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Saturday, August 01, 2009

IKEA Meditations

One of the charms of being able not to retire and teach is being just a little unstuck in time with respect to my professional peers.  While Dan and Wendi get ready for the bris of their little boy, I'm in Ann Arbor helping the boy through whose bris I kept my eyes tightly shut move into a new apartment as he prepares to start medical school on Monday, following his White Coat Ceremony tomorrow.  (Note to self:  why don't we do something like this for entering law students?  But what would we call it?)

I have helped him move each of the last couple of years, and the routine is always the same - rent a truck for a couple of hours, move the 500-pound bookshelf from hell, pack and unpack the boxes, wake up the next morning (as now) wondering why I went seven rounds with a welterweight boxer.  This year was slightly different, as we decided to go to IKEA to buy another bookshelf and a dresser (which we assembled late last night, and which may account for the sorry state of my lumbar this morning). 

600px-IKEA_stores.svg As I fade into blog sunset once again, I want to reflect just a minute on the IKEA experience, which I can only describe as a kind of Swedish Disney "It's a Small World", except that you get to buy the dolls at the end.  (The map, right, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows the places in the world you can find an IKEA store.) First, I couldn't understand why the place had to be halfway back to Detroit when every other self-respecting big box store has managed to find a place on the Ann Arbor outskirts.  The reason is, I think, that the place is the size of a small state itself.  Second, like being at a Disney park, you can't help think about the hours of mental energy that went into designing the layout.  You go up an escalator, like that first ascent on a roller coaster, and then go wooshing through a maze of rooms (complete with "short cuts"), looking at the displays, and writing down aisle and bin numbers.  Third, you can't escape.  It's been a long time since I was at DisneyWorld, but what I remember was how the designers kept you from actually seeing how long the line ahead of you was by snaking you back and forth until you turned a corner and realized there was a whole 'nother room of cordons and lines.  All you want to do is get to the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" warehouse with the aisles and bins to put your "some assembly required" bookshelf and dresser on a cart, and you cascade from lighting to plants, to glassware.  Fourth, the books in the office and family room displays are real, and in Swedish.  There must have been 500 copies of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections in Swedish.  And finally, there's a cafe serving Swedish food, including something in lingonberry sauce.

All I can say is that I really was shaken up, and that was before I started assembling the dresser. 

Thanks for the month, and see you again soon (New Orleans in January?)

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 1, 2009 at 06:55 AM in Lipshaw | Permalink


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Larry Cunningham (St. Johns) and I have been thinking about this. Two years ago I initiated a "professionalism oath" during which a judge led the students in a pledge to remember that they were now in the role of future lawyer--not just student. The students wore business attire and seemed to take the whole process very seriously.
The white coat ceremonies I observed while in the faculty of a medical school were extremely moving and are often referred to during the first two years of mostly classroom work when students can forget they are future professionals. The obligations they have as students are consistently tied to the ones they will have as professionals.
There are a lot of interesting things medical schools do to foster this atmosphere of professionalism with one of the most important being that many of their teachers are active practitioners. I wrote an essay recently making some direct comparisons.

Posted by: Jennifer Bard | Aug 3, 2009 1:19:08 AM

Orin, most of the students got their first yellow legal pad when they did high school debate. Greg

Posted by: Gregory Duhl | Aug 2, 2009 2:39:03 PM

The Legal Pad ceremony. Everyone marches up to the podium and gets his/her first yellow legal pad.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 2, 2009 11:31:39 AM

IKEA...the one in Schaumburg, IL takes the cake. It's crammed with people from about three different states. I bought the furniture there for my apartment when I clerked, and got a lot of it from the scratch n' dent place at the bottom of the store. Holy moly...talk about fending people off from a mattress, a bed, and couch, each on separate hand trucks. And then the IKEA employees made us take everything up front to the registers to be rung up--and they actually weren't going to help us do it, even though there were 2 of us, 6 handtrucks, three pieces of furniture and people who were salivating over our finds and ready to snatch them the second we were out of sight. Think "Night of the Living Dead." It was quite a parade, and was my worst shopping experience to date.

Posted by: Jody | Aug 2, 2009 12:56:49 AM

"(Note to self: why don't we do something like this for entering law students? But what would we call it?)"

Jeff, two thoughts come to mind as I read your parenthetical:

1) The White Coat? Yes, many students may need one. "If you're not fully committed, you'll be fully committed."

2) Or the bris? Yes, law school (especially the first year) can leave you feeling just a bit ... emasculated.

Posted by: Tim Zinnecker | Aug 1, 2009 7:06:54 PM

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