At approximately 14:30 today I was about to board a train in Tikkurila. Confused as I frequently am with our beloved VR (Valtion Rautatie, i.e. State Railway) and the ambiguous way of marking the cars, I darted back and forth on the platform as the train arrived, trying to determine the correct car to step into. My ticket was for car one, but as has been the case before, the train had two car number ones! Apparently car number seven was also marked as one since at Kouvola the train split and the latter half continued to Lappeenranta.
Some sort of recollection and maybe even a lucky guess kicked in and I picked the closer one of the car#1’s, asking the train conducter on my way (in plain Finnish), if this car was, in fact, the #1 to Oulu, as I had already figured out that that was the correct one for me. He confirmed and I stepped in and settled into my seat, sipping my tall latte. The conducter stepped in and before the train even left the station, he started checking the tickets.
I offered mine from my phone, the VR app which is a very Finnish app, so I suppose simply the act of having the UI language set to English was reason enough for the said conducter to assume that I am English speaking, despite the fact that I had asked him a question in Finnish only 28 seconds earlier – then again, I guess I can’t assume he remembers every redhead who asks directions from him. So anyhow, while he informed every passanger individually about the coffee, water and cookies offered in this business class car, he effortlessly switched to English when addressing me.
Train travel is just as boring to me as flying. I travel alone, I do not like to sit in the restaurant car, especially since it means leaving all my belongings to the other car (unless I want to drag all my luggage along, which I don’t) and I hate sitting trapped to an uncofortable chair for hours. So I tend to snack. I like to eat in the train. And most commonly I have my own snacks with me – a little bit of candy, some nuts etc. unless the trip takes as long as this one. Five hours in this intimidating green worm. I packed myself some dinner: dolmades and a pulled pork sandwitch.
I’m quite certain that up until my daughter called me and I spoke in Finnish with her, the other passangers in the car shared the assumption od the conducter. I was reading my book about the life and times of Dave Grohl (a bit too much background of the DC punk scene in the book, tends to bore me badly) and eating my dolmades while the normal people went to the restaurant car to get ham on rye (the Finnish rye, Reissumies). Then, I am known (in my own vast mind at least ;) ) for having strange snacks on travels, like fritatta for example.
In Kouvola we waved goodbye to the latter half, err actually first half, since this car#1 was really, logically, the last car of the train until Kouvola. Did I mention that the car numbering of VR is confusing? I have already learned, though, that it is thorougly Helsinki-centered, as the car#1 is usually the one at the Helsinki end of the train, whether it be the last one (en route out of Helsinki) or the first one (on the return trip). Currently, though this is already topsy-turvy and car#1 is actually the first one while we are north-bound. My head is spinning, but the main thing is, I am in the correct train and still on my way to Iisalmi, not Lappeenranta.
Enough about all this train car confusion and blabbering, adding to the language confusion, or at least just something that strikes me as funny, is this business with these very American mormons who boarded the train in Mikkeli. While addressing me, a definite – if maybe not mainstream – Finn in English, the conducter spoke Finnish to these very obviously American mormons (I have never ever in my 41+ years of life in Finland seen Finnish mormons dressed up in those uniforms). Then again, for a while there, they baffled me by speaking Finnish among each other. Must be part of their training or something. They’re not old enough to have been here for very long.
Two more hours to go. I wish I could just nap.