|They weren't from Estonia (or Scotland)|
Then I marched up to the departure gate for the Estonian Air plane headed for Tallinn. Ah, Estonians! I figured I probably knew one or two of them, maybe one was my wife's cousin. We'd have a swell time, swapping funny stories about ridiculous dialect words and making jokes about Silver Meikar. So there I was, standing with my nth foamy Tuborg in hand, ready to embrace just about anybody with that aquatic-Finnish-meets-stern-German face, all wound up, like those swinging Czech brothers in Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd's Wild and Crazy Guys 1970s SNL routine, and what do these Estonians give me but the silent treatment and awkward body language.
Nobody said a word, neither to each other, nor to the idiot in the corner with the beer in his hand. They sat as rigid as washed-up, sun-dried driftwood, not a bony elbow touching another's. It was painful, dreadful; so severe and austere was the ambiance that I had to go hide myself away amongst the Danes for some more mirthful exchanges before boarding my flight back to that sparsely populated morgue of a republic on the other side of the Baltic Sea.
I share this tale so that my dear friend Flasher T at Antyx will grasp the nature of the North American critique of Estonian interpersonal relations that has set off many a philosophical treatise. This depends on the nature of the observer. I always thought of Vikerkaar or Mingus as middle North American cads accustomed to "have a nice day" sweety talk at ye olde greasy spoon, but I am from New York, actually Long Island (which is worse), where people are notoriously rude to each other. Yet even those tortuous interactions with, say, your local Department of Motor Vehicles official, do not find equivalence in the 19th century schoolhouse demeanor of the Estonians, who sit in agony at Copenhagen departure gates, as if an unanticipated hiccup could earn them a switching in front of the class.
With a birch branch, of course.
So I was silenced at the departure gate, took the quiet flight back to Tallinn, and tried not to chat up the taxi driver out to Vikerkaar's house (though failed). When I got there, Vikerkaar's son came out and shot me with a toy rocket launcher and Vikerkaar launched into a soliloquy about the lackluster quality of Estonian journalism. The afterglow of my trip wore off, we downed tea (not beer) and I started to feel less like a "wild and crazy guy" and more like an exhausted father of three with a permanent resident's card, thanks be to stiff Estonian civil servants everywhere.