We spent this weekend in IKEA.

I've come to the conclusion that IKEA is just MFI with piped ABBA music.

Speaking to some people in the office, it sounds like most Americans in the Bay Area choose to walk around IKEA at the weekend, not buy anything apart from a drink at the snack bar and then go home again. It's a good place if you want the exercise. Just like the IKEAs in the UK, you cannot get out of the store once you are in. It all starts off pleasantly as you ascend the escalator the the showroom floor. You start looking around the sample bedrooms/offices/living areas commenting on how the decor looks or how a certain piece of furniture would look in particular rooms of your rental property.

You follow the circuitous (sp?) route until you get to the middle of the journey. By that time, you are a little jaded and your responses to your loved ones become more terse than they are used to.

At the end of lap one, you are snapping at each other and the children and you wouldn't dream of having any of the designs go anywhere near your walls whether you own the house or not.

That's just the showroom. The lower floor is the marketplace where you can buy glasses, crockery, cutlery etc. The least said about that the better. Suffice it to say, we were just about speaking to each other.

Finally, it's the warehouse. This is where you pick up what you looked at in the showroom direct from the shelves. That's if you can remember what you looked at in the showroom. At this point, communication is handled via a complicated series of tuts, grunts and very sharp stares.

I'd like to put it on record that I love my wife and daughters more than life itself and I apologise for any rude words that may have passed my lips. However, if we ever go near that shop again, I'll show them exactly what they can do with their Tromsnes and Bummerangs.

So, we have furniture that we can use while we're waiting for the ship to arrive (I'm still a little bit scared that there is no GPS data after Jun 21).

We got around to arranging a new cell phone from Sam. That wasn't without its own trials and tribulations. We went to Best Buy. It's the equivalent of Currys or Comet. They had cell phones which we liked the look of and we went with Cingular because they use SIMs for their phones which we can use in our existing ones. So, we chose a pricing plan and filled in the form. I used my SSN and also my new address. When I handed the form to the clerk, they said that I needed to show my driver's license because they needed a picture ID. I explained that we had only been in the country for a few weeks but I carry my passport with me. This prompted the clerk to call his supervisor which, if I overheard correctly, may have been on his wedding day to find out if the passport was OK. After about 5 minutes, they said it was. This allowed the clerk to phone Cingular for a credit check.

Credit check. The two words that, at the moment, strike fear into my very soul.

The response that I got back was unexpected to say the least. The credit agency have no record of my SSN and it can take up to a month for new SSN registrations to be picked up by the agency.

A month !!!!!!! With so many f*ing forms that I have to fill in on a daily basis, you'd think that they could use a computer once in a while. In the UK, you can't buy a television from Currys without the TV Licensing people hearing about it before you've even got the device back home.

Still, on the bright side, it wasn't a rejection :-S but it meant we had to go with a pay-as-you talk phone instead and I still don't have a monthly plan.

Today (Monday), we moved into the house properly. I took the morning off to arrange the services. Water was already done last week, today was telephone, gas and electricity and cable TV.

We'll leave telephone until last…

Gas and Electricity is handled by PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electricity). They used the “CC” (rhymes with Smedit Fleck) words but we were able to deflect that one by paying a deposit instead.

Cable TV (Comcast) was the easiest. I just gave them a list of the things I wanted and they'll deliver it on Wednesday.

Telephone with SBC was a little more convoluted. All I want to be able to do is to pick up the phone and dial people. It's not difficult is it ?

Apparently it is. The one thing that screws this up completely is that I have choice.

What area code will I be dialling most ? How the flip should I know. I've only been in the country for a month and my visa doesn't run out until 2008. How am I supposed to know if I'll be dialling a 415 number more times than a 650 one ?

Who do I want to be my long distance carrier ? Eh ? Don't I just dial the number and the phone company takes care of that ? No, I can chose whoever I want. I'll go with SBC. “Good choice sir”, the phone jockey reads from the script.

There's an old e-mail comparing HP's ordering process with a trip to the canteen here that was faintly reminiscent of the process I needed to go through with SBC.

She proceeded to break down the monthly cost into small $5 chunks about which service I'd gone for. Do I really care ? Maybe I should but I'm starting to get homesick for the UK and it's uncomplicated way of doing things. Even with multiple vendors, you don't get the sub-division of labour that you do here. That and they use computers.

Last night was fun as we picked up the keys for the house. The landlords left us to our own devices after showing us how to use the burglar alarm. We spend the next half hour working out how to turn off the blaring noise so that we didn't wake the neighbours.

I'm sure that the neighbours have phoned the landlords already to inform them that the new tenants are a little weird. We spend most of our time outside the garage door using the automatic opener. Door goes up. Door goes down. It's fantastic 🙂

The best thing is that there is a device in the rental car that allows you to teach it how to open your door. We've played with that too. Rachel and Joanna keep coming up with ideas as to how we could park outside the garage, go into the house through the front door, open the internal door to the garage, come out of the house through the front door, close the front door, open the garage door using the device, drive the car into the garage and then close the garage door. It's a tempting prospect.

On Thursday, I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I found myself at lunch time telling the server in the deli that I didn't want any tom-ay-toes rather than tom-ah-toes.

I shall now fall on my sword.

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