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Penguin and Paper

A conglomerate of my random thoughts

Landing in Copenhagen airport is a humbling experience. Everyone looks better than me. The women are beautiful and stylish and perfectly coiffed. Every man looks like he’s just stepped out of a wrist-watch ad. Nobody seems to have adopted the greasy-haired, sleepless-transatlantic-flight look that I am sporting.

Despite having tried to brush up on my Swedish by watching Bergman movies several times over prior to leaving, I can’t seem to make it come out right. In the elevator, a flawless stewardess asks in Danish, “you want to get out at this floor?” This is how I respond:  “si – oui – no, no, ja.” I say “ja” triumphantly, as if I have just solved a great mystery.

I have four hours in Copenhagen before flying to Germany to meet my friend Anna. So I decide to buck-up and take the 15-minute train into town.  It is a fateful decision.

Copenhagen Central Train Station

I step out of the train into Copenhagen’s Central Station and am given my first jolt

of “oh, Europe!” giddiness. I love the architecture. I love the history. I love how the light in the train station washes down from the skylights like a benediction. I love the old pillars and the progress.

The giddy feeling continues up on the street where bicycles ridden by pretty people zip by beneath pretty steeples.

And then it rains. Suddenly, Biblically, the skies descend. The whole town goes dark and is underwater in an instant.  My yoga pants are soaked, which makes their loose waistband something of a liability. Having to hold my pants up does nothing to restore my dignity.

But I press on. I want to go to the National Museum where there is a fantastic collection of Bronze Age artifacts and extremely well-preserved burials.

The museum is free – this is Denmark after all. Naturally, the exhibits are beautifully designed and well-organized. And in the atmosphere of controlled temperature and humidity, my yoga pants are restored.

But it is time to get back to the airport, so I’m walking back through the streets, and the sky is alternating between sun and black clouds, and the wind howls around corners. At one point I reach a central square with outdoor cafes. The wind flips several large patio umbrellas inside out, and sends potted plants crashing to the cobblestones. It’s starting to feel a little ominous.

And then I get to the station, where I go to buy my ticket. Except that the Danish kroners I have kept in a ziplock bag in my pocket, separate from Euros and dollars, have fallen out. “No matter” I think, “these machines take debit and credit cards.” – but not Canadian cards. So then I race around looking for a bank, and after a few failed attempts at ATMs, decide to risk it and take the train back without a ticket, and am cursing myself, because I already checked-in for this flight before leaving the airport, and my bag will be going to Düsseldorf without me and, Jesus, why didn’t I leave myself a little more time?

In the end I miss my flight. I miss my flight.

I’ve never missed a flight before in my life, and doing so here, now, in the land of good order and punctuality makes me feel substantially shitty. So I sit in a chair and I stare at the floor. Which is a good use of time when you have seven hours to kill and have just spent $400 dollars you can ill-afford.

On that late flight to Düsseldorf, as I record this adventure in my journal, my pen explodes.

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