Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Month In IKEA

My colds all follow the same script. There is the inciting throat tickle; the sore throat and fever; then the march of the phlegm brigade; sneezing and congestion; and finally, a dry hacking cough for a day or two, and we're done. A week, tops. The dry cough is the worst. Nothing alleviates it, although there is medicine that will transform it into a dry, mentholated cough.

So when I got my inciting throat tickle in the airport in Fiji on January 20th, I thought: well, at least I'll be done with this before I give a reading of Trousering Your Weasel at the bookstore. And judging from the crush of humanity and humidity in the Fiji airport, I should be grateful it's not Ebola. People who are not me love that kind of heat, but I associate it with lying wretched on the linoleum floor in front of the black oscillating fan in August in Washington, D.C. in 1960, and other tropical diseases.

My throat did get sore, but that misery was eclipsed by the fact that my ears sealed up on the airplane and never flopped back open again.

After two weeks, they still hadn't. "Have you tried yawning?" people inquired, one after the other. No! Really? I am nearly sixty and I've never heard of the yawning trick, you annoying shit. Young mothers steered their children away from me as I walked down the street repeatedly gaping like a carp and yanking on my earlobes. I still didn't have congestion. Then, all out of order, came the dry, hacking cough. "I've still got three days before my reading," I thought. "I should be done by then."

The cough continued unabated, especially when I tried to talk. I quit talking two days before the event in an attempt to rest my throat, a nearly unprecedented phenomenon which left Dave confused as to whether to enjoy it or be worried sick. The dry, hacking cough remained in force for a solid week, with one two-hour break in the middle, during which I had my reading. It was a little miracle, for which I was advised to credit God, who intervened on my behalf because he really wasn't up to wading into that business in Syria.

And then the cough subsided, followed by--we are three weeks into this thing now--the beginning of major congestion, which appeared to be having no effect against the invading virus, and so was amplified by a surge of phlegm soldiers, which emptied into my hankie in such quantities that it seemed my head should fold up like a drained juice box. On Day 24, my left ear unclogged for several minutes and then thought better of it. A few days later the mucus quit running but kept accumulating and filled up every available space inside my head like a herd of unemployed twenty-year-olds in a house full of sofas. And then the sneezing began. One after the other. FAGLAVIK! FORHOJA! SNOIG!

That's when it hit me. OMG. My cold went to IKEA and it can't get out.

That's what happened to Dave and me. We went in to IKEA for something specific. Escalators herd you straight upstairs. I didn't notice at the time, but there are no down escalators. We did maneuvers through office furniture, bookcases, and bathroom furnishings, and finally located our section, selected our item, and tried to make our way back. In IKEA, there is no way back. Retracing your steps requires a sort of reverse peristalsis that their staff is not equipped to clean up after. We were instead directed to the exit by large one-way arrows on the floor aisles, and so we began our odyssey, kinking around the store like farts in a bellyful of intestines. There are no windows. I have a good sense of direction but after four turns I had lost all sense of the exit. "This is ridiculous," Dave said. "Oh look: picture frames," I said. We got some traction in the pillow department and gained momentum through glassware, until Dave bogged down at the tumbler display. Linens were next. I could use some new curtains. I pawed through the samples. "There's a shortcut here, it says," Dave said, pointing at a sign. We headed that way.

"Look at this sweet vase!" I said. "We don't need any more vases," Dave said. "But it's so cheap!" I said. "We have a million vases," Dave said. "Look at this price!" I said, to his back, which was disappearing around the bend. I caught up fast. He'd gotten hung up. "Look at this sweet drawer divider!" Dave said.

Ten minutes later, I was pleased to see another display of curtains. "Hold up," I said. "There's more curtains here."

"They're the same ones," Dave said. Pshaw. I'm the one with the good sense of direction, not him. Holy shit. They WERE the same ones. I was rattled. "Okay, run! Run! And this time, no shortcuts!"

The exit doors finally came into view. They are easy to find. You start at the entrance doors and follow the arrows for forty-five minutes.

I feel sorry for my cold. But enough is enough, I told it. Grab some Swedish meatballs like everyone else and get the hell out of Dodge.

92 comments:

  1. My first Ikea was in a small(by Swedish standards) store in Brisbane. I was with a friend who "needed" something. I bought a lovely wooden piano stool which did stirling service at my overlocking machine for years. Today, somewhat screechy, but still sitable, it lives by my piano.
    Next time I went to Ikea was in Red Hook, Brooklyn. USA. Oh. My. Sainted. Swedish. Aunt.....

