20 September 2005

The Iceland Diaries III – Day 5

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

I'm an idiot.

I'm an idiot. I got the shampoo. I didn't get a brush. My hair is getting knotted and if I don't don't do something about it soon I'll have one big dreadlock. But I'm in the kitchen during business hours.

I'm really an idiot. I'm working in a damned restaurant kitchen during my holidays. Of course, it's raining and windy this morning so there may not be much work, which is actually worse because then I'll be bored to death. At least then I could get a hairbrush.

Inside:

  • Cooking.
  • More cooking.
  • Being polite
  • Being an idiot
  • Iceandic Hottay model talks to me!
  • Iceandic Hottay model takes me home with her!!1!
  • I get very little sleep before having to go to work alone tomorrow...





Leo's going to be cooking on Wednesday and Thursday, so I should go out and do some touristy shit. Like go to Mývatn. Karen was just there last week. And while I'd like to do just that, I'm not so thrilled about going A) alone or B) with a group of tourists.

Yes, yes, of course I asked her, but alas, Karen's working Thursday. The less-than-ideal weather and my lack of preparation for coming here means I have neither hiking shoes nor my warm, multi-layer and component jacket with rainproof shell and fleece. This makes most tours to the glaciers and volcanoes and such unlikely, though I am somewhat pig-headed. I could hit the mall Wednesday for shoes and just dress in a few extra layers, killing Thursday with a 10-hour trip to walk across a glacier. I promise to get someone to take pictures when I fall into a crevasse.

So I arrived at about 9:30 to start prep. The guy here looked at me and said, "You know we don't open until 10". No one told him I was working today so I had to. "Haaa..."

Halli didn't show up until about 10:30. I set the grill too hot and the fryer on the wrong "on" level. Of course I needed both of these once the first order came in around 11:45. Someone had to wait 15 minutes in an otherwise empty restaurant for a meal. Shit happens. Sorry.

It was slow.
Mind-numbingly slow.
But not as slow as my attempts to read the damned newspaper.

The rain didn't help but a lot of it has to do with the fact that half the tourists come in on an Icelandair four-day budget special, arriving Thursday or Friday and leaving Monday or Tuesday.

I had to run out and get some nacho cheese. It seems a full #10 tin of the stuff disappeared leaving us with enough of the processed cheeze-like substance to do exactly 2 orders of nachos. We sold 7 or 8 yesterday.

The delivery was also late. We did more than a dozen burgers alone yesterday and had exactly one bag of fries/chips left. Good thing it was fairly dead and that the fish of the day (Redfish / ocean perch if you really care) doesn't get chips. Too bad it actually takes some effort to prepare.
Halli was in the kitchen so I left to run errands. I got a hairbrush for only 200kr and then went to Bónus for the processed nacho cheese-flavoured cheeze food product. After dropping off the crappy nacho cheeze I went and picked up the hand-knit sweater that had to have the sleeves lengthened. It was ready as promised and before I said anything, the manager saw me and told the girl to go grab it for me. I looked at the sleeves and spotted where the lengthening was done. It's hard to see unless you know what you're looking for but the new section was done at a bit tighter setting. It fit beautifully.

I still haven't heard back from Gusti, but I'm in touch with the friend from Akranes who's now living here in Reykjavík. We'll see if he can make it tomorrow.

Halli's going out with his kids tomorrow and Leo will be rather busy at Pasta Basta. I'm working without a net from 10a.m.-11p.m.

Around 5 it was dead and I wasn't really working so I stayed out of the kitchen and did some sudoku puzzles. I stopped at Ósóma to have a look at Gulli's new Panasonic turntable to see if I could fix it for him like I said would but he'd gone half an hour before I told him I could come in. I talked to Þordis a little and then went back to the restaurant.

Things stayed slow until about 7:45 when 9 people walked in at once. More followed. For the next hour the tiny kitchen was slammed and Halli and I moved food out at an impressive rate. More impressive still were the compliments we received. Not only were people cleaning their plates, they were sending compliments back to the kitchen.

We moved so much food that we had to re-prep everything. Tomatoes, cukes, lettuce, peppers, burgers, chicken... it was all nearly out. After the turn-over, Halli and I went to the bar for a smoke and a beer and a couple people came up to us and raved about the food. That rocked, especially since the speed we had to do everything made it the most likely time to fuck up and send out inedible crap.

After that we only did an occasional meal. As we were closing the kitchen a couple orders for burgers and tortilla chips came in. I told Halli I'd do them while he finished he close. Good call: it kept two 3-top tables in the place drinking. Such is the point of having simple and cheap stuff on the menu.

Halli again implored me to call if it gets busy like this tomorrow and he'll drive back to the city if necessary. I shouldn't have to but I again told him I wouldn't hesitate. Before he could say anything more, I explained that I knew the situation, the manager was still unsure about having me there and his (Halli's) ass was on the line. But dammit, he needs some time with his wife and kids. I have some time. The weather's been shit and I don't have the clothing to go out for a lot of things I'd like to do, such as a trip to the glaciers or Mývatn. I'll be back though, so I'll do them sooner or later.

I learned that you do say something along the lines of "Gesundheit" when someone sneezes, though it's not nearly as common as in other countries. "Guð hjálpa þér" (goodth hyowl´-pa thyair), or "God help you" is the phrase and it stems from the Plague days. Sneezing was one of the first symptoms, so anyone doing it was marked as a goner.

