I drove 1700 miles for a Blåhaj last weekend and it was worth it

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and has recently had to move into an assisted living facility. You’ve probably seen bits and pieces outlining my frustration with that process on Twitter over the past year or so. Anyway, I try to visit her once or twice a month, as time permits.

But what does that have to do with blåhaj, and what is a blåhaj, anyway? To answer your question literally, blåhaj is Swedish for “blue shark.” But to be more precise, it’s a popular shark stuffed animal design produced by IKEA. As a stuffed animal sommelier, I’ve been wanting one for a hot minute.

Anyway, visiting grandmother was on the way to the St. Louis IKEA. So, I figured, I would visit her, then buy a blåhaj, and go home, right? Well, it was not meant to be: after visiting with my grandmother, we went to the IKEA in St. Louis, and they had sold out. This had happened a few times before, but this time I decided I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. A blåhaj was to be acquired at any cost.

This led us to continue our journey onto Chicago, as the IKEA website indicated they had 20 or so in stock. 20 blåhaj for the entire Chicagoland area? We figured that, indeed, odds were good that a blåhaj could be acquired. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t meant to be: by the time we got to Chicago, the website indicated zero stock.

So we kept going, onward to Minneapolis. At the very least, we could see one of the great monuments to laissez-faire capitalism, the Mall of America, and the historic George Floyd Square, which was frankly more my speed and also quite moving. But again, our attempt to get a blåhaj was unsuccessful - the IKEA at the Mall of America was out of stock.

Our search for blåhaj wasn’t finished yet: there were two options, Winnipeg had nearly 100 in stock, and the Kansas City location had 53. A decision had to be made. We looked at the border crossing requirements for entering Canada and found out that if you present your CDC vaccination card, you could enter Canada without any problems. So, we flipped a coin: do we go six hours north, or six hours south?

Ultimately, we decided to go to the Kansas City location, as we wanted to start heading back towards home. It turns out that Kansas City is only about six hours away from Minneapolis, so we were able to make it to the Kansas City IKEA about an hour before it closed. Finally, a success: a blåhaj was acquired. And that’s when my truck started pissing oil, but that’s a story for another day.

Does blåhaj live up to or exceed my expectations?

Absolutely! As far as stuffed animals go, blåhaj is quite premium, and available for a bargain at only 20 dollars for the large one. The quality is quite comparable to high-end plush brands like Jellycat and Aurora. It is also very soft, unlike some of the other IKEA stuffed animals.

Some people asked about sleeping with a blåhaj. Jellycat stuffed animals, for example, are explicitly designed for spooning, which is essential for a side sleeper. The blåhaj is definitely not, but due to its softness you can use it as a body pillow in various ways, such as to support your head or back.

The shell of the blåhaj is made out of a soft micro plush material very similar to the material used on second generation Jellycat bashful designs (which is different than the yarn-like material used on the first generation bashfuls). All stitching is done using inside seems, so the construction is quite robust. It should last for years, even with constant abuse.

All in all, a fun trip, for a fun blåhaj, though maybe I wouldn’t drive 1700 miles round trip again for one.