    (Yes, I did get out in time to catch my flight from JFK)

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    1. Our IKEA is right by the airport. I think they probably have a hangar attached. All the planes are boxed up, but with a screwdriver...

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  2. What is it about Ikea? I guess they think you should see everything so you will buy more... your case showed their genius. I take it you are now over that awful cold. Stuffed up ears is no fun, but it sure makes for a good story! :-)

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    1. My ears are still a little cantankerous. But the rest of it finally found the exit.

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  3. Take bread crumbs to IKEA or you'll never get out! It's like being lost in a devilishly seductive hell on earth.

    So sorry about your cold that wasn't a cold but was really something just a little less than the plague. The "head folding up like an empty juice box" line was best of the best!

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    1. So THAT's what the meatballs are for! Retracing your steps. You know, the cold wasn't so bad, but who has a cold for a month? Bleah.

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  4. That's it! I have never seen an IKEA, don't know anything about them but I'll be damned if I'll go in one should they appear in my neck of the woods. Thanks for that customer review Murr. Oh, BTW, I have the same ailment and IT WON'T GO AWAY!!

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    1. Word. Makes you wonder if it's just a serial bunch of ailments all strung together.

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  5. Didja know there is horse in dem dere meatballs?

    Neigh, you say.

    XO
    WWW

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  6. I get that sore throat first. Last couple of times have taken Cold-Eeze at the first sign, and it seems to help.

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    1. Izzat a zinc thing? I usually take Zicam at the Inciting Throat Tickle, and I think it works a lot of the time, because I don't get the cold, but maybe I wasn't going to anyway. Hard to tell.

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    2. Yep. Cold-Eeze, Airborne, Air Sheild, or plain zinc and vitamin C. They just seem to keep the bugs from anchoring as well, or they are just effective placebos often enough that we think so.

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  7. I LOVE IKEA. I understand how tricky it can be to navigate but once you've surrendered to the inevitable and just keep following the arrows on the floor, it's easy. And, it helps to buy all the cute things along the way. The best IKEA trips end with the realization that you bought more boxed up furniture than your car will actually hold (Double bonus points if you and the kids have to travel back home more than an hour with your heads scrunched down under boxes). And, unlike many people, I absolutely love putting IKEA furniture together. It's okay . . . you can tell me I'm ill. It's true but I'm not looking for a cure! :) Hope you're feeling better, Murr!

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    1. Surrendered is the key word here. I agree. I just went back JUST to get these photos and got out of there $140 later. BTW, I think you could rent yourself out at a good price for IKEA assembly.

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  8. A swig of Nyquil would have fixed everything overnight. You'd have slept like a baby (not the colic-y kind either), woke up with a hell of a hangover and totally forgot about words like congestion, sneezing etc. Hey... maybe they took that stuff off the market already?

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    1. You know, since Dave was sick in New Zealand, we kept trying to find something over the counter that was like Nyquil. Particularly looking for something that cautioned us against operating heavy machinery. We found shelves and shelves of stuff that promised they would NOT make you drowsy. What's the point?

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  9. I've been to IKEA once and my God once was enough. The whole cannot-retrace-your-steps thing you mentioned, forcing me to inspect every single item in the store before I could finally escape. I toyed with shouting Fire at the top of my voice and looking for the nearest fire exit, but probably fire exits are banned as well.

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    1. I thought about the fire thing too. I imagine they have little lighted strips that point the way to the exit just like in an airplane. Or the whole building folds up like a juice box.

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  10. My god stores have become like the "gum ball rally" with displays laid out so there's no straight path to be found.

    And I knew there was a reason I never go to Ikea it's like the Hotel California, you can check in but never check out.

    Next time try some Cold Eeze (zinc lozenges). That is if you don't mind losing your sense of taste for a few days. But as for me I have no sense of taste anyway. As for the meatballs, are the horse rescue shelters still full?

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    1. Jeez, I wish you wouldn't have put Hotel California in my head.

      You know, I still haven't tried the meatballs, but yesterday I picked up a bag of them and they're in my freezer. Perhaps that is where they will live.

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    2. I halfway live on the meatballs. Fry them until they're crispy, add too much salt, and ... low-carb snack food!

