And here I feared I wouldn’t have a thing to write about my mere 28 hours in Finland. Color me silly. That’ll teach me to count my chickens and all that jazz.
You see, I battled such severe jetlag that after my 19 hours in transit from San Francisco to New York to Dusseldorf to Helsinki, I checked into my crappy hostel in the city center of Helsinki on Thursday afternoon and drifted in and out of sleep for awhile (professional traveler no-no number one) while the rain beat against my window, doing nothing for my fatigue. Four hours later, I ventured out long enough to grab my first meal in 12 hours, but the 30 degrees quickly drove me back to the warmth of my single bed, as I set in for a couple hours of Freaks and Geeks viewing on my laptop and yet another sleepless night.
At 5am, it was apparent I was going to get no beauty rest, so I decided to do some work then wander around the city a bit. It was even colder that day, and I was glad I decided to throw my running shoes and rain jacket into my small carry-on last minute, as the precipitation did not abate. By 10am, I’d seen most of the pocket-sized city and decided to head down the ferry terminal and buy my ticket for that evening’s boat ride to Tallinn in advance, lest it be sold out due to the weekending boatsetters.
At 11:05 a.m., I was mowed down by a cab.
Yeah, no, you read that right. A cab. Freakin’ hit me. And knocked me over. Like Abe Lincoln, I do not tell a lie.
When SVV and I lived in Denmark, we would make fun of how rule-abiding Scandinavians are. If we ever crossed at a walk when there wasn’t a little green man telling us to do so—no matter if no vehicle was visible for 10 miles—we were met with glares by the Danes who were standing patiently at the crosswalk. If someone tells them to do something—or rather, not do something—you better believe they’re going to obey.
But. This particular time I was abiding by the rules! See where doing what you’re told gets you? Right into the downtown Helsinki poliisi precinct. But I digress.
There I was, crossing with THREE little green men permitting me to, at the major street that ran parallel to the harbor, when I saw a cab VAN, not just any normal compact car, whip around the median and pull an illegal U-turn (his light was red). Thinking surely he would stop, as I was wearing a bright purple raincoat that only a blind person would fail to see, I continued to walk. As he inched closer, quickly, I realized that hey! he had no intention of stopping. So I threw up my arms in boxer fashion to shield, not my face or own body, but my camera equipment, natch. At that point, he slammed into me and still didn’t stop! I fell over from the blow, sort of caddycorner into the median, which finally caused him to pull over and apologize. I muttered some choice expletives that no doubt would make my mom blush, but c’mon, like you wouldn’t have done the same when getting hit full-on by a haphazard cabbie. It’s only a good thing that U-turn meant he wasn’t going to terribly fast yet.
I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, I’ve never been hit by a car before, let alone one in Finland. I stumbled about for a bit in a daze. I wasn’t hurt, just sore on my forearms and the shoulder that took the blow. So I texted SVV, who immediately responded with some expletives of his own, and told me to go directly to the police station. But first I had to find it. Lucky for me for the first time that day, there was a visitor information center just in front of me, so I went in, burst into tears and asked what one does when one is hit by a cab. Because I’m a girl and that’s what we do when angry/upset/traumatized/pissed off: We cry. Funny enough, they already had a flier printed out—this must happen often or something—and directed me to the precinct down the street.
I marched right into the precinct, sat myself down and gave my spiel. I think there were more tears. The poor young officer, Akerman, didn’t know what to make of me, as I’m pretty sure Finns, they never cry. His English was good, thank God, so I related the story multiple times before he sent me to the fourth floor to be fully interrogated. I’ve never even been in a police ward in the US, as I haven’t been pickpocketed or had my car broken into or anything to that effect (knock on wood), so this was a bit exciting for me.
Yet, I would get the only person in all of Scandinavia not fluent in English as my interrogator. He would say things in Finnish, I would dumb down my English and try to crack the code, frustration would ensue. There were a lot of hand motions, some legal charades, as I re-enacted the scene once more, just to make sure he got the full picture. There would be annoyance by all parties involved.
When describing my perpetrator, I called him “thin” and was met with a blank stare. “Lean,” “fit” and “not fat” didn’t work either, so finally I had to physically demonstrate what I meant. That was a fun one, let me tell you.
He seemed shocked I didn’t want any compensation—apparently it would have been easy to get—but I wasn’t hurt, wouldn’t require any doctor’s visit, why did I deserve to get paid? I tried to explain to him I was doing this solely so the cabbie would think twice before driving so wrecklessly again. I mean, he does this—drive—for a living. What if I’d been a small child or baby in a stroller and couldn’t handle such a hit so easily? All I wanted was for him to get a penalty and maybe some points on his record, which I think in the end he did.
I always assumed my first trip to an international police station would be for someone smuggling drugs in my backpack over a border in Southeast Asia a la Bridget Jones or Brokedown Palace, or getting my passport swiped off me in the street in Milan. I never thought it would be only for getting mowed down by a cab. How anticlimactic.