Surprisingly, eating breakfast at IKEA opens your eyes to the real problems of the world
The past comes back to flick you in the ears at the strangest of times.
I’m a breakfast guy. It’s important to me. I’ve always believed, and still do, that you can’t really start a productive day without it. Bagels and cream cheese, eggs and cereal, stale pizza from the couch or two shots of whiskey to stave off the impending hangover — it doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as you begin the next page of your life with substance.
Whatever you choose as fuel, your day follows ...
On a seasonably gloomy Colorado morning, my family and I had nothing better to do than go shopping for shit we don’t need at IKEA. You know that scene in Old School? The one where Will Ferrell’s character plainly announces he’s going to Bed Bath & Beyond if he has time and is genuinely excited to do lame things while dumbfounded kids looks on in confusion?
That was funny in 2003 when the movie came out, because that was “never going to happen to any of us.” Now that I’m 34, though, it’s even funnier. Because it’s real life. Going to home improvement stores isn’t half bad; Ferrell was right. It sure as hell beats waiting in line for two hours to stand in a packed bar or worrying about an online presence so much so you’re willing to spend $50 on brunch just to Instagram it.
You get older, you get cheaper, you get smarter — that’s the way it goes.
So I was always intrigued when I’d see signs on the side of the highway showcasing the Swedish shit-show had breakfast for 99 cents if you showed up at a certain hour before shopping. I’m game, I’ve always thought. I’d had worse before. I’ve also had nothing before. So throwing a buck down for a meal seemed like the logical choice. It couldn’t be that bad.
Why not? We went.
Surrounded by a hundred other shoppers before the store pried opened its cattle keepers for mass consumption, we stood there in line, listening to the clanking of metal forks on ceramic plates, waiting like a couple of 10-year-olds for macaroni surprise. The lady behind the counter even had on a stylish hair net. I half expected her to scold me for being tardy or to flash an unsightly chin-mole with hair growing out of it like Mrs. Herling had in elementary school.
She used an ice cream scoop for the eggs. A fucking ice cream scoop. For eggs! It's the '90s again, I'm sure of it at this point ..
These aren’t standard eggs, either. The type of eggs this sorta restaurant uses are formed in a massive hotplate and come in droves through huge plastic bags with nozzles to dump its pseudo-protein sludge into a vat of sub-par oil. Not many people will understand the reference, either, because it's the stuff that happens behind the purple curtains. Like in jail, where they feed everyone just enough to keep them alive and use food most people wouldn’t give their pets.
Because pets are precious, criminals are not.
The plates come with sausage, too, and pancakes, if that’s what we’re going to call them. A real “American” meal, the retailer calls it. Complete with free coffee and a cinnamon roll for an extra buck.
My family and I stacked two adult plates, a roll and a kid’s meal for under $9 — in 2016, that’s unheard of. Of course it’s a marketing ploy, to get people like you and me inside of their doors in hopes we’ll wander around a bit and spend money. It works, because it's smart.
As you sit there in an experience like this one, though, you have to realize that life isn’t so bad. Sure, there are workers in the back literally dumping gallons of eggs from a bag into a huge trough while they haphazardly throw together pancakes made from a cheap batter, and who knows what the sausages are — yet here we sit, in a relatively free country, eating an inexpensive meal, while not having to dodge warfare or famine or worry about epidemics sweeping through the population like death butter.
And I’m not behind bars, like I once was, in an environment similar to this one. Lunch lines, sterile plates, foamy eggs and drones of people being told where to go and what to do through calculated systems of control.
It didn’t take more than a few minutes of reflection as I sat there watching my 2-year-old scarf down her fake meal to understand that I shouldn’t bother complaining. This is better, out here, where we can either choose to have breakfast for a buck or go somewhere else for fifty.
Sometimes having breakfast isn’t what you necessarily intend it to be. But it will forever be the beginning of a new day, a start to the remainder of the cycle. Luckily it’s our choice with what to do with it.
Even if it’s bad, it ain’t so bad after all.