Yesterday a tiny monkey in a shearling coat was discovered wandering outside an Ikea store in Toronto. In the past I have spent many frustrating Sundays at this same location, trapped behind a shuffling family who have decided to make a trip to Ikea an all day bonding excursion. If only I could have glanced out of the showroom windows and seen a nattily dressed monkey, I know the Ikea experience would have been a joy rather than an exercise in patience and fortitude.
Apparently this dapper monkey had managed to escape from his crate, let himself out of the car and was wandering around the parking lot. Initially I suspected that perhaps the monkey was in fact an employee, hired to assemble the furniture. That would explain why an Allen key is always included in the box complete with illegible instructions and way too many screws. The Allen key would fit perfectly in a diminutive monkey paw.
I would like to imagine that this daring monkey was on the lookout for my own monkey that I purchased at Ikea years ago. Ordinarily I am not a stuffed animal kind of girl. I pity the girls whose boyfriends win them giant stuffed animals at amusement parks. I am grateful that I never had boyfriends who would buy me teddy bears holding shiny hearts for Valentine’s Day. This stuffed monkey was different though. It was alone, tossed on top of a bin and there was something in his expression, sunken chest and pot belly that struck me. He looked like an old man dressed as a monkey. I knew I needed to have him. When I finally reached the cashier I plunked my new friend down with trembling hands, unable to conceal my excitement at bringing this magical creature home.
“I can’t sell you this monkey,” the cashier said.
I was shocked. “What do you mean you can’t sell the monkey?” I spluttered, my voice taking on a whiny pitch. “Why put the monkey out if it’s not for sale? What kind of reasoning is that?”
“It’s the display monkey. It’s for display, not for sale.”
“Well, why would you put a monkey on display if there are no monkey’s for sale?” I reasoned, trying desperately to stay calm.
I could hear a loud sigh behind me. Everyone is exasperated at Ikea and by the time they get near the front of the line and can taste freedom, any delays are excruciating. I glanced quickly behind me at the sea of angry faces with dead eyes and felt myself start to perspire. I am not one to cause a scene. I avoid confrontation at all costs. I’ve been known to apologize to mannequins when I bump into them. I am more of a deer in the headlights than a fierce tigress. That day, however, something in me snapped. I leaned forward and narrowed my eyes. “Look. I am not leaving without the monkey.”
I could now hear a chorus of sighs that were becoming louder and more aggressive as the cashier called his manager. The monkey was staring up at me in solidarity.
“Don’t worry buddy,” I tried to tell him telepathically.“We’re going home together and we’ll never be apart, you’ll see.”
It was an agonizing wait as the line came to a stand still and the crowd behind me realized that they were boxed in by patrons with loaded skids of furniture and would be unable to find another line. I stared straight ahead with tight lips and steely resolve. At last I saw a young man jogging towards us, a stuffed monkey in his hand. The cashier snatched it and made motions to ring it in.
“Wait a minute,” I said, “I don’t want that monkey, I want my monkey.”
“It’s the same monkey.” The kid said, unable to hide his exasperation.
“No it’s not,” I protested. “I chose this monkey and this is the one I am going home with,” poking my finger in my monkey’s sunken chest.
After years of being meek and not standing up for myself, I was now willing to have a death match showdown in a suburban Ikea. I was not going to back down, even if I was going to get pulled apart limb by limb by the growing line of people shifting angrily behind me.
The cashier and I settled in for a stand off until I heard a man behind me yell, “Just give her the damn monkey!”
The cashier nodded almost imperceptibly and I relaxed my jaw. He rang up my monkey and I snatched it up and clutched it to my chest, victorious and empowered. We never know when we will face a challenge that shows us what we are made of. That afternoon I learned that I could make my voice heard and take a stand, put myself in danger to fight for what I believed in.
This was no ordinary monkey. It was a symbol of something larger and more profound.