Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Examples of Norwegians Behaving Weirdly

Okay, maybe not soooo all-fired up weird, certainly not vasoline-in-your-underpants weird. But, still, a little off—like, maybe, socks-with-sandals weird? You be the judge.

Weirdness #1:

My father-in-law called last week. Mister and FIL have a tendency to gossip and twitter like school girls when they talk on the phone, which, in itself, is a little weird, but not the point here. I only mention it now because I had tuned them out so thoroughly that half way through their conversation, Mister had to call my name three times to get my attention before I was able to tear myself away from the riveting game of Spider Solitaire I was playing (and winning, I might add) to mutter a terse, “What!”

“When has your mother bought tickets for Disneyland?”

I’m immediately wary. Extenuating circumstances have conspired in such a way that we’ve been obliged to share Mister’s last two consecutive summer vacations with FIL. I like the guy. I do. But I do not fancy a third. I hope, no doubt in vain, that Mister hears this in my voice when I carefully bite out, “July 6th. To the somethingth. I think.”

The rest of the one-sided conversation I listen to more carefully. But all I get is, “So most of July then. Uh-huh. Yeah. Sounds good. No. No. Yeah. Okay then. Right. Uh-huh. Bye then.”

“What was that?” I ask, all pleasant smiles and feminine wiles, as soon has he hangs up.

“Well, this is so weird. And a little flattering. I think.”

“Oh?” Through clinched teeth.

“It seems B (FIL’s second wife) wants to spend her summer vacation next year at our place.”

“In Utah?” Aghast.

“No. Here. In our house.”

“Eh?” Confused.

“It is a lake house, you know. Many people would consider this a vacation home.”

“Yeah, but. Eh?”

“I guess she just wants to spend some time by the lake.”

“But it’s……it’s just……Eh?”

“What? Are you saying they can’t come?”

“No! Hell no! Free house-sitters. By all means come. They know that Puss comes with the house, right? They have to feed the cat. And B better keep my roses alive, goddammit!

FIL has done so much of the building and remodeling in and around this house that he probably has a legitimate claim to partial ownership of the place. So I really don’t mind that he stays here while we’re gone. I just think it’s weird that he wants to.

Weirdness #2:

Mister and I are going to Iceland this weekend. Yeah, you heard right. Iceland. This makes me perfectly awesome, and, in itself, is an example of Norwegians behaving rather wonderfully because it’s Mister’s company who’s sponsoring the trip. More about that later, when I have pictures to demonstrate how perfectly awesome I was—in Iceland.

My mother-in-law is taking the kids for us while we’re gone. A very nice thing for her to do because we don’t fly back into Bergen until almost midnight Monday night, so she’s going to have to take Monday off work. But first, we have to get the kids to Rosendal, where MIL lives.

There are two ways to get to Rosendal from Bergen: option 1) a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive by car, depending on how you hit the 2 ferries that stand between here to there; option 2) a fast ferry (catamaran thingy, passengers only) that takes only 50 minutes, and drops you off right in Rosendal. What we’ve done in the past when we’ve needed to ditch the kids for the weekend is MIL will get on the fast ferry in Rosendal, we meet her in Os (closest stop to us) where we simply usher the kids onto the ferry and into her loving arms; boat turns around, takes them all back to Rosendal. Hey, presto! Mister and I are free!

Unfortunately, MIL doesn’t want to do that this time around. It is both time consuming and expensive, and not something I’d personally be willing to do myself. So I can’t really blame her for not wanting to do it now. Her alternative plan, however, is both reckless and negligent in its weirdness. She wants us to put the kids—ALONE—on the fast ferry in Os, and let her collect them in Rosendal when the ferry docks.

When Mister told me about this proposed plan of action, I said, “Tell me you know what an incredibly bad idea that is.”

“Do I? No, you’re right. It probably wouldn’t work.”

“No, honey. I need to know that you know that not only would it not work, but it would be foolish and cruel, criminal maybe, to even attempt such a magnificently stupid thing. Tell me you get this. Please tell me now. Because I might drop dead someday—tomorrow, next week, later tonight maybe—and before I go, I need to know that you’re with it enough to know that our children are neither old enough, responsible enough, nor smart enough to be left alone, unsupervised on a ferry—fast or otherwise!”

“Sure, sure. I get it. Missy might have to pee or something…..”

“Pee or something? PEE OR SOMETHING! They might get off at the wrong stop. They might lose or miscount the money meant to pay for their tickets. They might be approached by a friendly grey-haired gentleman who wants to help Missy ‘pee or something’. The motherfucking boat MIGHT! SINK! At the very least they might be so rambunctiously annoying that the other passengers on board might be compelled to judge the wisdom and parenting acumen of the morons who saw fit to loose such godless urchins ALONE on a boat. And so help me God MISTER! So long as I live, this cannot, will not, happen!”

A few days after this conversation, I asked him again if he had talked to his mom and figured out how they were going to get the kids to her. “Hmm, not really,” he said, “She still doesn’t quite get why we can’t just put them on the ferry.”

My eyes dimmed. My mouth watered. I was prepared for war. But he put his hands up, cutting me off before I could even get started. “I know, I know. Weird, right?”

And now to better illustrate the above point—

Weirdness #3:

Tuesday morning EM somehow managed to pinch a nerve in her neck. Don’t ask me how. The deed was already done by 7 a.m. when I went in to see if she was up and getting dressed.

