Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lost in the Woods

JoeSo I'm on my way to campus late Friday morning, biking through Stadsskogen just like I do every day now. It's been rather cold for the last week or so, staying below -10°C pretty much the whole week, so we still have all of our snow from Christmas, which makes for a pretty ride (further helped by all the hoarfrost that was left over from Thursday's freezing fog). Anyway, I'm about two-thirds of the way through when, turning a corner, I come across a woman on skis, standing at the crossing I'm about to pass, and she says something along the lines of, "Kunna jag fråga du…"

Anyway, even my broken Swedish is enough to understand when she asks if I know where Eriksberg is—after all, I live in Eriksberg. If there's one thing I know about Uppsala, it's how to get to Eriksberg. So I helpfully reply, "Ja, Eriksberg ligger där borta," pointing back the way that I came. At which point, hearing my accent, she did what all Swedes do: she immediately switched to English, and asked, "Is it very far?"

Even as I was saying, "No, it isn't very far…" I realized why she looked so dubious: she was on the ski trail, while I was on the sanded bike trail, not terribly useful to a skier. Anyway, as I tried to think of where the trail she was already on went to, she helpfully chimed in with the explanation, "You see, I am skiing through the woods, but I am cold now, and I want to go home."

I know I mentioned before that I got lost the very first time I tried to return through these woods, but did I ever mention the half-dozen times after that that I got lost coming home from class? Or the time that I tried to walk the nature loop, missed my exit, and wound up wandering around in a circle for hours as the sunlight faded and the temperature dropped? Either way, you'll understand that I was sympathetic to her dilemma. Eventually it turned out that she had a trail map with her, and after a few moments of figuring out how to read it upside down I was able to show her where she was right then (and it turned out that she didn't really want to get to Eriksberg at all, but rather the Sommarro parking lot, so it's a good thing she didn't take my original advice) and we agreed that by going straight ahead and taking the next right she should get to her car1.

As I started to go, I wished her luck, and she said, "Hopefully I will get home before dark!" which might be intended as a joke when uttered at 11 in the morning most places, but which I suppose might have been a serious concern in this case. I nearly replied that it didn't matter—the trail she was on is lit at night—but then I thought that perhaps that wasn't sending the right message2, so instead I just assured her that I had confidence in her ability to find the parking lot, and we went our separate ways.

There isn't really anything more to the story—it just struck me as a very Swedish morning, getting stopped as I bicycle to work to give directions to a lost cross-country skier.

1 In retrospect, I'm sure that right turn was her problem. This is the same loop I got lost on: it has a bunch of smaller trails that lead off it to various trailheads, but none of them are marked, so if you don't recognize your entrance when you see it again (from the other side) it's easy to miss it and just keep going until you start to wonder why you're passing that funny tree for the third time…
2 Although, as Jennifer pointed out when I got home, that would probably have been the most Swedish response I could have given!

No comments:

Post a Comment