Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting to Frankfurt the hard way... 7 August, 2009

Oslo – The Train Incident
Friday 7 August, 2009


The above view of the city of Oslo was something we saw one too many times, as you shall see. Our last day in Oslo meant little more than going to the train station, catching the train to the airport, and sloping off towards Frankfurt for the IRSCL conference. But such simplicity often belies the prevalence of gremlins in the grill, of goblins in the upholstery, and gnomes in the gnapestry. We took the bus down to the center of town, where we figured we had just enough time to split up, go to the book stores, and look for some folk nonsense. After a quick search, we came up with nothing and headed to the rail station. At the ticket counter, I asked the young lady about the slow train to the airport, specifically saying I did not want the express (and priced double) airport express. She helpfully told us to take the train Lillehammer and gave us the track number and time. At the track, we watched as several express trains went off to the airport, but we were saving some money and waited patiently on the same platform, where the slow train (only about 10 minutes slower, really) would arrive. It did, and we were soon speeding off in Norwegian rail efficiency, past the seaside on the south side of Oslo, through the docks and by the neat, black-tiled roof houses. I sat looking out the window, in a vague haze, while Kevin began to sweat. He mentioned that he didn’t remember this scenery when we came in on the train, but then we figured that there might be multiple routes that went by the airport. We sat for a while, watching the scudding froth scud merrily (if scudding can be done in such a manner). At one point I got up to look at the stop, just to make sure we were not there. After about 15 or 20 minutes, Kevin could stew no more and asked a gentleman if we were on the way to the airport. The gentleman’s eyes bugged punctuation to his immediate “I’m afraid not.” Apparently, we had been heading in the exact opposite direction of the airport, towards Strömstad. And with a quick look at the map now, I can see that we were also not headed toward Lillehammer, and yet we were both in agreement on the track the ticket woman had told us. Where would we have ended up? Only the gremlins, goblins and gnomes know, but now with very little time, we were much farther away from the airport than when we had started. The kind gentleman was getting off at the next stop, and he walked with us off the train, to the platform, and checked timings. Another train would be coming in 15 minutes, so, after bidding farewell and thanks to our friend, Kevin and I plopped ourselves down on the bench, contemplating the fact that we were now quite unlikely to make our flight. Still, if we caught the next train and then an express, there might be a chance. The sun beat down. I pulled out my safari hat, consigned to the fate of the trains and the misery of the world. Kevin, however, was consigned to neither, and he went to check on the price of a cab. After a little haggling, Kevin got the cab driver to agree to a fee that would buy him not four platinum hubcaps for his cab, but certainly two, and as Kevin and I had both been platinum miners in our prodigal youth, we decided to cab it—an option, by the way, that we were not sure would get us there any quicker. At this point, though, having already spent a fortune on our stay in Oslo, we were fiscally numb, and so there we were, speeding down the highway, praying that we might just make our plane. Our driver was from Djibouti, and he had the habit of talking to us partly in Norwegian. He was jolly enough, but didn’t seem quite to know the way to the airport. After a wrong turn or two, some traffic, flow-impeding speeding cameras, and about 40 minutes, we arrived—and, yes, dear concerned reader, we just made our plane, with about 10 minutes to spare. The day was saved, and we were on our way to becoming Frankfurters.