þriðjudagur, maí 08, 2007

in-line hates

Icelanders can't wait in line. It sounds like a vicious stereotype, I know. And really most of them probably can quite well. To my knowledge, deCODE hasn't found any gene in the mixed Nordic-Celtic pool that explicitly makes orderly line-standing impossible. But there is still something subtly Mendelian going on: if there's a sleazy way around a line, many an Icelander will try to finesse his way. Checking in at Keflavík the other day, someone came right up next to us and just raced ahead to the open checkout counter. When my colleague called them out on it (a rare occurrence) the woman turned around with a "who me?" look. The way Icelanders cut the line is with a sort of practiced bumbling plausible-deniability, a shuffle and a slide, a gradual inching. The baggage check at KEF isn't the only place this happens. The main post office downtown used to be a hotbed of eye-contact-free cutting, a free-for-all of package mailers, stamp buyers, and PO-Box-retrievers. (Now they have put in two small Tensa-Barriers for a semblance of order, but even still the PO-Box-retrievers always slide their greedy way around this system.)

Unfortunately, this practice extends to driving. Up in Kópavogur on the way to the new "IKEA Highway" the other day, the road was narrowed to one lane for some construction. To be fair, 90% of drivers were doing the right thing, getting into the single lane and waiting their turn for the light. But there were a few (and there are these jokers in every town) going as far as they possibly could in the left lane and then trying to eel their way in, evincing a rare Icelandic show of the knowledge of turn signals. I decided on a little FB vigilante traffic enforcement and so straddled the two lanes, forcing the schemers to stay behind me. Spying his chance, some punk in a red VW roared up the dirt shoulder, to the right of our entire row of cars, thinking he was going to ease in next to me in the space I had left to my right. He was half off the road and in the parlance of Mass staties, "driving to endanger".

Years of Boston dues-paying and East Coast road rage welled up within me and I decided to let him have it. I closed the distance to the car in front of me and I leaned on the horn. I leaned again on the horn again. Mixing it up, I beeped patterns and little rhythms. The woman in front of me looked around curiously and saw what was going on. The VW punk looked over at me with his practiced "what did I do?" line-cutting face. I kept at the horn. He finally got disgusted and accelerated hard forward, tires screeching, to try a few cars up the line. But then, miracle of miracles. Solidarity! He tried in 2 or 3 spots and nobody would let him in. He finally limped off up the shoulder, driving his new car in the dirt, forced to turn off at the Nings exit and double back around. It was small, but but for once the queueing public prevailed in Iceland.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Sounds like JB had a little road rage. Something USA has plenty off.....


Neal

8.5.07  
Blogger Farbror Willy said...

This is probably the reason why I was so fascinated by the queues in Sweden when I lived there. Every ATM machine had a queue of at least five people in front of it 18 hours a day. You rarely see a queue in front of an ATM in Iceland. In hindsight the reason is probably that the Swedes don't use their cards to pay in stores as much as we do.

But I had a theory that if I would set up an empty box somewhere in Sweden that had some buttons and looked like an ATM machine, that within a few minutes there would form a queue of Swedes in front of it. Even though it didn't do anything

If I've misspelled "queue" then I beg your forgiveness.

9.5.07  
Blogger Jóhanna said...

Just wanted to say that my husband and I were THERE, in the car, when you aggressed that aggressive driver... and it made me forget that I was in Iceland for about 30 shocked seconds. Horns? In Iceland? Unprecedented!

I guess you can take the man out of Boston, but you can't take the Boston traffic habits out of the man.

Thanks for the trip!

11.5.07  
Blogger Maja said...

Good on you. Pusher inerers are sooo annoying. Perth drivers are pretty bad like that, too, sometimes, but I'm always heartened to see a lot of courteous drivers here as well.

Have you noticed that Icelanders tend to push and shove in queues as well? I always had someone behind me pushing up against me as if that would make the queue go faster. It was one of the most annoying things in the world!

12.5.07  

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