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When I'm not writing about my experiences in this journey called 'life', I'm singing and uploading my own interpretations of modern music. Click on "Cover Songs" to hear them, or on the YouTube logo on the right to see my YouTube channel.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Scandinavian Road Trip : Day 5 - 'Run for your life!'

For those of you who actually looked at the heading of this post and wondered what happened to the other posts, have no fear; this is indeed the third post of our Scandinavian road trip. As you may or may not recall, our last post left us in the quiet and unassuming town of Ljungby (pronounced Loo-ng-bee). Days 3 and 4 went by rather uneventfully, and on day 5 we rented a car and drove up to the city of Gothenburg.

After the 3 hour drive, we checked into our little motel; and when I say ‘little’, I definitely mean little. The Ibis Hotel on the Gothenburg highway near the city of Leerum is one of the most compact motel’s I’ve ever been in. It boasts of a single floor, and roughly 90 rooms. The reception to the hotel also doubles as the hotel restaurant, so the girl at one counter says “Welcome to the Ibis Hotel” and the girl at the next counter says “Sorry, we’re out of croissants”. The elevator to the first floor is not really an elevator; it’s actually a steel platform. In fact, the lift doesn’t have walls or even its own roof; once you reach the first floor, the roof above your head is actually the roof of the hotel. You could say it’s the convertible model of elevator. And as I said before, it’s actually just a steel platform; so there isn’t a button marked ‘1’ and ‘G’ on the lift, there is ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ which you need to HOLD down until you reach the floor.

And then we got to the rooms. By this time I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had compromised on the doors and sawed off half of it to replace with a curtain. Much to my disappointment, the entire door was still in place. However, step inside and you’d almost certainly find yourself to be mildly claustrophobic. Granted, there is a rather comfortable bed, but then I found out the little contraption hanging on top of the bed was supposed to be a bunk bed. Seriously, have I checked into kid’s camp? Is there a spare hammock in the bedside drawer? If I pay extra, do I get a tree house? Then there is the tiny bathroom (no surprise there) with the enormous door which, just to make things worse, opens outwards into the already almost non-existent space between the room door and the bed. This isn’t bad designing though; here the blame lies solely on the Scandinavian paranoia with regards to safety.

Upon arriving in the European Union, the most common sign I have seen has not been the “Elk crossing” sign or even the blue and yellow Swedish flag; it has been the little white and green sign showing a man running towards an open door. Emergency exits are essential to any building in Scandinavia, no matter its size. This means that hotels, office buildings, museums, airports, malls, toilets, even restaurants and pizzerias need to have an “Emergency Exit”, and also all doors must open outwards into the street, apparently to ease the frantic scramble for safety. I walked into a pizzeria one evening, a modest 10 person restaurant. In the seating area, the wall facing the street was made of three large French windows. Naturally, the owners had placed Mr. Quick-Getaway right above the windows. Now, if the pizza man really was so stupid to set his apron (and as a result, his restaurant) on fire, do you think the average person is going to look for a 7 x 3 inches sign hung above a window before making their escape? They’re going to bolt for the window or the entrance simply because there is no other option! Did the safety inspectors assume the average Scandinavian pizza eater is so brain damaged that he would seek shelter perhaps in the pizza oven? “Åargh, I’m ön fire, let me jůmp intö the furnåce whëre this conflågratiön began in the fïrst place, I’ll be såfe thëre”.

Such a concept would be near impossible to implement back home. To us, the term “Emergency exit” is solely linked to the vague little wave air hostess’ give during the in-flight safety demonstration. I have often wanted to ask them why the nearest exit to me is always behind me, irrespective of which row I sit in. I suspect the reason is selfish in nature; in case there is an emergency, I can imagine the ease in which the captain and crew can safely exit the plane, chuckling to themselves while the entire plane-load of passengers make a mad dash to get to the back of the plane in search of these mythical escape routes.

The little green man is not the only common sight in buildings, there is also a map on every floor explaining the layout of the floor, with directions to the nearest exits marked as well as a little red dot labelled “Hår år du”. Again, the same argument applies; we hardly ask for directions when we’re not on fire, so how is the smell of your burning backside supposed to motivate you to consult a map? Surely these signs are more of a hazard than a help; can you imagine the number of charred remains the fire -fighters would have found, all crumpled with their bony fingers scratching their skulls, right next to the place where a map once was?

But I suppose the worst was when we were travelling by car on the Gothenburg highway. At one point there is a 1.5km tunnel that stretches underneath a body of water. As we were descending the tunnel, I thought I saw a green blur on the wall. Convinced I must have imagined it, I ignored it; until I saw another one. And another one. Yes, it was my friend, He-Who-Runs-From-Fire. All the arrows were pointing further down the tunnel however, and not towards the surface. After close to twenty signs, we reached the mid-point of the tunnel, after which it once again rose surface-bound. At this point however there was a little door marked “exit”, leading into the wall.

I would have forced my dad to stop the car if we weren’t travelling at a 160km/h. How cool would it have been to have gone through that door? I mean, its not every day one gets to step into a submarine.

1 comment:

alicia said...

i just wiped my tears. you know the tears that come when your belly hurts so much because you can't stop laughing.

at first i felt the elaborate details were too antagonizing.
but then you ended it perfectly!
cracked me up totally.

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