humvee.
That same week, Tooele County employees were being laid off and the food bank was in danger of closing. A white shelf with colorful storage bins seemed awfully irrelevant to real life.
In IKEA, everyone was flush with money, standing in lines that snaked at least 100 feet. I wanted to pull aside Ms. Chipper greeter and ask her, “How do you do it?”
As in, how do you have stores, shoppers and restaurants? How do you have people spending money in a supposed depressed economy? How do you attract businesses like IKEA to this area?
But I didn’t. I just drove in my truck and headed back down to Tooele County, where already, along the freeway, the sheen of slick furniture and hip design was starting to fade.
As it happened, I passed Bluffdale. You know, where the infamous prison that our city, county and state officials seem to want to relocate to Tooele County.
Some Draper official said, roughly seven years of similar discussions ago, when they were reconsidering moving the prison, “Draper isn’t the end of the world anymore.”
I guess that’s what he must think of Tooele County.
Our county might be the end of the world to some, but the world begins here for people like me. Do I want Tooele County to be another Bluffdale, an eye sore, with nothing to recommend itself but a source of jobs for workers serving a population of criminals?
I want it to host businesses like IKEA, when the time comes. I want bigger ideas, no more of this let’s- accept-everybody’s-unwanted-industries mentality.
With this realization, I was kinda glad I visited IKEA, even if it felt, for a day, well, like a prison.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and a long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com.