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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, October 29, 2006

To Britain and Finland part II.
Not quite on the ball, but, at least knowing where the ball is.

After our late wakening we began our day with a dose of kaura purro, (oat meal cereal to those who eat in English) with raisins and some toasted hapantaa (sour dough) rye bread and Edam cheese, continuing with an exploration of the area. I can’t for the life of me remember all the names, but we went down all the roads from this area to the next village or “kyla”. Our travel was, in part, dictated by the need to find places where I could turn around, since I still hadn’t figured out the reverse gear deal, but it was fairly extensive and we had a wonderful time. The leaves on the birch trees were just thinking about changing and trying on small bits of yellow and even showing bright caps of yellow at the crowns. Some of the other trees, maples, I believe were deep into change, appearing as bright balls of red scattered on the fringes of the yellow and green.

We took the “short” road into the town of Porvoo, reputed to be the second oldest in Finland. In part, I was looking for a bank where I could change some money in an ATM. ( I have long ago learned that ATM service charges don’t approach the service charges in the “money changer” booths.) in part, I was looking for the “old town” kept as a living museum and cluster of craft and antique shops. What I found was an ESSO station and minute mart flanked by McDonalds. ( Oh the Americanization of the rest of the world. So many of them hate us, but try to be us at the same time – an American trait if ever there was one.)
We crossed over the bridge, below which was an example of almost every conceivable small and medium sized boat, flanked on one bank by red apartment building, on the other by fish processing sheds. We went over to the Tori (outdoor marketplace that exists in every Finnish town of any size), but most of the booths were closing at the end of the day. We finally decided to head back home on our “short” road ( the long road is E18, a typical superhighway, but with the entrance fourteen twisting kilometers away; the short road is a two lane, beautiful little hiway, curving, twisting and going up and down through three tiny villages, with the destination (Porvoo) 24 kilometers away.

On the edge of Porvoo is a large Volvo dealership that had lights on and possible mechanics at work, even on Saturday, so I turned in, determined that even a Volvo mechanic would know how to shift this Chevrolet car into reverse. Alas, no mechanic, but some poor innocent young man was getting into his car out behind the dealership. I quickly cut him off so that he couldn’t go anywhere (I am sure he was expecting a car-jacking or worse) got out and walked to his driver’s side window. (He had managed to get in the car even as I cut him off.) I looked as innocent as a bearded foreigner in a red Chevrolet Kala (by the way, kala means fish in Finnish, for whatever use that information might have.) could look and asked him in what little of my remaining Finnish I could use if he knew anything about cars. Realizing that my Finnish was about expired, he replied in English that he was not a mechanic, and didn’t think he could help me. In polyglot Finglish (desperately trying not to go completely tourist) I tried to explain that I couldn’t get the car into reverse. He clearly stated that reverse gears were the domain of transmission mechanics, and they wouldn’t be back till Monday.

Giving up any pretense of Finnish I said “I don’t need a repair, I just need to know how to shift the gear into Reverse.”
A long pause, followed by an insulting chorus of he-haws that would have done justice to Mr. Ed preceded his smiling exit from his car. (he will never know how close to a real car-jacking he was at that moment, though it wouldn’t have done me any good because I probably wouldn’t have been able to get HIS car into reverse either.)
He sat in my driver’s seat, and indicated the “boot” around the gear shift. He showed me that there was a small metal ring at the top of the gear shift boot. If one takes that ring in hand and pulls upward a bit, the gear shift goes easily into reverse. After demonstrating, SLOOOOWLY a couple of times he smilingly returned to his car, backed up enough to swing around us and gaily went on his way. I can imagine that, most of the following day, he was describing to his mates the stupid American Senior Citizen that couldn’t shift his car into reverse. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up a folk orsoft-rock song on whatever is the Finnish equivalent of the top ten tunes.

I had, earlier, tried pulling up on the gear shift, pushing down on the gear shift, pushing every conceivable button in the car, (by which process I discovered that this mini-economy car has “seat warmers”) but I hadn’t thought to pull up on the gear shift boot. We drove back into town just to go to some places where I would have to put the car in reverse. Each time we did it, we giggled like little kids, and the local Finns were probably bemused by the foreigner who shouted each time that it was true “The car is in reverse”. After short period of such silliness, we wound our way back to Isnas, parked the car where it was indeed downhill, but where I might need to put the car in reverse to ‘start’ down the hill.

After a short meal of good Finnish breads and cheeses, we watched television in Finnish (Jan actually read a book) because I had formed the fallacious opinion that if I watched television in Finnish for an hour every evening, some of my language skills might return. Fallacious activity completed we went into the sauna, perspired, showered and prepared for bed.

5 Comments:

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I'm glad to hear that you had some fun before Janet's illness. Very funny and sweet.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

You made that young man's day, Richard, at the expense of all Americans, of course! LOL! Even after reading your explanation about the reverse on the gear shift "boot" I still don't know what the heck you're talking about, so evidently I wouldn't have been able to figure it out either! At least you knew where your windshield wipers were.

I drove with my daughter to Florida about four years ago, and we visited my son in Coco Beach. We went fishing with him on the coast and it started to rain. Not just a simple rain, but one of those monsoon rainstorms so typical of Florida on summer afternoons, so we picked up our gear and ran to his truck. We had to cross this very long bridge in heavy traffic in this absolute downpour and Frank didn't turn on the windshield wipers. "TURN ON THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS!" I yelled. Jessica had turned white and I had to hang on to her because I thought she would jump out of the truck. She had already unfastened her seat belt! Frank was fumbling around on the dashboard but the windshield wipers hadn't been turned on and I thought we would all die. He couldn't see a thing. So I yelled again for him to turn on the wipers and he said "I don't know where they are, Mom. I forgot. Haven't driven this truck in awhile." Just as someone honked and he swerved toward only God knows where because none of us could see, he turned on the wipers. Sheesh!

Jessica and I decided we would let him drive us anywhere after that.

I'm so glad that Janet is doing much better and hope she continues to progress daily. Thank you for keeping us informed and God bless you both. I sent up prayers for her in church this morning.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Er... that was supposed to say "we wouldn't let him drive us anywhere after that."

 
At 4:26 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Wonderful story. The area sounds beautiful. I don't think I would have ever figured out how to reverse that car. Odd that a Chevrolet is so different from those here.

I am so very happy that Janet is getting better. I am equally happy that you are feeling like you can take a little time to keep us informed and entertained with your travels. I will be praying that Janet is well enough to travel before too long and you both will be able to return to your own home and be closer to family. Take care of yourself, too.

As always, you are both in my prayers.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger Thotman said...

Richard, I am pleased to see you in better spirits...thanks for the updates and the memories... I hope the recovery continues rapidly.

 

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