In fact, it had been such a long time since we'd seen their like on the streets of San Francisco that we checked in with the TV news -- and learned many of the demonstrators had come from Seattle, L.A., and even Alaska to protest. "Yeah, that figures," said a friend as we deconstructed the event later. "Everyone here's wearing the uniform" -- which is to say relaxed-fit khakis, a blue shirt, and a Gore-Tex jacket.
At least the Chronicle Books launch party for Airstream: A History of the Land Yacht at Vitra on Wednesday provided us with a respite from the Palm Pilot crowd, although we can't say we were the most popular girl at the party; a friend introduced us to one of the publisher's publicists, who said "Hi," thought better of it, and nervously asked that we keep his remark off the record. (We think what he actually meant was that he didn't want it acknowledged in print that he'd spoken with us.) Nevertheless, we had some free wine, scarfed down some of those ubiquitous wrap-type hors d'oeuvres (no sign of anyone planning to cut into the Airstream-shaped cake, sadly), mingled with the quasi-artsy crowd as best we could, and toured the two refurbished brushed aluminum trailers parked outside on Pacific. Thanks again for inviting us, Chronicle -- you're sports!
Special: IKEA Labor Unrest!
Saturday night, feeling pretty confident after a few sake cocktails -- we believe our favorites were the Sakesickles, but we'd have to check our notes to be sure -- Dog Bites decided it would be a good idea to head to 26 Mix for dancing. "God, I feel like someone's grandmother," our friend yelled into our ear as we arrived, and indeed, we may have been the only two women in the club not wearing hoodies and Pumas.
Still, we were fine until we encountered the merciless, klieg-light-level brilliance of the bathroom lighting, which by dint of being aimed flatteringly at the sides of patrons' faces revealed the previously unsuspected presence of a fine line by the side of Dog Bites' mouth, thereby subtly changing the character of the evening's drinking from "sociable" to "brooding," with us increasingly consumed by thoughts like, Well, so, that eye doctor guy seemed to think we were kind of cute.
Unfortunately, we had scheduled an early start the next morning, having arranged to meet another friend at the local coffee shop before heading to IKEA. But despite our sacrifice of sleep, restorative sleep, by the time we'd made it to Emeryville the store's parking lot was already full, and we were directed to the Kmart lot, which meant hiking back over the overpass in the bitter wind, our friend complaining and threatening to call the whole thing off the entire time. ("This is stupid.") Still, after only 15 minutes in line outside IKEA, during which time we were tormented by several strolling entertainers and given the chance to enter to win a Volvo, we were inside, riding the escalator up to the heaven beyond, and it was all worth it, because there were the armchairs, right there.
It must be said, though, that visiting a very busy IKEA is not at all the same experience as visiting a normal IKEA. At a normal IKEA, customers file patiently, even respectfully, past the little display vignettes, as though they're at a World's Fair, while those so inclined may pause, slightly out of the way of foot traffic, to contemplate disporting themselves amidst the foam-core sofas, op-art patterned curtains, and galvanized accessories of a particular miniature room. At a busy IKEA, this vital therapeutic process, known as "transference," cannot occur, because one's imaginary home is filled with strangers -- strangers who keep opening the cabinet doors and trying to lift the prints off the walls to see if they have price tags on them.
Scenes of small children pushing themselves around on wheeled TV carts as their harried parents queued up to select upholstery fabrics got us wondering: Just how busy is the Emeryville IKEA? "It's completely crazy," said store manager Mike O'Rourke, whom we found stationed at the front entrance with a walkie-talkie, like a bouncer at a high-end nightclub. "Every day when we open the doors -- and we're opening them 15 minutes early -- there are 600 to 800 people waiting to get in. Without a doubt this is a record for North America, and it's probably going to be a world record."
O'Rourke told us IKEA's management has been thrilled to find that Bay Area shoppers are already familiar with the store's merchandise, and that many are arriving with comprehensive lists of everything they've been dying to buy for years now. "We have a very, very high average ticket," he said. (See art accompanying this column, found by Dog Bites' friend in an IKEA shopping bag. If you recognize this as your list, ha ha -- you're just as obsessive as Dog Bites, which is completely pathetic.)
Not everyone working at IKEA was as happy about the crowds. Dog Bites was sitting in the store cafeteria as behind us two employees -- make that "IKEA co-workers" -- cleared a table. "I'll tell you, this is not my calling in life," said one, darkly. In fact, significant numbers of Emeryville store employees have already quit, angry at having to work extended hours under such stressful conditions. Meanwhile, IKEA has flown in workers from its stores in L.A. and Seattle to help serve the huge numbers of customers here.
So IKEA, like every other employer in the Bay Area, is going to have to try to keep its employees happy. What's next, we wonder? Six weeks' annual vacation? A unified currency? Socialized medicine?
Emeryville IKEA Store Cafeteria 4400 Shellmound, (510) 420-4532. Spectacular view of Bay and Golden Gate bridges somewhat overshadows food in this airy, moderne temple to beechwood-veneer consumerism. Meatball dinner ($5.95) is flavorful, though lingonberry sauce seems unintegrated with other components of dish, while smoked salmon plate ($4.75) won't impress those spoiled by sushi-grade fish; open-faced shrimp sandwich ($4.75) is a better choice. Dessert menu features delightful mixed pastry plate ($1.95) and cheesecake ($1.95) topped, of course, with the ubiquitous lingonberry sauce. Skip the lingonberry beverage. (L.W.; 4/00) $
Silicon Valley Gold Digger: "I 'Fess Up."
One of the best things about being a columnist is that instead of just getting drunken voice mails from your ex-boyfriends, you get drunken voice mails from all kinds of people. Last week, one woman called us to explain what she felt Harper's Bazaar had missed in its article on Silicon Valley gold diggers: "What this magazine obviously doesn't understand is the concept of the social divorce," she slurred. "If you're going to marry serious, serious money, you have to marry your way into meeting serious, serious money. So then, you know, your second or your third or your fourth husband ..."
She paused to collect her thoughts and continued. "I will indeed 'fess up to being a Silicon Valley gold digger. Yeah, they're boring. Yeah, they make chimpanzees look like Beau Brummel." Beau Brummel? we thought. Well, she has an education.
She sighed. "But what's amazing about these dot-com boys is that they've spent so long in these completely female-free environments that you show up in their life and you pretty much just have to be female, and that's all. You don't need all the other accoutrements of gold-diggerness. You don't need the manicures, you don't need the hair, you don't need the clothes. You just need a snatch."
Now, as charming as this sentiment may be, Dog Bites wonders if perhaps our caller was selling herself a bit short; clearly, other qualities -- such as cunning, for instance -- must be required for, uh, success. "I would imagine this magazine was just totally incapable of finding these women," she concluded. "Because they don't look like your average post-30, going-to-the-opera, you know, just-out-of-the-Junior-League kind of gold digger we all know and love."
Hmm, we thought. Sure enough, the number our caller had (weirdly) left got us to an answering machine which cheerily announced, "Hi, you've reached Frank and Christine [not their real names]. Please leave us a message at the beep."
Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail email@example.com.