We sat around outside last night and talked before the Norwegians left. It had been an interesting week hanging out with the stolid folk of the Arctic Circle. When it comes to kindness and decency, these are some of the best people I have ever met.
They aren’t real excitable, which makes sense because things up there are predictable. Daily forecast: Snow with 90% chance of darkness.
Nor are Norwegians whiny, which makes sense because everyone has the same 11.5 months of shitty weather to endure. Instead of complaining they stoke the hearth and guzzle another fifth and go ride a hundred miles in the snow and black ice.
All this riding and sitting and pondering and drinking makes them very reflective. And the thing they seemed to reflect on most was, “Why do you Americans come all the way to Mallorca to cycle?”
“Because it’s beautiful.”
“But don’t you have beautiful places for cycling in America?”
“Then why do you come here? It is 24 hours for you.”
“Why do you guys come, then?” [When stumped, interrogate the interrogator.]
“For us it is only three and a half hours and very cheap. We can enjoy the sunshine and cycling. Very convenient.”
“I guess we like coming to Europe.”
“But you only can speak English. It is not as if you are appreciating the local culture.”
“I guess when you think about it, we like hanging out with you Norwegians.”
They looked at us strangely. “Why is that?” We were probably the only people in history who had said such a thing.
“Well, Norwegians are like relaxed Germans. Germans who aren’t punctual. Germans who live and let live. Germans with a sense of humor.”
“But we are not really related to Germans, you know.”
“Oh, bullshit,” said Russell. “If it weren’t for them you wouldn’t even have a language. Norwegian is just German with bad grammar and a drunken accent.”
Because they are not excitable they reflected for a while, which was good because they were so much larger, especially their fists. “Well, we have enjoyed this time with you and cycling. It has been fun. These eight days of sunshine have been our summer.”
We said our good-byes and exchanged man hugs. Man hugging a Norwegian is like hugging a tall tree except the tree hugs back. As they passed me around like a toy I hugged each large wooden Norwegian tree with all my strength. I don’t think they could feel anything, encased as they were in giant folds of muscle. In return they hugged me gently, barely exerting pressure, which was good because even so I could feel my neck, spine, shoulders, and ribs crackle like a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies doused in cold milk. After the final Norwegian man hug I felt like I’d been body-rolfed with a deep tissue baseball bat.
We said good-bye. They climbed into the rental van, which promptly listed like the Titanic. It’s funny how you can go to Spain but end up learning about Norway, how friendship pops up in the oddest places.