A Touch of Sweden on the Turnpike
It’s been said before, particularly by me, but the New Jersey Turnpike is horrible. Traffic. Cops. Tolls. Refineries. Litter. These are just a few of the nasty things you’ll see on that road. Among all of these horrible sights, though, is perhaps the one bright spot on the Turnpike: an IKEA! That’s right. Just off of Exit 13A in the shithole town of Elizabeth is the IKEA, which serves as a Swedish oasis in the otherwise barren landscape of the Armpit of America.
Upon exiting off the Turnpike, you’ll follow signs to get to the Swedish superstore. You’ll know you’re there when you see three giant poles bearing the flags of the United States, Sweden, and the greatest nation of all, New Jersey. Once you walk past the flagpoles and into the store, you’re welcomed by a sign advertising the store’s famous Swedish meatballs. Because when you need to go shopping for new furniture, you logically want to buy meatballs at the same time.
For the three people out there who have never been to an IKEA, it is a huge home furnishings store selling a whole bunch of stuff for your house (like meatballs). All of their goods are supposedly made in Sweden…or made to resemble stuff in Sweden? I don’t really know. But, based on the crowds of people that swarm in on the store each day, I guess that if it’s Swedish, it’s good.
Like any other IKEA store, the one in New Jersey is a maze of different sections designed to trap you until you find something you want to buy. The chain is known for its literal showrooms, which display ideas for decorating each room in your house. Especially popular are the areas that show how to decorate an entire apartment with Swedish crap. Though you might have to wait on line to get inside these walkthroughs, it’s well worth it to see what your apartment could look like if you wanted to spend several thousand dollars on Swedish stuff. (Some people even host their own dinner parties at an IKEA, just to see how well the store’s offerings fit into their lives.)
But how do we know that IKEA’s goods are really Swedish? Just look at the products’ labels, which show brand names like Klingsbo, Ektorp, Fillsta, etc. Though some brand names may seem a little too obvious and made up, like the Energisk refrigerator or the Electra lighting unit, they have a door mat under a brand called Trampa. I don’t think they would make that up. So, based on the extent that IKEA goes to show how Swedish they are, I think I believe them. The only way they could be more Swedish was if they had their cashiers stop what they were doing to sing ABBA songs every now and then. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
As you go about the store, you’ll probably get tired. Lucky for us all, the middle of the store is chock full of various chairs and sofas as far as the eye can see. They even have a glass-enclosed machine showing how durable their chairs are. The machine has two levers that repeatedly go up and down on the seat and back of the chair. What the machine doesn’t consider is that not everyone gently sits down in a chair in such a controlled manner. Why not show how someone would just collapse into the chair after a long day of looking at overpriced Swedish shit?
After you make your way past the herd of couches, before you know it, you’ll be at the food court. Here, you can buy those meatballs that you see pictures of throughout the store. You can also get a variety of foods made with lingonberries, whatever the hell those things are. While the foods sold here are probably the same as any other IKEA store throughout the world, this food court is unique in another way.
You see, this IKEA food court has huge windows looking out over the Turnpike and Newark Liberty Airport. Though these are probably the two most hated landmarks in all of New Jersey, they don’t seem so bad when you’re looking out at them from the windows of an IKEA. I’ll even say it’s pretty relaxing watching the unending flow of cars speeding down the Turnpike, and then shifting your view towards the airport to watch the planes come in and out. The only other IKEA I’ve been to was the one in Philadelphia. At the one, the only things of interest nearby are a highway overpass and a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak shack.
Anyway, after leaving the food court and checking out the rest of the furnishings, you’re herded down the stairs to the IKEA marketplace, where you can buy a whole bunch of tchotchkes and trinkets to decorate your Swedish-inspired home. On this visit, though, the store was redoing its marketplace. So, instead, we were directed through a narrow maze of white sheets hanging from the ceiling. It felt like walking through a haunted house or something.
The maze then leads you to the cashiers, who collect your hard-earned American money and send it back to the King of Sweden. And what does he do with it? He has his subjects make even more stupid furniture and stuff that no one really needs but we readily buy. I digress.
After passing the cashiers, you’ll end up in the most unusual part of a furniture store – the Swedish Market. Here you can find a literal smorgasbord of all kinds of authentic Swedish food, like Swedish Fish. Well, aside from that, they have various herring products, Swedish pastries, and jars and jars of lingonberries. Of course, you can also purchase bags of those IKEA-brand frozen meatballs. They sell ham, too. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I need to buy a couch and a Trampa door mat, I get a hankering for some Swedish ham.
Whether you have stuff to buy, want some ideas on how to make your home a tad more Scandinavian, or just need to take a piss-n-meatball pit stop as you travel on the Turnpike, IKEA is the place to be. Where else in the Armpit of America can you buy a machine-tested armchair, eat a slice of lingonberry pie, and get the best view possible of the New Jersey Turnpike? Only at the Exit 13A IKEA, which brings a much-needed Swedish touch to the Garden State.