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  11. Once to IKEA is enough for me too. I'm not a shopper
    anyway. It seems to be that snotty time of the year. I'm living in the center of hackers (not the computer kind) trying to avoid it. Hope you got the cure or found it back in the meatballs and it's always a good idea to get outta Dodge.

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    1. I did think that I would really love IKEA if I were in my twenties and needed to furnish an apartment. There's a case to be made that I need new dishes and some new chairs and things right now but I'm at an age where if it hasn't completely busted apart I'm still good with it. Lifetime shopping fatigue.

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  12. My husband has been suffering from the same symptoms since last November. I think he is at long last on the mend. I don't know how I've avoided it, but so far so good. As for IKEA -- I've never like that store since the only time I've been in one!

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    1. NOVEMBER?

      Get back in that store and chase your husband's cold out! He'd do it for you.

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  13. I've never been to Ikea - the only one within driving distance folded years ago. Our provincial economy is that bad.

    As for the viruses this year, they are big, they are bad, they are woolly, and they last forever. You have lots of company - but a much better sense of humour about it than the rest of us!

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  14. Am loving the juice box metaphors/similes especially regarding snot deluges; that's exactly what it feels like. I hope the rest of your year is less nasally moist.

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    1. Way I figger it, I've had my cold for the next several years. I'm ahead.

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  15. "...farts in a bellyful of intestines" - bahahaha! I'll never walk through IKEA again without laughing.

    But I go there frequently enough that I've actually figured out the shortcuts. I find it also helps if you barrel through like a fullback in a field of croquet players, snag the one item you actually came for, and hip-check a couple of people out of the way to use the self-checkout before you can pick up anything else. But maybe that's just me...

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    1. So you're one of those super-fast farts that go through fast and pop out with a bang, eh?

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    2. ...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...

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  16. Believe it or not, you were lucky! I had that "awful-never-go-away-6-weeks-later-what-the-he!!-is-this-thing" last year - my ears opened and closed on their own whim (yawning was no help). 2 trips to general practitioner, 2 to ENT doctor, Fluticasone spray every night for months; still take Mucinex; still get cough. I've decided it has something to do with all that (supposedly un)-radiated Japanese air that (supposedly) didn't float over the Pacific (unlike all the flotsam washing ashore on your beaches) that surely didn't cause cold viruses to mutate.
    As far as Ikea - we have one now just north of Cincinnati and about 45 minutes from me. I didn't partake for at least a year until I met a friend for breakfast there (she lives in Columbus and frequents the place like it's the local McDonald's). For about $1.50 you get breakfast and coffee, can't beat that. After going there a few times I discovered that if I'm on a mission for a particular item, I can use a series of shortcuts to get out, but they usually involve odd entanglements with rugs or towels and such, and the other patrons look at you very oddly when they see you going "against the flow". Now if I just want to buy the coffee (cheap AND delicious) I go "in" the "out", snag my coffee and leave. Good luck!

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    1. Oh you're right about the flow. To get the pictures I did end up going backwards at one point WITH a shopping cart and I was clearly going the wrong way on a one way. If anyone had hit me it would have been totally my fault.

      Japanese nuclear bugs. Huh. You mean it's a small world after all?

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  17. Murr......no one else in the world could make a piece on bodily fluids, gasses and substances and discussions of entrails and assorted cavities so hilariously funny......Ikea is easier, but you take the gold on that too.
    You are a Superstar.

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    1. Come on. With material like fluids, gasses and entrails and cavities, how could anyone go wrong?

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  18. Love your description of IKEA - so true! We get the occasional kitchen utensil, coffee table, or TV stand there, but mostly I go for the Swedish chocolate that's made in Germany, the pickled herring, and the Swedish fish.

    The last time I had a major cold with a lingering cough that wouldn't let me sleep, I got a prescription cough medicine. It gave me a headache. The label said that was a common side effect, because the medicine works by telling your brain not to cough. So now I drink thyme tea when I have a cough. It's amazing how well it works - google it and you'll find all sorts of info on it. Glad you are feeling better!

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    1. I will try anything. I hope I don't need to for a while. I probably won't remember and will go get Swedish chocolate for my next cough.

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  19. Yes, I remember my trips to IKEA. When they got you the got you!

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    1. You'da thunk they'd want to spit me out.

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  20. Colds have been really persistent this year. I think your virus was in cahoots with mine.

    Did you encounter any monkeys while navigating through Ikea?

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    1. Monkey.. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/12/09/toronto-monkey-ikea.html

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    2. Oh good. I thought I was being stupid but I was just underinformed. In a shearling coat yet! My, my.

