Wednesday, October 3, 2007

CSI: Ikea

Has anybody else noticed the degradation of society? The way basic standards of morality we once took for granted continue to erode? This weekend, at Ikea New Haven, Kirsten and I became two more victims.

We were rug shopping, which for my unmarried friends is the sort of thing married couples do on weekends. After venturing from our shopping cart to inspect merchandise, we returned and our cart was nowhere to be found. We searched, puzzled as to how we misplaced it, until we found its contents twenty feet away, unceremoniously dumped on the side of the aisle.

Kirsten accepted this crime and wanted to continue our rug-centered dialog, but I would have none of it. One of our fellow shoppers had, with impunity, emptied our shopping cart and taken it for their own.

I wandered up and down aisles, profiling everyone, until I found my suspects: a couple who had an Ikea shoulder bag inside their shopping cart. Why would anybody put a shoulder bag inside a shopping cart? It made no sense. What did make sense was somebody thought their shoulder bag was too heavy and found the perfect solution, social mores be damned.

Kirsten and I approached the couple. The man was on his cellphone. He glanced at us nervously as he saw the cast-aside items in our arms.

"Do you know where we can find a shopping cart?", I asked the woman.

"I don't know. We were looking forever. My husband found one over there in the corner."

She pointed to the corner where our shopping cart had once stood. Her husband, still on the phone, eyed us uncomfortably.

"OK, thanks a lot," I said and we walked away.

I could think of nothing else for the remainder of the shopping trip, but that I should have said more. What would have been the perfect follow up?

Direct confrontation? "Your husband is a drag on society. Give us our shopping cart."

Polite bluntness? "Please, could we have our shopping cart back?"

More leading questions that reveal our identity? "Was the cart in the rug section, containing a doormat and a cookbook?"

Or perhaps we followed the best approach. We knew who had stolen our cart. The man knew that we knew. And yet, we walked away, leaving him with something to think about.

Somewhere in that cold, dark heart, we hope he learned a lesson. If one can't expect civility in a Swedish furniture store, what sanctuary is left?

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