Wednesday, June 15, 2011
A Quick Gripe: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Most—and I do emphasize “most” and not “all”—Norwegians need to be more considerate on the public walkways—streets, sidewalks and bike paths—of this country. I’ve caught more shoulders, received more stoic stares screaming “Get out of my way” and been forced into oncoming traffic more times in Norway than in any other place in the world. When “most” Norwegians are walking in clusters, they tend to not move if you’re going the other way, forcing you into the street and to a certain gruesome death. I’ve almost needed to be scraped off the grill of a Peugeot five times now. Usually, you’ll get bumped into without so much as an “unnskyld”—or, pardon me. Half the time I see one of these particularly determined walkers I find myself waiting to watch them walk straight through café walls like The Terminator and order a coffee—by just saying “kaffe”—while casually brushing off pieces of rubble. Do you really realize it when a tiny fruit fly is obliterated and disemboweled on your windshield when you’re traveling 130 kph down the free way? No. Perhaps Norwegians don’t feel your shoulder either as they turn it into fly slime.
Many here—of course, not everyone—don’t stand much for courtesy on the streets. This baffles me since this country has a lot of rules that people happily follow to improve the collective quality of life. And since Norwegians largely obsess over following the rules of the road while they’re in cars, it seems that such obedience should transfer to pedestrians and cyclists as well. Not so much. Maybe stricter walking rules are needed. And forget those bike and walking lanes on the sidewalks, they don’t really work.
I am expecting lots of “New York is worse”; “it’s all in your head”; or “that doesn’t really happen” in response to this. But it really is a pervasive issue. And the funny thing is; this will mostly fall on deaf ears. Norwegians feign interest in attracting tourists with their cruises, but, in general, they like their country to themselves and don’t care what outsiders think: “Nei til EU” is one example—although a fair point on their part. (Seriously Norway, you are better than the EU and don’t need them). The most likely response from a Norwegian if you’ll tell them about the “street problem” will be something along the lines of “well we are fine the way we are and don’t really care what you think.” They’ve been dealing with the stereotype that “Norwegians are rude” for some time now. So I understand their exasperation. And I’m not even going to talk about the common foreigner mistake of assuming Norwegians are rude because they are quieter: that’s clearly ridiculous and not the case. But people here should consider being a little more “space conscious” and friendly on the cities’ walkways of Norway. Don’t do it for the sake of foreigners; do it for yourselves if nothing else.
Okay, that’s all for now. It’s out of my system and less of you like me: I guess I’ll have to live with that trade off. In the next entry I’ll try to make up for it with my usual ode to Norway. And, in the meantime, if you see a guy walking down the streets in American football pads, don’t laugh at me.