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    3. Gee and who'd a thought zoo animals had money to spend on furniture. Guess ya got to grab customers wherever you can,

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    4. I would love to see the little guy up in the rafters where all the pipes and roof armaments are.

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  21. Haven't you heard? The meatballs have horse meat in them.

    I have an exact replica of your cold and tomorrow will be exactly 30 days I have been ill with it. I am on the last day of a z-pack and I hope it takes care of it - finally.

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    1. Well I've heard that three times today, so I guess I know now. 30 days! Ain't right. All I have now is the morning throat-clearing extravaganza, which is not bothersome except to anyone listening, and for them it's excruciating.

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  22. Run, don't walk to the nearest drug store and get a box of packets of something called EMERGEN-C. Comes in flavors. I was so prone to colds, bronchitis, stopped ears, wheezing, coughing, living the life of a hermit until I discovered this stuff.
    Came back from a trip with sick people and I was the only survivor. I swear by it (and hope it works for you). Now to knock on wood...

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    1. Truly I think I should just go get all this shit everyone's recommending so I can head it all off at the pass. But I was so taken aback. My colds have been so mild and inconsequential for the last ten years. This sucker just went on and on.

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  23. On Judy's coat tails- horse meat! But Lordy, are those filly balls good! My grandmother always said, "two days coming, two days here and two days going" when it came to colds and that has been my experience. Always. So I'm wondering what you did to both upset the nature of things and still deserve a two hour miraculous respite. It's got to be worse than a trip to Ikea. (I guess you don't want to hear that my right ear popped closed three years ago and hasn't opened since, despite endless yawning? What? Whats that, you say?)

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    1. I am really curious about the respite myself. You know that cough--when you can't say two sentences without hacking? And I was supposed to natter on for an hour. I had no hope. The good news was I was so worried about being ABLE to talk that I forgot to worry about what I would say, and it all went fine.

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  24. I was taught (I think) that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. If that is correct, why don't I lose lots and lots and lots of weight when the mucus demons take over my head and then exit - multiplying as they go?
    And there is no IKEA close to us (not within 200 kilometres) for which I am thankful. The skinny portion LOVES shopping. And company while he shops.

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    1. I had that same thought. How much of this crap can come out of my nose and where does it keep coming from? I think it's excess thoughts. They get all snogged up and must be expelled. I will now go back to not thinking much at all.

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  25. I love Ikea (are we supposed to capitalize the whole thing? Really?)but the last time I was there I ended up in the lobby with my [ex]husband on a sort of mezzanine above. There was an escalator but it only went up. We could see each other and talk (desperately)but he could not get down, nohow. Finally a kindly staff person took him out some back way and he finally appeared in the lobby....My daughter and I spent two days putting together two bunk beds for her kids. It was a very bonding experience.

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    1. YES, IT IS! And I know that mezzanine. There is no getting back from it.

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  26. Back in the 80's, we lived in Norway for 3 years. It was cool. And IKEA was THE place to buy furniture, etc., for our rented house. When we moved back to the USA in '89, we found out that there was an IKEA store just south of us in DC. We went down there, just to feel some familiarity (kinda like reverse homesickness), and what do you know...we found some friends from Norway there too! Amazing. It's a quirky store, but we love it. Do you need an allen wrench?

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    1. I have this feeling, Tom, that I have many many Allen wrenches, but I don't know what they are or what they are for, so they are in the same bucket as the keys that I don't recognize and the little plastic nubbins that came off of something that you don't dare throw away because then you'll find out what they came off of.

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  27. It rains here all the time. And the doctor said I had to get some exercise after a heart attack. Walking is good, but in the rain? I'm already rusty enough!

    So for a couple of years, I went to our local IKEA three times a week. Once around the top, once around the bottom, an eternity of walking (by then my feet were sore) through the warehouse section to get to the cash registers. With no alternative routes (well, a couple of shortcuts that always left me headed the wrong way), I had to keep going until I'd done the full distance. At least it wasn't raining in there.

    I made it a matter of pride to go through those registers with empty hands. Actually managed it some times.

    But I still have some unused magazine boxes from 'way back. They were cheap.

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    1. Ah, the effort should focus the mind and body both. Straight through with no loitering...and if you do see something shiny, you have to keep going and make another circuit before you stop and look.

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  28. I have never been to IKEA and from the sounds of it, I probably never will!

