Thursday, June 23, 2005

Free and Clear

I tried calling the Norwegian tax folks, and after being hung up on twice and put on hold for 15 minutes, I decided it might be better to talk to someone in person. So I hightailed it over to the Likningskontor in Sandvika and joined the sweaty masses waiting to face the guillotine.

I sat around for about 30 minutes waiting to see someone (them having given me the ubiquitous Number, of which mine was 66. The Number is the only thing that will keep a Norwegian in line, so you find them everywhere, including the pharmacy, the Best Buy-type store, the bank, the wine store, etc. Without the Number, all Norwegian Society would come crashing down into chaos, as Norwegians do not understand how to queue, they just bunch up and push forward. As I have not learned the skill of bunching up and pushing, The Number is also the only thing that keeps me sane in a queueing situation.)

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Tax office. Well after waiting around a while my Number was called, and I trepidatiously entered a very bright and cheery office occupied by a cheery woman in jeans and a t-shirt. "Hmm, that's not scary at all", I thought. There were no bloody knives, no fingernails that had been ripped from some poor fucker's pinkies lying about, no blood spots, no corpses in the corner. Not even a badge of office or a plaque on the wall. The Inquisition was absent.

I handed her the form and said hi, that I was a confused American and had no idea what this was, as I had never done one before and anyhow, I had zero income, here it says on the form, ZERO, so why am I getting a nasty gram. All in one breathe, like that.

The lady sighed and handed me the form and said "Sign it please". Ok, that I can do. While signing, I muttered some stupid joke about firing squads and first born children, and she just looked at me like "Huh?". The Likningskontor might be nicer than the IRS, but the humor level is about the same. So basically, they called me in to tell me to sign the form that they know that I know they know that I make no money. My question is, if they know I make no money, why do they send me a form with ZERO on it and make me sign it and send it back? Why do they have to remind me of this fact? They've told me I make zero, I have no quibbles (well, except for the not making oney part) so let's not waste the paper on me, how's that?

So I still have my fingernails, no red hot ass pokers in sight, and I am a zero for another year.

After that, I popped by the Storsenter for a coffee, and some maintenance joker had come up with the brilliant idea of reversing the escalators. Think about your routines when you go to a mall, and how you base your route on the direction of the escalators and whether you are going up or down. So, when you walk to the down escalator, suddenly it's going up and your head just goes "Pfft". You don't get it for a moment. I saw some guy come off it from below, and I was all like "Why did that guy run up the down?" It took me another moment to realize they had switched directions on me.
I spent a hilarious half hour, after my own head squish, watching all the folks, like me, who didn't ever think about the escalators, just expected them to be as usual, walking up, stopping, staring, looking confused, and then going to the other side. Finally someone with a brain put up a big sign that said "CAUTION! UP!"

It didn't help. Norwegians not only don't wait in queues, they also don't read signs.

In other "free and clear" news, my friend Karla May had a huge experience yesterday, and I just want to send some major big huggies out to her and say "Thank all that is holy that you are ok".

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