I decided to go to Sírkus around 10. In hindsight I should've just stayed at 22 and played Ólsen Ólsen with Valti.

But I didn't.


This geek bearing gifts went to Sirkus and talked to Sigga (the owner) for a bit. Last time I was there I'd brought her a bottle of Williams Birne pear schnapps. She loved the bottle but hated the contents thereof. This time I'd brought a small bottle of quality apple schnapps in a really nice, black, slender-necked bottle. She loved it. I sat at the bar after a couple got up and left and about 10 minutes later some girl was standing next to me and started asking questions. Lots of questions.

This works. She's gorgeous. She's from here but lives in New York City. What's she do? "I'm a model". No surprises there except she was actually interesting to talk to. Now, I have a strict rule about actrons and models: avoid them like the plague. Voice of too damned much experience. But I'm in Iceland and it would be hard to do something more foolish than I've already done without literally risking my life.

While I did have that thought, it was mostly due to the beers I'd already had coupled with a rather long period of unwanted celibacy that let me convince myself this one migt be different. After half an hour she went to the closed upstairs area with a friend. The bartender followed shortly thereafter but came back down without expelling them. Strange... I looked up there a few minutes later and was asked to join.

Twenty minutes later yet another girl comes up and joins us. Then other people who started shuffling in spread out among the tables. Later two guys and a couple joined us. Da jernt was gettin' full up.

The Icelandic language is the center of the Icelandic national identity. Had Denmark stamped it out during the 500 years they ran the place instead of only making Danish the language for institutional and governmental use, this place would just be a Danish territory. So it's not surprising that if you make the slightest effort to learn the language, Icelanders will be extremely pleased and very encouraging.

Mangle the words, pronounce them like a drunken baboon, mix the verb tenses like you're getting your revenge for all the Viking invasions, screw up the grammar so badly that you literally don't know who or what is moving, and whether or not it's already there, it just doesn't matter. If you manage to get a sentence out and a basic idea across, you'll be told "Þú talar mjög goða íslensku!" (You speak very good Icelandic).

That reassurance is nice, but they stuff like that right after they finally figure out what the sentence is supposed to mean, your having tried a dozen times to get it right and hearing nothing but "Haaa" and "Hvað sigirðu?" in response. You don't need the history course to figure out their agenda.


Traveller's Tip
"Haa..."

They're not laughing at you.

Pronounced like "hah" but drawn out and voiced much like the English "hmm..." with an inflection that falls about three full tonal steps, Icelanders are letting you know they didn't understand what you said. You'll hear this a lot and it's infectious. Whether I'm speaking to someone in English, German or Spanish, I use it all the time, as do a lot of other foreigners who live here.

Sírkus was full at midnight and the table kept talking Icelandic. I was able to follow along more or less, something simplified by a notable lack of attempts to actually speak much. My vocabulary's still frustratingly limited and though I keep picking up new words, I lose them just as fast by not using them. When Model-Who-Picked-Me-Up talked to me, she'd often take my hand in hers. Or draw something on my jeans with her fingernails. It's about time, too.

When 1:05 rolled around and the staff was herding the patrons to the door, the group decided we'd all go... somewhere. OK, I'm game. I didn't catch where it is we're going, but by Oðin's staff we're gonna get there! I still have another eight hours before I have to get up for a 13-hour shift on my feet.

We stopped just past the main square and most of our group got one sort of "báutur" (or "boats", Iceland's version of a submarine (hoagie/grinder) sandwich) or another. When I grimaced after hearing one of the models order a "pizza boat", she insisted I try it. Natch. But after all the þorablót "food", how bad could it really be?

Not bad at all, actually. I recommend it as a nice change from the usual sub. The group's hunger sated, we headed further away in a direction I'd never been and finally ended up at someone's house, where we congregated in the basement and chats broke out. So did a Eurotrash version of a joint, made with three papers, some cardboard, some tobacco and grass or hash.

I don't smoke pot or hash. I just never really liked it. On rare occasions I've had the odd puff or two and no more. The last time I'd bought the stuff, punk wasn't yet a fashion statement. I've also had a couple bad experiences when taking a puff after being half-drunk which consisted of losing my memory (but normally not my consciousness) and much physical control. I've made it home each time -- once to my now ex-wife's utter amazement -- but it's something I prefer to avoid.

As the joint made its way to me, I took stock of the situation. I felt OK and really hadn't had too much to drink, it being impossible to get to the bar to order anything. I also was wide awake, not hungry, not sick... there shouldn't be any problem. I'll be social. Hell, it's Iceland. I know about the drugs here. You're lucky if the actual active ingredient content approaches 10%.

The joint reached me.

I took a light puff.

The next thing I remember is everyone else being gone and three girls standing over me telling me I needed to leave since they really know me well. After a couple WTF moments, I again took stock. I hadn't been sleeping. Couldn't have been. I know what both a 5-minute nod and a two-hour passing out feel like, and this wasn't either one of them. I was sitting up. I wasn't yawning. I wasn't on a nod. Very strange indeed.

What really put the knife in, though, was hearing the laughter three seconds after they'd closed the door. Fuck. I am Such. A. Fucking. Idiot.

To make matters worse I had no idea where I was and started searching for landmarks. I finally saw Hallgrimskírkju and figured it for a good 3km away. It took about an hour for me to make it back to the hotel. It was around 5:00a.m.

I'm not just an idiot; I'm the embodiment of sheer stupidity.

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