White misery, wet misery

Today’s schedule was supposed to look like this:

14:23 (That's 2:23 pm to you 24-hour clock challenged people) Bus leaves for town
14:45 Arrive in town
14:55 Arrive for 3 pm acupuncture session
15:00 Needleless acupuncture
15:55 Acupuncture over
16:00 A bit of shopping
16:25 Bus home
16:50 Arrive home

What actually happened was that we got all of our missing winter in one day. I was on time for the 14:23 bus, having first slogged my way over unplowed sidewalks covered in heavy 6 inch snow. On my way, I passed by our co-op’s janitor, who was helping to tow the maintainance crew’s van to the road. Their tires simply had no bite in the thick, loose snow.

At the bus stop, the wait for the bus got longer and longer. We theorized that our bus was stuck at the stop before ours which is halfway up a long slope that can be quite slippery in winter. While I was waiting, a small plow machine showed up and cleared the sidewalk in front of our bus stop. We were three passengers who kept waiting for the bus, sheltered from the snow and wind gusts, sometimes chatting with each other. The little plow had scraped the snow away down to the dirt and shoved muddy snow along the sidewalk. By the time the next bus showed up, the sidewalk was completely white again. And my feet were cold.

View from my bus stop today

Gratefully, we got on the bus that had left its end station at 14:43. It arrived at our stop at 14:47. Our driver was a very cheerful and helpful Indian man I’d ridden with a few times before. I had called the acupuncturist around 14:40 to let them know I would be late, but wasn’t sure they got my message since I was suddenly cut off. On the bus, safe and dry and warm, I called again, and got the woman who was to treat me. She told me to show up whenever because she’d already had a couple of cancellations due to the weather.

Norwegians rarely let weather stop them. At most they cancel a ferry or close a mountain road. The rest of us are expected to show up for work or school or appointments regardless of what the weather gods are doing. So I was wondering if cancelling would be forgiven or not. It looked like I could have. Still, I was curious about the acupuncturist and now that I was on the bus, on my way to the city, I figured it would be a nice afternoon.

Two stops on, the bus’s engine stopped.

I figured if we going to be stuck, it was good that we were stuck just a few minutes’ walk from home.

Our Indian driver got the bus started and we drove slowly in the piling snow to the main road. There we hit traffic. Snow does to Bergen what rain does to Los Angeles: It paralyzes traffic. This time, though, it wasn’t just being surprised by white stuff (honestly, you sometimes have to wonder if people are aware that a) it’s winter and b) Bergen is at 60 degrees north because they always seem to be caught off guard when it snows). This time, the plows had plowed the road, but the snow kept coming down, undoing the plowing.

We crawled towards the tunnel between us and the bridge, and once inside the tunnel, our driver gunned it. The advantage to a tunnel is that it doesn’t get snow.

I got off the bus in town, and slogged my way through another unplowed 6 inches of snow, umbrella up shielding me from both snow and wind.

The acupuncturist’s office was in the same building as my orthodontist had been when I was a kid with a retainer. I rode in the elevator with a mother and daughter who had pushed “6”, and realized that the orthodontists were still on that floor. I got off on the third, blew my nose, and went in.

My acupuncturist, a wonky-eyed but very pleasant woman named Gro, remeasured me. This time my bladder and spleen qi were not completely depleated. I had more energy than what she’d found at the new age fair. I told her my main problem was my digestion, and a surprisingly stubborn constipation. She said she’d work to top off depleated qi and that I needed to cleanse my gut. She used an electronic device to stimulate the acupuncture points on arms, hands, toes and ears, rather than stab me with actual needles. The device worked by giving off a light in the same frequency given off by moxibustion. I can’t tell you if there was an immediate effect; I didn’t notice any. I did enjoy relaxing for a bit.

Gro sold me Norwegian herbs to take for the cleansing (intestines and bladder). Chinese herbs are forbidden in Norway, and they did try importing directly from Denmark to patients, but it got too complicated. So they looked for Norwegian equivalents. The dose I’ve been given is 6 of each kind of tablet a day (3 at a time), which is higher than the recommended dose on the box, and will give me about 11 days of cleansing, during which time I should avoid smoked or cured foods and preferably also dairy. The pills are essentially diuretic, anti-bacterial and laxative.

I left the acupuncturist’s at 16:15, exiting the building into driving rain.

Oh, joy.

Anybody who thinks hell is heat and fire, hasn’t had the challenge of experiencing a half foot of snow in heavy rain. Still, I was among the best dressed. I was dressed for snow (wool coat, lambskin boots which had been waterproofed), and had an umbrella. And thank goodness for that.