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  29. For those who have not been to IKEA, it is a metaphor for life. You can only go forward. Retracing your steps may get you back to where you were, but it will not get you anywhere new. I love the idea of going there to walk! I can resist furniture and rugs picture frames and garden pots, but when they bring out the white china plates for a dollar each, and the heavy glass water glasses for 50 cents, I'm lost. I now own one of their tote bags that will hold a king-sized duvet, two pillows, and beautiful red-plastic dish-drainer with space left over for a spaghetti fork and three sock-puppets.

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    1. You know, I really should get some new dishes. Right now, I'm taking pride in my chipped and mismatched set. I think it says something about my values, but maybe it just says "go away. I don't care about you enough to set a proper table."

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  30. I have a genuine loathing for all big stores and supermarkets....I get lost in them.....

    Hysterical tale about the cold....I'm glad it relented to allow the reading, which I hopw went well.xxxxx

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    1. It did! We had a lot of fun. Wish you were here.

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  31. Our first IKEA was on the trip to get our first Volvo, the firstborn being at driving age, and us wanting every safety feature ever conceived around our liebling. Lo and behold, they had dishes with the name and picture (a flower) of our 2nd, Linnea, so why would and how could I resist?

    Fast forward and when that 2nd one needed first apartment furniture, IKEA came to her (tiny) budget's rescue- as did her Dad when it all needed putting together. Earlier comments about finding the shortcuts and setting straight-through goals are right on.
    BC

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    1. I think it's really a pretty cool store. It's just disconcerting the first time when you think you're going to be stuck in there.

      Incidentally, I think I might be turning off the option of commenting anonymously because my spam comments have recently exploded. I keep deleting them but I have better things to do all day than that. You can still pick a name out of Open ID...

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  32. Oh man! I totally feel your pain. I have been sicker than sick for nearly three weeks now, and this is the kind of sickness that comes out of order and hangs around FOREVER! I sincerely hope you're feeling better now! And hey, at least you were ale to make being sick, funny. I'm lucky to be able to write 1/2 a comment on a blog post.

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    1. You have had way more than your share of illness. I think that was because people like me are not holding up our end of it. So now that I've been sick for a month, maybe things will lighten up for you.

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  33. I just tried that and it didn't like it, do you have any how-tos? I used to do this through G**gle until they started some strangeness last year, which is why I started adding my BC back in.

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    1. I'm going to try it now, clicking on the Name/URL thingy, without putting in the URL. Let's see if it works.

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    2. Okay, that works fine. I just picked out Name/URL from the pull-down menu at "Reply as" and filled in my name. They don't seem to require an URL.

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  34. Ok, here goes.
    BC

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  35. Replies
    1. Oh crap, I just disabled the Anonymous option, but now it looks like the Name/URL option is gone as well. See what you can work out and let me know if this is just unbearable (email above). I don't want to lose any of this stellar band of commenters.

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    2. Trying to post as Anonymous. I'm Susannah, but I just signed out.

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    3. It took me immediately to Google and asked me to sign in again. No problem.

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    4. Yeah but bluecardinal1 doesn't want to use Google--oh I wish there were no spammers! What's their deal, anyway?

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  36. Every time we fly into PDX I look down on IKEA, and think "some day I should go there." I dunno, though, after reading this. And that thing about their horse meatballs.

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    1. Yeah, the IKEA is right next to the airport, and slightly larger.

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  37. Until quite recently I spent 18 years living in Portland and never did experience Ikea. My loss. What was often fun while it lasted was deliberately losing myself in the upper stories of Meier and Frank.

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    1. And now it is no longer Meier and Frank, but Macy's. I used to love M&F. You'd get a sale and a coupon and an extra coupon and some auxiliary coupon and before you knew it they were handing you a new jacket with money in it.

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  38. Whoa. I've never been to IKEA and now I'm afraid to.

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    1. Are you easily frightened? (I am.)

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    2. I'm easily frightened by that sort of thing, yes!

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  39. I admit it, Murr. I've never been to IKEA. Years of horror stories have turned me off of it. You're not helping. ;-)

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  40. "FAGLAVIK! FORHOJA! SNOIG!"

    Ikea? Nah. You're just spontaneously shouting some ancient chant to Cthulhu, buried in your subconscious mind.

    La la la Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn, I say!

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  41. Well it isn't anything I'd do consciously, but I would never put it past my cold. My colds are much more superstitious.

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