My overseas readers are probably aware that English people have a reputation for being a bit repressed. What may not be known is that we have several cathartic rituals in our culture which allow us an emotional release. They include getting completely shitfaced on continental lager, making some of the best music in the world, and moaning.
One extremely popular ritual for couples is a pilgrimage to IKEA to buy various bits and bobs for the house. On the surface an entirely mundane activity, but in reality a shitstorm of repressed aggression rising to the surface. For example, my nearest IKEA is the Edmonton branch – a store whose opening was heralded by a near riot and stabbing.
I found myself anticipating our latest visit with some excitement. The day began well with my better half telling me to fuck off before we’d even had breakfast, but this was merely a glimmer of what was to come. We headed up on the train to meet my Dad and borrow his car. (It’s always good to involve as many family members as possible in these operations as it maximises the potential for disagreement and conflict).
Our train was a bit late, so we pegged it off the station only to be greeted by a wall of cops. They had kindly erected a portable metal detector so they could search everyone leaving for evidence of “weapons, or terrorism”. Which I guess is fine – no point in going to IKEA for an argument if some nutjob is about to blow the place up as a symbolic gesture against western decadence, right?
Only, they weren’t searching bags.
“We’re not doing that today, sir.”
“Are terrorists not using bags today or something?”
“I can’t really comment on that, sir, but we’ll be searching bags on another day”.
“Can I just take your names? We need it for our records”
We give our names.
“Can I also have your full addresses and dates of birth?”
Better half asks why, and tries to find out what the data is for/who will see it. This is pretty much stonewalled and we don’t want to make an issue of it for two reasons. Firstly, my Dad is waiting in his car somewhere. Best not confirm his worst fears and turn up late after an argument with the police.
Secondly, someone else who was on our train is making an issue of it and things aren’t going well for her – in fact some copper has started asking her all sorts of questions about whether she has a valid ticket for her journey, eventually removing her oyster card from her and going into the station to check. Because not having a valid ticket is a clear sign of being a terrorist, or course, bag or not. Just to help you visualise the scene, I will point out that she was black and virtually all the cops were white.
“Can you just put any metal objects in your bag, sir, and walk through?”
Both of us walked through the detector and set the alarm off.
My better half pipes up “Oh, that’s probably my belt buckle”. We show our belt buckles. They wave us on without any further searches, meaning we could have any kind of metal on us, or in our bags.
I have mixed feelings about the incident. On the one hand, I should have been much more arsey about it all – but I caved in as my role of designated driver over-rode my role as heroic defender of civil liberties. On the other hand, the whole thing was so comically pointless, that adding to it seemed a bit surplus to requirements.
After that, IKEA was quite dull.
But we did get some nice shelves.