Locked out on ice

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Nothing like -5c outside and being locked out of a place in the middle of the night. Luckily my car is equipped with blankets and extra coats and all, but still, it was, let’s say… an irritation.

I like driving at night, quite the opposite of daytime driving, which I hate more than anything. At night, there are seldom any other cars. Just darkness and an occasional wild animal springing into the road. I stopped for petrol (and yogurt) at 3:30 and a man came in and seriously ordered a hot dog. Firewall and I once went to this very same petrol station (in one of its bathroom stalls it even has a rectangular metal plate on the back of the toilet, which looks like it’s been set up for people to do cocaine or something. With the way the youth of today hang out at this place on weekend nights – don’t ask me why – maybe there’s more to that theory than I’d have imagined), and he ordered one of these dubious dogs and spent the next 36 hours miserably ill. Even the woman working there asked him, with great concern creeping over her face, “Are you sure? These are kind of old.” No such caution in tonight’s transaction. Just a man who seemed like maybe he eats these gas station hot dogs all the time.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life… and I was locked out.

Setting the cinematic scene

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Driving eastbound on E18, just outside Oslo, torrential, blinding downpour. An old man, well-layered in comprehensive rain gear, passes by on a bicycle, looking miserable but unbothered. Just as he appears, the stereo blasts, “If everybody had an ocean, across the USA, then everybody’d be surfin…”.

Incongruity.

swedish drivers

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Drivers in Sweden need to learn to drive. All extremes. It is like they are either dangerous lunatics or totally timid chicken shits.

Where is the middle ground?

Tonight the roads were covered in standing water from the sudden rainstorm – torrential rain most of the evening. And then the wind – it was exceptionally bad. I have been in a lot of very windy, crazy situations, and this was really quite unpleasant. The Swedish drivers did not help the situation at all.

On a semi-related note, every single time I have stopped to get petrol, there is some asshole pumping petrol with his/her engine running.

Also, learn to use high-beam headlights, people. Seriously, they wait too long to dim them when they are in the oncoming lane, and then they turn them back on right at the moment when they blind you (wait two seconds until you are beyond the other driver’s direct line of vision!).

I drive too much. It’s clearly too much to bear. I envy those who do not drive.

Snow – The Drive! – Tension

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I hate driving, and I never really wanted to do it. But after being kind of pushed into getting a driver’s license as soon as I was old enough, I have always driven. And have always, despite my dislike, seemed to live somewhere faraway from where I worked or went to school.

Lately this thing I take for granted as something I have almost always been able to do feels more ”precious” because I have encountered so many people in my age bracket who do not know how to drive and/or do not have licenses. Maybe in the big scheme of things they are better off. The world does not need more cars or drivers, but I have done this to myself.

The snow won’t stop – it has been going on for days. Even in this ultra-prepared place in which snow is no real impediment to most people, it has piled up in a way that makes driving a bit perilous. Under such conditions, driving builds up an ungodly tension. My normal drive takes about two-and-a-half hours on a winding country road, which is not really feasible or safe to drive under current conditions. In inclement weather, I take a longer, primarily motorway-based route, which takes perhaps four hours. But last night I drove into my driveway just as the clock hit the five-hour mark. And it was exhausting.

Exhausting, yes, but I found that so much snow had fallen that the first thing I had to do was grab a shovel. As I am fond of saying, I strike a great pose as a lunatic shoveling snow in a dress in the middle of the night. (It has since snowed even more, so I almost no amount of shoveling will keep a path clear.)

Snow” – Emiliana Torrini

Seahawks + Dodging Deer = Another Commute

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This morning/middle of the night made for an awful commute. During the first third of the drive, the roads were clear, but every kilometer or so, I encountered big groups of deer playing in the road. I must have seen 100 deer in about 100 kilometers. I also saw a rabbit, which I have never seen around here, and two foxes. This winter, strangely, has been mostly devoid of moose. It occurred to me that my driving amounted to little more than dodging deer, which would not be a bad name for a video game. I got to use the whole road, just as the Seattle-based 1990s comedy sketch show, Almost Live encouraged Ballard drivers to do. You pay taxes on the whole thing – randomly weave all over the road!