My darling EM tends to panic when she’s suffering a good deal of pain she can’t control. So rather than grimacing and muttering curses under her breath like a sane person, EM was HOWLING and CRYING, SCREAMING DEAR GOD PITY ME FOR I DO SUFFER SO! Mah-ah-ah-ahhhhhhhhhh

Annoying. And more than a little bit weird. But again, not the point.

There was no way I could put her on a bus when she was carrying on as she was. So, lame as I though she was being, I sent her back to bed, and asked Boy if he was ready to take the bus by himself. Sure, he said, but he’d prefer it if I walked up to the bus stop with him.

No problem. Off we went.

The proud smile and friendly wave I directed towards the driver quickly faded as I noticed he slammed the door shut and pulled off before Boy had found a seat. Asshole, I thought. Then shrugged it off, and frankly, didn’t give it another thought as I squared my shoulders and headed home to deal with EM’s weirdness.

Later that evening we were all chatting over dinner, when Boy broke in and casually said, “Hey Mom, know what? You thought it was the right bus, but it wasn’t. It was the wrong bus. It didn’t go to my school. I had to walk.”

“You always have to walk across the street. It’s just the afternoon bus that picks you up right at school.”

“No but, it didn’t stop where it should have. I had to walk.”

“What? What do you mean it didn’t stop? Where did you get off? How far did you walk? WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT DIDN’T STOP?”

Now here’s the deal folks, some Norwegian kids—the ones who live in densely populated areas with say 30 or 40 school aged children—climb on busses every day specially designated as ‘School Busses’. These busses are only for the children, and they drive right onto the school grounds, and deliver their charges safely onto the playground. My Norwegian kids are not so lucky. We live in a narrow valley with no more than (maybe?) a dozen or so school aged children that need transportation to and from school. My kids climb onto a public bus every morning; a public bus, full to bursting with Mr. and Mrs. John Q Public, that stops very near the school, but then continues on its merry way on into the city.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that that stop near the school would be absolute. You stop the bus of a morning for a skinny kid with an oversized backpack. Wave to his anxious mother hovering protectively in the background. You pretty much know that kid is headed to school, right? So even if—for whatever reason—that string doesn’t get pulled, and the signal to stop at that particular stop doesn’t go off, you’d still know, right? You’d still know that there’s a skinny little kid here that needs to get to school. If he doesn’t get off here, he won’t know where else to go. What else to do. So, you’d stop. Right? Keep in mind too, that that skinny little kid wasn’t the only skinny little kid to climb on your bus that morning. There were at least 4 other skinny little reminders that part of your job is to ferry skinny little school children safely to their school. So, of course, you’d stop.

But the guy didn’t stop. Now how weird is that?

It’s hard to get a clear narrative out of Boy, but here’s what I was able to piece together. He said the string thingy didn’t work. He said he was scared when the bus didn’t stop. When it finally did stop (I think) another kilometer or so up the line, he said he heard M (friend of Elder Miss, in the 3rd grade) call his name, so he followed her. I’ve always liked M. I’m pretty sure she’s the only reason Boy ended up where he was supposed to be Tuesday morning. In the end, I don’t think they were even late for the first bell.

I sort of have to limit my commentary on this one to ‘weird’, because if I start to think of it as anything more than that, I immediately picture Boy stranded alone on that bus heading straight to the seething den of urine-reeking iniquity that is the city bus station, and I start to lose my mind a little.


la dragon said...

Kudos on the progression of your three tales, JEDA. The first one was a "meh, a little odd, but whatev." The second one rated mild-to-moderate on the Scooby Doo "ruh?" scale. And that last one is making me hyperventilate. Holy shit! Tell me you fired off an irate email to the bus commission or somesuch.

Queen LaTeacha said...

Good stuff here, and yes, mighty weird. Except for #2. You might be spoiled by your location. It really is like a summer cabin on the lake. I don't think it's so weird that B and P would see it as a geteaway.

And as for #1. Doesn't Weird #3 make your point about that one? For the 9 times out of 10 that they'd encounter no problems, it would be fine. But that one time they need somebody to take care of them or make a decision for them.....well, let's just not think about it.

Trace said...

You failed to mention the incredibly short little shorts
that the men wear...

I could send some of Zoe's over there when summer is over for the menfolk!

jillybaby said...

I don't want to go into the whole Norwegian dress sense thing cos that whole topic is just too weird so let's not go there. However, one thing I alsways found weird beyond belief was their choice of hosiery.

It should be mentioned that this observation only really applies outwith the summer months when the locals aren't walking around like dried up old prunes having baked themselves in the 3 days of decent weather.

Solbrun (meaning sun brown) nylons with white hands and face. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT ALL ABOUT!!!

How can they think this is stylish, are they blind? Might explain why there are no Norwegian fashion designers. Hmmm.

Joanne said...

School Bus! whats a school bus? You guys are seriously spoilt. We have to get into our cars and deliver kids to school and pay for it too.

OSLO said...

I'm with you on the ferry thing. Hyperventilates! My Danish mother-in-law suggested once that we put our seven-year old on a plane from Oslo to Billund to visit her as she's uncomfortable minding our children here, but would concede to mind one, or at a push two, in her house. Let's just say that my husband knows better than to ever mention the idea again. I still get angry at the idea of my child travelling alone (and the fact that someone who is too nervous to mind her in her own home) could suggest it as perfectly safe and reasonable! At least you won't be home when your FIL and wife come to visit ;-)

American in Norway said...

Oh girl... I so hear you... weird Norwegians.... my MIL is just as bad as yours... The child is 4...NO, I will not let them go out in a boat by themself... HELLO?