esmaspäev, juuli 16, 2012

wild and crazy guy

They weren't from Estonia (or Scotland)
About a month ago I was offered the prospect of free drinks in Copenhagen, which I gladly took up, knocking down a few in the early evening and then en route to the airport until, like clockwork, I started mumbling half-remembered phrases from History of the World, Part I, stuff like, "It's good to be the king," and hanging out with the other inebriates at the back of the train, Danish travelers, who were also riding their own internal wave of, "Isn't life grand!" and scoping out the foxes. So, ühesõnaga, it was fun.

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.

15 kommentaari:

Marko ütles ...

What was this about? Maybe someone cares to elaborate? Is it about, oh dear, it's so hard to be an immigrant? Or is it one of those get it out of your system moans?

I'd say, thank god, that your wife is from Estonia. Could have been northern Finland. Now that's grim.

But I suppose, with culture like Estonian, it's always going to be about glass half empty or full. In Giustino s case it's often half empty though. Cheer up, pal!

Giustino ütles ...

It was a response to Flasher's post. Actually, I have plenty of fun here, and most people are nice, and I feel great. But there are those "morgue in the airport" situations ... This does annoy me though when someone, maybe my spouse, accuses me of complaining. I am not complaining, I am expressing my emotions. There does not need to be some logical solution to my emotions, nor some compelling argument for even having emotions. As I see it, people just have them, and justification is not required. Maybe it is the blog format, that each post must have some deep message, like a newspaper editorial. This certainly doesn't. If anything, it's an excuse to post a picture of the wild and crazy guys.

Rainer ütles ...

"I am not complaining, I am expressing my emotions."

A person who doesn't know Giustino at all, would be left thinking after reading this post: Wow, this guy really has a severe case of masochism - he chooses to live in a country he clearly describes as emotonal Hell.

Comrade Dos ütles ...

Some people jump out of airplanes, I live in Estonia :)

liisa ütles ...

I'm an Estonian but live abroad for 5 years and I feel EXACTLY like that every time I come to Estonia and approach the gate of the flight that would take me to Tallinn :)

Martasmimi ütles ...

I feel the same way ... I feel like I need to leave my New York personna in the Finair overhead compartment.

LPR ütles ...

to liisa

Yes. My sentiments exactly. Also, I can tell these sour estonians in the crowd milling around the airport and then get the proof that I was right when I see them standing there at the gate later ...


And I know for the fact that they look at a relaxed happy person as being with "kiiksuga". ( transl. not all there)

F them. F them.

Marko ütles ...

I see, just a moan then. But then again we all need a good bitch once in a while, to let the hair down.

But I still think you are being a bit judgemental here. Ever tried to board a train in Inverness, Scotland? Scots can easily rival the Ests in terms of misery, apathy and bad fashion sense. I always seen it as a general northern European thing. Nothing to get overexcited about. It just is what it is.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Oh god... then I'm lost. I'm descended from a 12th c Scottish mercenary who stayed in Eesti after a contract was up. Inverness hmmm?

Marko ütles ...

As a footnote, there's actually a lot of people with Scottish ancestry in Estonia. Obviously many of them descend from the Templars, but even more recently, if I remember correctly several thousand of them migrated to mainly Tallinn area during the late Victorian era.

But the point I was making was not just about the Scots, but rather about the fact that some traits of Estonian national character, have very little to do just with Estonia. But are more to do with northern Europe as a whole.

And you should also look at the other side of the coin. Just visit any country pub in Estonia on a busy Friday night, and the words like dullness or numbness are the ones you would be least likely to use, in order to describe what's going on there.

Temesta ütles ...

In Belgium many people think you have a depression if you don't act happy and extrovert all the time. That's why I like Estonia, here I can be myself without people questioning my mental health.

Spawnie ütles ...

Very nicely captured demeanour, it's quite vivid and accurate.
Of course, one cannot generalize.
I would say this is the general attitude that Estonians display in public and I agree with Temesta, I feel I fit in here much better than in my own country. I find excessive friendliness of strangers harassing.
However, in their circle of friends, Estonians are as cordial as any other nation.
I once spent a weekend drinking with Finns. Now that's a whole new level of aloofness. Almost no words were uttered at all. I might have been an outsider, but they were all friends and family, and yet the 'fun' consisted of sitting around in silence and downing unbelievable amounts of alcohol.

Unknown ütles ...

The wild and crazy guys hailed from Bratislava, thus were Slovaks not Czechs. As a Slovak-American am used to correcting everyone from the writers in the NYTimes (constantly using the incorrect term "Slovakians" - rather like "Germanians" or "Spanishers") to TV commentators. We small nations, like Estonia, are used to it. Just thought I'd throw it much as defending such a silly subject like the wild and crazy guys may be.

Kristopher ütles ...

I'm willing to give my countrymen a fair shake here and submit that you commit a fallacy here. You project the mindset of an isolated group of people on the whole national character. Maybe these toetag-wearing stiffs had merely recently received really dismal news. Maybe they had been called home to a funeral or something? And if you had launched into a rendition of D'yer Meikar (to the tune of the Led Zeppelin song), I'll bet they would have been right there with you in no time flat. Or not.

Mardus ütles ...

As far as I know, Estonians don't drink during trips with strangers and we don't like other ppl who drink during trips (bus trips with friends and family don't count, because then everyone knows everyone).

It might be something associated with Finnish vodka tourism, where arrivals to Tallinn were already not quite there anymore, so we don't like it when people let their image go a bit when travelling around. Because the others won't want that to spread around at all.

Sort of, like, if an Estonian, if only a bit tipsy, neared the departure gate where there are other Estonians, then the others won't like him, because he's making the others look bad, too.

Might be a case of usually not talking with strangers either. Especially those that are inebriated, if only a bit.