Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ode to an Allen Key

Greetings from the USA! I made it here safely and have been settling in to my new lab. I could tell you about all of the cool new lab toys that I now have to play with, or the interesting research that I will be doing here to finish off my PhD, but first things first... My apartment that I will call home for the next 8 months or so.

After more than 24 hours in transit, I dragged my slightly hallucinating self to my new apartment building. One small incident with my keys (which, it transpired, were not actually my keys) later, I crashed my way into the flat, dropped my two very heavy bags (a total of 300g under maximum weight, yessssss!), and found... a small mountain of flat- pack furniture and packaged dinnerware/bedding etc stuck all over with labels like “Gosa Vadd Schlewovski”.

Yes, you guessed it, back in Australia when I faced with the problem of having to fill a whole overseas flat with furniture, I thought for a while, before, leaping up and shouting “Jag ha som!*... Ikea!”. This is why, at 3am local time, I found myself sitting on the floor puzzling over cryptic diagrams of smug cartoon men effortlessly putting together stylish furniture.

My first mistake was not just unwrapping the mattress and collapsing on it, leaving the unpacking for later. Instead, I decided to put together the bed first (which, I discovered later, was probably the single most complex bit of furniture in the whole flat).
My second mistake was continuing to put it together despite the fact that the diagrams clearly showed a lone cartoon man looking unhappy with a big cross next to him, and then two cartoon men looking jovial, with a tick next to them. Not having my own cartoon man, I decided to persevere alone.
My third mistake was not having any tools. I thought Ikea furniture came with tools but it turns out that they are fairly allen-key-centric over in Sweden and so I found myself without a drill, screwdriver or hammer. Have no fear though, as I utilised my PhD student resourcefulness by MacGyvering it up with a swiss army knife and a shoe. What transpired next was itself cartoon-like. Step one, balance piece A on piece B. Step two, run over to piece C and try to put it under piece B before A+B collapse. Step three, watch A+B+C collapse in a heap. Step four, repeat 500 times.

Voila, it’s one week later and I finally have all my furniture together. It all seems to work and I have not yet accordioned myself up in the folding sofa or jammed any of my limbs in the gateleg table. There’s just one problem... I have 14 screws left over and I have no idea where they go...


  1. Is it the billy bookcase? They'll hold together without any screws for some time... though I daresay when they finally collapse it'll be memorable.

  2. No it's not- might have something to do with the bed I think. I had a run-in with a billy bookcase just before I left Australia actually, although it involved the impossibility of taking it apart rather than putting it together. Ahhh, the fun of ikea...