On the second third of the road, most of it was covered with ice that had been covered over by snow. So many cars were off the road and so many tow trucks were pulling the cars out. The whole thing made me not only not want to drive but made me think seriously about the merits of living somewhere warmer – Hawai’i once more? Australia (perhaps much too warm)? Uruguay?

Thanks to the middle-of-night driving, I did not get to see my Seattle Seahawks win against the San Francisco 49s in their playoff game. It sounds like the Seahawks did not play at their best in the first half, so I know I would just have been getting angry and sick watching it anyway. By the time I was done driving the first two-thirds of the seemingly interminable three-hour commute and stopped off at a petrol station in Uddevalla, the Seahawks had claimed their place in the Super Bowl (versus the Denver Broncos). All kinds of mentions of it are going around the internet already – but it seems funny that the two places in the entire US to pass laws making recreational marijuana legal are the two places that send their football teams to the Super Bowl.

Music falling on the spooky, dark, winter-wonderland drive

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I arrived home after three+ hours of driving to trudge through ankle-deep snow – snow is everywhere. No big surprise. I cannot complain – winter did not come until late this year.

To get here to this calm, quiet, still cottage in the woods, I drove through some unpleasant conditions. All day in Gothenburg the temperature hovered around 0C while a snowy-sleet fell all day, creating a dubious, slick concoction on the road. It was a harrowing, treacherous drive at various points.

I actually break the trip into thirds. The first third is all motorway, which was largely clear – but it was extremely windy, trafficky and the further north I drove, the thicker the snow that started to fall (and the thicker the layer that already covered the ground).

The second of the three parts of my trip starts to become more winding and rural but is still not the worst part. There were a few blinding snow flurries, and the wind, particularly when crossing large open fields, blew mountains of snow up from the roadway into the line of vision.

By the final leg of the trip, which consists of considerably more rugged roads, winding, hilly and unkept, snow and wind were whirling, mildly blizzard-like, the roads were covered – no lines visible at all. The two vehicles that got behind me expressed their displeasure and impatience with my caution with some angry tailgating. My caution was warranted – in three different spots on the road, large groups of deer were just standing in the road. If I had not been going as slowly as I was, we’d have just plowed right into them.

There was a time, long ago, that driving in these kinds of conditions would have scared the hell out of me. I have let go of the fear and nervousness and embraced a healthy respect for the force of weather and just moved forward. Good advice for most things.

Yo – here’s another little piece of advice…Reggie Watts – “Fuck Shit Stack

Advice: “Sing your life – any fool can think of words that rhyme

I ask virtually every person I meet to sing for me. Mostly to see what their reaction will be. I like to know what people will do in that kind of unexpected situation. Most people are pretty shy and won’t just break into song. Some need coaxing, such as the shy boy from Karlstad who eventually sang – and once he started could not stop, with lovely patriotic songs about Värmland. Some, like an old ex, would never do it at all. Others burst into enthusiastic singing immediately, such as an Egyptian doctor I once met who sang a long and mournful-sounding song in Arabic; my lovely French friend who regaled me with a most rousing version of one of the worst songs I have ever heard, “Mon fils ma bataille” while waiting on the train platform at Aulnay-sous-Bois after he misguided us and put us on the wrong train to the airport, and then the people who are musicians already – they are always ready to go with a song.

Of late I got to hear the most intentionally whiny, horrible version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. I can’t stop thinking about it and laughing. It is especially good because the guy singing it to me is Scottish, and he is snide and sneering about it and puts a special emphasis on the word “world” – making it sound like it has a whole lot more syllables in it than it actually does. My god, I love it.

Hesitation and Doing

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On the first commute of 2014 back to Gothenburg I encountered no wild animals at all unless we count the scattered, scrambled, sparse remains of an unidentified animal on the roadway not far from a car that was flipped upside-down in the trees next to the road. I did, however, encounter a ridiculously high number of cars on the road for it being the middle of the night. I am not sure if it is because it is the first day back for a lot of people after a long holiday break or just because it was a Sunday – and Monday is a first day back in general – or perhaps if the fact that I left 15 minutes earlier than usual somehow contributed to the difference in traffic.

Making this long drive again and facing the same patterns from last year that led me to such restlessness and, dare I even say, depression, I know that change has to happen. I have to make it happen. Sometimes even when you know what to do, have decided to do it, it’s still very hard to pull the trigger.