Tailing the Ikea generation
12 July 2010
I don’t often take matrimonial work, but there was something compelling about the plight of the young lady who came to see me. As per boringly usual, she was sure her husband was having an affair with somebody at work. There were the usual little things that wives notice: large chunks of money disappearing from his account; his Mastercard statements came with line items from jewellers and florists (which he passed off as birthday presents for ‘personal assistants’ and ‘business contacts’); weekend absences for interstate ‘business trips’ and ‘conferences’.
Her husband told her he was a ‘nomenclature engineering consultant’ for Ikea. As far as she knew they paid him about $150K a year to invent an endless succession of trendy product names. They had two kids, Skyppe and Hyppe and a labradoodle named Kkarma.
Tailing the subject was a nightmare, even with Joadja to help me. We picked up the tail outside the subject’s Abbotsford home and followed him on the backroads to the slightly trendy Majors Bay village and on past Concord Hospital where he turned right onto Concord Road, left onto Homebush Bay Drive and then into the Rhodes shopping centre slip lane.
So far, so good, but trailing a subject in one of those multi-level underground car parks is a nightmare, particularly if it’s nearly full and you’re not familiar with it. It’s almost impossible to keep the subject in sight as you, and they, search for that elusive parking spot. Thinking quickly, I dropped Joadja off near the exit to the shops, equipped with a little two-way radio. She picked up the tail and I caught up a couple of minutes later.
We followed separately at a discreet distance down a long disorienting gallery on a couple of levels with the usual ‘food-hall’and clusters of teenage kids hanging out. Ikea was located at the other end. We followed the subject up a long escalator past a ghastly cafeteria packed with mums and kids. Great Mother of Darwin, I thought, has Scandinavian cool come to this?
The subject strolled into the furniture area and lingered. Strangely, there was no indication that he actually worked for Ikea: He didn’t put on an ID or greet anyone working there but he was clearly looking out for somebody. Was the whole “I work for Ikea” thing just a ruse?
He glanced at his watch and sat down on an Abbott – a phoney archaic church pew-like thing made from fibreboard with a cheap foil finish – and looked at his watch. I pretended to be interested in a blocky corner lounge called Gillard. The one in the catalogue was a deep red, but the one on display was a conservative shade of blue and according to a photocopied note taped to the tag, only the right wing version was in stock.
I made a great pretense of measuring up the sole remaining, heavily-discounted and rather badly-used, Rudd and then slumped into a heavy brown leather club-type armchair called Turnbull. Over in a corner, safely isolated in a perspex booth, a furniture testing machine with a big mechanical bum the size of a mining executive’s was putting a Gillard through its paces, crunching down on the seat every few seconds.
Just then an anodyne blond walked up behind the subject and gently touched his neck. He sprang up and embraced her. I squeezed off a few shots with my nifty concealed camera and Joadja, showing considerable initiative, got a couple more with her mobile phone by pretending to snap a lounge in which she’d been making a great show of interest.
The new blond was curiously similar to his wife, just slightly different, a bit younger and, well, trashier, and suddenly it struck me as a metaphor for the evolution of Ikea and, indeed the whole shopping mall culture.
I was sure I remembered their stuff as fresh, clean, original, and uniquely Scandinavian, when they first came here. Maybe it was just me, but the whole look seemed to be debilitated by the imperative of shopping mall culture: every year, there’s got to be a whole catalogue-full of must-have new products with an exciting new look and it all has to be built down to a price in a designer race-to-the-bottom.
I got a few more shots of subject and cutey coming out of Flight Centre and kissing in Gloria Jean’s, and there we left off the chase. We got almost hopelessly lost trying to find our car before we gratefully fled to the old-fashioned charms of Werrong Lane and the Brushtail Café.