Monday, May 29, 2000 5:11 AM
part 25

There was a party as the boss's place. Renovations have been completed since my last visit, and a new room was added. The boss told me very proudly that the floor is heated in that room by running hot water pipes underneath it. This is far more efficient than the radiator on the wall, which is far more common. I took off my shoes and walked around on the floor, but I wasn't impressed, then I knelt and touched the floor with my hand, and I was.

Atli and Jóhanna took me to just outside of Reykjavík to see the kind of place where Atli wants to build a house. It is at the base of a large hill, with mountains behind it, a plain to the left, and the ocean to the right. Reykjavík was visible not very far away, but the sounds of the city did not reach us there. The road to that place is essentially a "winter" road, because it's unsealed, so passage requires that the mud freezes. Atli managed to drive most of the way there, but there was a large pool of water in the middle of the road, so Atli and I had to walk for some distance, while Jóhanna stayed in the car. We were treading on thin ice, literally, as I found out - I watched as cracks appeared under my feet and radiated from there to the edge of the sheet, at which point both of my long-suffering boots sank into the mud underneath. I didn't even have to dip them separately to make them the same. How convenient. At least the mud wasn't too deep, but I'd still have preferred not being in it at all. "Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood". Especially if it doesn't. :-) We climbed the hill and looked around. The sun was setting over the ocean and the wind was cold, but the view was magnificent.

A questionnaire arrived in my letterbox from the workers' union to which I belong. It was asking various things about the quality of my employment - am I happy there, am I productive there, is the boss fair, etc. They claim that the results are anonymous, but there is an identifying number on the front. I didn't bother to complete it, because the results are published somewhere easily accessible, and I might have written some things that are best not committed to paper. Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call. It was the union, asking why I haven't completed my questionnaire. Why do they think that I haven't? "Er, we are asking 'have you completed the questionnaire?'". Of course you are. Then they offered to complete it for me over the phone. I declined.

The questionnaire reminded me of the incident with the "television" people. In Iceland, one registers and pays a fee for the privilege of receiving radio waves via television, radio, and similar devices. There is a government department in charge of registration and fee collection, and they have people who visit houses to ensure that unregistered people really have no such devices (there can't be too many of those). Eventually, they visited me.

[knock knock]
- Who is it?
- Goons.
- Who?
- Hired goons.
[Actually, they were women of average build. That was just my little joke]
- You aren't registered with us. Do you have a television or radio?
- No.
- You don't have a television?
- Yes.
- So you *do* have a television?
- No.
- But you said 'yes' a moment ago...
- I was agreeing with you that I have no television. You'll find that it's logical, if you think about it.
- Oh. Are you a computer guy?
- Yes.
- I thought so. You don't have a radio?
- Yes.
- Er, you are agreeing that you don't have a radio?
- Yes.
- No television and no radio... may we come in and see?
- Of course.

They came in, they looked around, they left. They haven't come back. There's probably a label next to my name that says "avoid avoid avoid!". I could perhaps get a television now and they still wouldn't come back... or they might send real goons this time. Perhaps Þor, the Icelandic viking warrior who kills whales with his bare hands. Þor, who turns sideways and crouches to walk through doorways. Þor, who can't put his hands on his hips, or stand with his feet together. Þor, Icelandic for courage.

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