20 November 2006

Never Mind

Last week I tossed a few bouquets in the direction of VR. On the basis of my weekend trip to Helsinki and back, I continue to think well of the Finnish railways. Train travel here is comfortable, convenient, and in my experience reliable, albeit expensive. I also wrote some ignorant twaddle to the effect that people are quiet and considerate on the trains. Those moronic statements I hereby retract.

My trip to Helsinki on the Pendolino train 60 started uneventfully. But at some point a woman boarded the train and deposited herself in the seat directly behind me. As soon as she got settled, she pulled out her cell phone and began to place calls, one after another. She must have called everyone she has ever met. Although my rudimentary knowledge of the language sheltered me from the actual content of those conversations, I could tell that they were banal in the extreme. Each started the same way—basically, “I am on the train.” From that point I was in over my head, linguistically speaking, but that didn’t in any way soften the blows. I held my head in my hands, covering my ears. I repaired to the restaurant car for a beer, but you can nurse a beer only so long. I gave her the evil eye. She turned up the volume, which I hadn’t thought possible. I suspect that even casual readers of this blog have discerned that I do not handle torture well. After two hours of unrelenting assault, I would have confessed to any heinous crime to get her to stop.

Misery loves company, but I didn’t have any. Much to my consternation, my fellow passengers seemed oblivious. I received no discreet looks conveying sympathy, no silent commiseration. Perhaps they were all deaf? Or stoical to a fault, at the very least. Or, it occurred to me after a while, perhaps each was contemplating murder, and was therefore maintaining an angelic mien to deflect suspicion. That was it, I decided, and immediately I assumed the role of silent co-conspirator. But then it occurred to me that they might or might not be plotting against the squawk box operating at full throttle behind me. Their intended victim could with equal justice be the source of constant groaning just a few inches away.

As I am writing this on Monday morning, back in balmy (+5), rainy Oulu, you can see that I managed to slip the noose while shedding my illusions about the Finns and their kännykkä. But I'm told there are 10,000 Nokia employees in Oulu, and each has something to answer for today.