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Searching for Water in the Baltic Sea

By Dave Fox
On the ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo

[Eek! I just finished typing this and due to time constraints, I must upload it immediately with zero proofreading, not even knowing f it’s worth reading. Please feel free to send me irate e-mails about my spelling errors and stuff, or the fact that reading this was a total waste of your time. Or don’t. How you spend your time is up to you.]


Back when I was a wee lad in the olden days, the “twentieth century” as they are sometimes called, I remember the pseudo cruise ships that ferry passengers each night between Copenhagen and Oslo did not have satellite wifi. The only on-board Internet was dial-up, which was very slow, and which tended to not work very well once the ship left the port and the phone line snapped. But things have changed since then. The ship I am on tonight has wireless Internet, which is lucky for you because it is much faster than dial-up, which used to take a very long time to read.

They have high-speed Internet on these ships; however, they have yet to create high-speed elevators. Everybody – all 2,000 passengers (give or take) all enter through a small doorway on deck 5. Many of us have to then make our way up to deck 9 or 10. The three smallish elevators near the entrance do not have capacity for 2,000 passengers. Invariably, hilarity ensues.

I do not normally bother with the elevator. I lug my too-heavy bag up five flights of stairs, in order to forego the elevator lines, which rival Soviet-era vodka queues. I pause every couple of floors to have a minor heart attack. Then, I remember that I really have to go to the bathroom, and contimue my journey upward in search of my nest for the night.

Arriving this afternoon in said nest, it dawned on me that I forgot bottled water. I’ve drunk the tap water on these boats before, and I am still alive to tell the tale. Nevertheless, I usually snag a bottle or two of water from the tour bus fridge before boarding the ship.

This led me on an odyssey down to the car deck – seven decks below my cabin – and the downward trip as passengers are boarding is relatively easy. You sometimes get people on deck 5 who have pushed the down button even though they need to go up, knowing that by the time the elevator fills with car deck passengers below, there will be no room when boarding an up elevator on deck 5.

But I was lucky. I got an express run from 10 straight down to 3. When the elevator doors opened, I stepped into a car deck, possibly the smelliest car deck in the world. It reeked of fish and sewage – not necessarily in that order.

I searched for the bus but it was nowhere to be seen. Cars board first. Buses and large trucks are put on last. Waterless, I began the great journey upward again, via the elevator.

It took a long time before one of the three elevators arrived. When it did, the doors opened to reveal approximately 218 people inside an elevator with a capacity of 12.

“Full!” a nine-year-old brat shrieked at me in Norwegian as 214 adults looked at me silently. There was a little space. If I inhaled and held my breath, I could squeeze. I took half a step forward.

“FULL!!” the nine-year-old brat reiterated.

The adults didn’t have to say a word. They had their miniature henchman doing their dirty work for them, and they would be damned before they would take a step back to make room for a stranger who, for the record, only ways around 140 pounds and looks even smaller when he holds his breath.

I stepped back. The doors closed. I remained on deck 3.

[…Continued the next morning, 20 minutes before arrival….]

Another elevator arrived. This time it was fullish with people from another country. And in the interest of not getting into racial profiling, I shan’t mention the name of this other country. Let’s just say it rhymes with Squirmany. There was room for me to squeeze, and room for a couple of other people if needed. The Squirmans looked at me indignantly as I invaded their space.

As we rose to deck 5, the Squirmans got nastier. At least a dozen people waited outside as the doors slid open, looking forlorn. Apparently they had already been faced with a few full elevators. I stepped aside to let a couple of people in. At the same moment, the Squirmans stepped forward to give the impression there was no more room.

“There’s plenty of room,” I said, but the Squirman group was not budging. Apparently they had waited a long time, like these other people, and were not budging now that they had a sprawling elevator with breathing room. Before anyone else could board, the doors closed. We went upward.

This is when karma kicked in. The Squirmans had apparently pushed the button for deck 9 as they had boarded on deck 5. But as the elevator had been going down at that point, deck 9 had not registered. I had figured this out when I, in spite of the Squirmans’ consternation, boarded the elevator and noticed there were no floors lit up. I had pushed the button for deck 10, blocking the other buttons from the Squrimans’ view, figuring if they were going to give me a hard time about getting on “their” elevator, then I was going to make it my express elevator.

I giggled as I stepped off at deck 10, listening to Squirman grumbles behind me that we had not stopped on their floor.

Two more times in the next 45 minutes, I returned to the car deck. Cars were loading more slowly than usual. At 4:55, our bus was still not on the ship. I had to meet my tour group in five minutes, and we were scheduled to set sail in five minutes.

At 5:30, we were still in port and someone from my group came over to tell me the bus still was not on the ship. I looked over the rail to see Mathieu, our driver, looking very irritated, way down in the parking lot. I started dialing his cell number when he started driving forward, onto the ship.

I never did get my water from the bus. I was forced to pay extortionist prices on the ship instead. Later in the evening, Mathieu told me the tale of how the car deck was so packed by the time they let him on, the only way he could exit the bus was through the window.

It’s morning now and we are approaching Oslo. I do not know how Mathieu will make it back on the bus. My hope is that when he does, they will not detail him at customs for an hour like they did two weeks ago. But that’s another story.

Published on Monday, July 19, 2010

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