There was a large crowd at my bus stop, and as the minutes past, I began to realize that the missing bus from earlier in the afternoon was still missing. The 16:25 never showed. In fact, I didn’t get on a bus until 17:16.

In the meantime, I stood rooted to the spot, relying on others to navigate around me without bumping into my umbrella or slipping on the wet and slick trampled snow. Several busses past by with snow chains clanking against the cobblestones. I spent my time looking at the others waiting.

When I was a kid, we all dressed according to the season. Norwegians don’t do that (as much), any more.

For a while I watched the white-haired man with the button-nose and florid skin, visibly shivering in the icy rain. He had on a baseball cap, a canvas jacket soaked through except for where the hand in his pocket shielded it, jeans and trainers. The cold rain was pelting his ears, running down his neck and down the back of one jean’s leg, soaking its entire length. Even if he had been expecting snow, he was badly underdressed. I figured that maybe he had been expecting a car. He looked miserable but never sought out the bus shelter for a roof over his head.

A woman in her late 30’s was dressed in the new style of skin tight pants, with matching skin tight boots with long, pointed toes. Her black down jacket with a hood looked waterproofed. Rain was running down it in. Her hands were in its pockets, pulling it tight over her rear. That let the rain make her butt all wet. As we continued to wait for the bus, I noticed that her thighs were acquiring that dark, wet look, too, so she no longer looked like she’d pissed herself.

In case you’re wondering where Norwegians get the idea that weather is never to stop you, it starts when they are young. A tall father with his one-year-old in a seat on his back, both getting the driving, freezing rain in their faces, made his way into the crowded roofed waiting area. Junior, however, was already miserable and wouldn’t stop crying. I last spotted them across the street, sheltering in a doorway, while Junior wailed, and Dad fished out dry mittens to put on his child.

A teenage girl skittered past me, shocking me with sneakers and naked ankles. I wondered if her mother knew her daughter had left home dressed for a summer walk. I wondered if Mom had any say at all. I felt cold seeing that bare skin in this weather.

Another woman balanced precariously along the edge of the sidewalk, on the slick, wet, packed slush, hampered by her boots’ tiny pointed heels (and probably slippery soles). She wasn’t the only one in footwear more suited for the office than a wintry walk.

Finally, the bus came. Same Indian driver. Nobody was mad at him. Everybody understood. Several passengers made witty remarks about the lateness, the weather. I joked that it was nice he came to take us back home. He chuckled. The line to get on was very long. I realized it was one of those rare times where I would have to stand on the bus. I say rare, because I am hardly ever on the bus during rush hour. This time I was at the very rear, and the large, wet rucksack of a college student standing in front of me was trying to lean against my chest. I asked the young man if he could move forward a bit. He cheerfully turned around to face me and solved the problem.

He was drenched. He said he’d been waiting for this bus for an hour and 10 minutes at the bus station and had finally abandoned that stop and walked to ours to see if he could catch a different line home. The bus station stop was next and he said that we were going to be crowded because there had been about 30 people waiting. We’ll have room, I said, because there are always people who get off at the bus station. And what if nobody gets off, asked the college boy. Then you and I get even better acquainted, I replied, and he laughed.

But people did get off the bus. I got a seat. College boy found a seat next to someone he knew and talked to her.

Traffic was slow and heavy going home. Out of the city, we moved at a regular speed, but the moment we entered the tunnel, everything slowed to a crawl. A two minute drive through our tunnel lasted 15.

As I got off the bus, I could feel that my feet were wet. Stepping into unavoidable puddles and standing in the rain was no match for the waterproofing spray I’d used. I could hardly wait to get in my own door, peel off the wet and eat.

Entering said door happened at 17:47. No wonder I was hungry!

Irony being a universal phenomenon, this slush would normally freeze. Fortunately, the meteorologists are not promising freezing temperatures until tomorrow night. They are also forecasting some sun tomorrow. With any luck, most of this crap will disappear then.

I’ll let you in a secret: I actually enjoyed it all.

By Keera Ann Fox

I am a bi-lingual American who has lived most of my life in Norway.
Jeg er en tospråklig amerikaner som har bodd mesteparten av mitt liv i Norge.

5 replies on “White misery, wet misery”

Interesting post, from my viewpoint as I haven\’t had to experience snow for over ten years! That\’s funny what you said about never letting the weather cancel something! When I moved to Seattle in the 70\’s, where the rainy season lasts from Sept through June, people told me never to cancel anything because of the rain, even if it\’s a picnic. Cause if you let the rain stop your plans, you\’d never get anything done!


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