Canoeing Down the River IKEA

Which has strained more relationships, canoeing or IKEA?

That's a tough one because both of them will cause at least one party to consider beating the other with a canoe paddle or three-seat sofa. No one who has a successful marriage has ever both visited IKEA and taken a day-long canoe trip.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 30-year anniversary, and when someone asked me what our secret was, I said, "We went to IKEA once, but we've never gone canoeing."

Visiting IKEA starts out great. Everyone is full of good intentions and looking forward to the day. You're just there to buy a new couch, and that's it. Just zip-zip-zip, in and out, and then a relaxing day and maybe some ice cream.

Except you've been there for three hours, and there's a huge vein throbbing in your spouse's forehead. A vein that, after 20-plus years of marriage, you've never seen before.

That's when — for absolutely no reason — your spouse will scream hurtful things like, "For the last time, we do not need a cookie jar shaped like a goose! We already have a badger one!"

I only ever went one time, and it got so bad that I was banished from IKEA for life.

Not by the store, by my wife.

We lived in Indianapolis at the time, and my wife said, "Hey, do you want to go to the IKEA in Cincinnati?" That was her mistake, but to this day, she refuses to accept any responsibility for it.

Instead, she says, it's all my fault because I said, "Sure, that sounds like fun."

There I was, enjoying myself and marveling at all the amazing new sights around me, like a child seeing Disney World for the first time.

"Hey, that teapot is shaped like a duck. Can we get it?"

"Ooh, those towels have hedgehogs on them. Let's get hedgehog towels."

"But when you tip the teapot over, water comes out of the duck's mouth."

"What do you mean, we don't need a bunny-shaped milk pitcher? I want a bunny-shaped milk pitcher."

"Bob's wife let him get a duck teapot."

"I never get to get ANYTHING!"

IKEA's biggest problem is also their most brilliant idea. The stores aren't laid out like regular stores where customers wander up and down the aisles and leave whenever they want. It's a one-way labyrinth where you start on one end and navigate through until you have to fight the minotaur.

There are no other exits. There's no place to relax with a pastry and a latte. You just slog on, bloodied and torn, like you're on a quest to hurl that stupid ring into Mount Doom.

Even Frodo and Sam got a ride home afterward but not you. You have to keep walking until you reach the end. And by the time you've had your twelfth genius idea vetoed — "But it's a penguin with a Bluetooth speaker in its belly!" — you're now looking for the Ă„ktenskapsskillnad Divorce Kit.

Canoeing is like IKEA.

Everyone starts out full of good intentions and looking forward to the trips. It's a chance to spend the day together, enjoying nature and being in each other's company. But by the end of the day, you question what you ever saw in the other person to begin with.

It's also a start-to-finish single-path adventure with no chance to duck out. You enter at one end of the river and get out at the other end with no early exit.

You can't stop and relax over a pastry and a latte because that would mean spending more time with the person who is now your sworn enemy. Instead, you slog on, bloodied and torn, like you're on a quest to hurl a Swedish couch into Mount Doom.

When I was a kid, my family would take annual canoe trips down the Mississinewa River. My mom sat up front, my dad in the back, steering. My sister and I were in the middle, just sitting there. I was given a paddle, but I don't think I actually made much of a contribution.

It was like when my son was two: We would hand him a broken GameBoy so he could think he was playing video games on TV with us.

We only went once a year because that's how long it took for everyone to emotionally recover from last year's trip.

Later, after my parents divorced — which may or may not be related — my dad took my sister and me canoeing with the woman he was dating, along with her son and daughter. 

We only ever did that once, and you can pretty much guess what happened.

After those two broke up — which may or may not be related — and my dad remarried, he wisely gave up on canoeing. He has also never gone to an IKEA with his wife either, which is probably why they're still together.

But they also don't have a teapot shaped like a duck, so have they even truly lived?

Photo credit: Jens Mohr (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)
Photo credit: (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.