Apr. 4 - Friday's almanac was a lie from start to finish—buttressed, as the best lies are, by just enough truths to sound plausible. Unfortunately I apparently made it sound a smidge too plausible, since several members of my immediate family contacted me to express their shock, sadness, and disappointment at my decision. (No, I'm not related to Tom Daschle.)
I like Denmark, and I can easily imagine spending many years here in the future—but it'll never be home to me. Certainly not until they get a grip on American football, Mexican food, affordable liquor, and hardware stores that open on Sunday.
That last one would have been especially helpful yesterday, when our shower drain got clogged. Attentive readers will recall that our bathroom is our shower, so the drain is obviously in the middle of our bathroom floor. When it backs up, our entire bathroom is submerged beneath an inch or two of nasty, soap-scummy water. This is problematic in a one-bathroom apartment.
"I better head over to the hardware store and get a plunger, a snake, and some Drano," I said to Trine. (That was before I went online and learned about augers.)
She laughed the way she laughs when I say I'm just gonna have one beer, or that I'll be home early from poker.
"It's Sunday," she said.
"But people need hardware on Sunday."
She shrugged. (She's often as irritated by the perverse Danish store hours as I am, but she's got better coping mechanisms.) In the United States you can always get something. Always. Your worst case scenario isn't how long you'll have to wait until the stores open: it's just how far you'll have to drive to get it.
In Denmark, the sidewalks are pretty well rolled up by six or seven on weekdays, eight at the latest, and either two or five p.m. on Saturdays. Hardly anything at all is open on Sunday. Usually. It's complicated, and it depends what kind of store you're talking about. But it's all about to change (link in Danish), thanks to the new Sunday Closing Law.
Up until now, retailers whose stores exceeded a certain volume of business per year were only permitted nine open Sundays per year. The new law allows them to be open for 20 Sundays per year. They're also thinking about repealing the law that bans the sale of liquor (in retail establishments) from 8pm to 6am. There's some resistance to the removal of these liquor laws, which many Danes seem to think help prevent alcohol abuse, especially among the young. As Business and Economy Minister Bendt Bendtsen puts it, however, "We can't legislate ourselves out of everything in the world. We can't have cops standing in every store. We know that there are plenty of places where these rules aren't obeyed."
Damn straight—I'm happily aware of several local kiosks where familiar patrons can grab some beer, wine, or liqour "after hours."
You'll remember I said that the laws apply to retailers whose stores exceed a certain volume of business. That's because the ostensible purpose of these laws was—well, at first it was probably something to do with keeping the Sabbath, but once that notion melted away under the brutal glare of Denmark's skepticism, the idea was apparently that if big retailers were allowed to be open on Sundays, all the little mom-and-pop shops would be driven into bankruptcy. No one would ever again pop into their local kiosk for a head of lettuce, a six-pack of Carlsberg, or a liter of ice-cream if the great big grocery store down the street were still open.
The little merchants, as you can imagine, aren't excited about the liberalization of the Sunday Closing Laws. "If the politicians remove the small stores' privilege," says a representative of the Merchants' Cooperative, "there's a question of whether they can survive."
I didn't intend to get this deeply into the issue, but it still begs the question: why the hell can't hardware stores be open on Sunday?
To the best of my knowledge, there are no giant hardware store chains in Denmark threatening the existence of the little hardware retailers. The hardware sections of the big grocery chains are a joke: a little rack of nails and screws, a small selection of screwdrivers, maybe a couple of wrenches, some light fixtures, electrical and telephone cords, and that's that. I needed hardcore hardware yesterday, the kind of stuff you get from big guys in cluttered old shops with socket-wrench keychains next to the register. The kind of place with sawdust on the floor and a girlie calendar in the john.
I needed a drain snake. I needed an auger. And there wasn't a single goddam place in Denmark where I could buy or rent one. Desperate? Grab your passport, gas up the tank, and point your car toward Germany—just four hours and two expensive toll bridges away.
Otherwise you'll just have to put up with the pond in the bathroom and hope it's not declared a protected ecological haven before you can get to the hardware store on Monday.
And while you're waiting, why not calm yourself down with a cup of chamomile tea?
One Small Step for Molli, One Giant Step for... Molli
Okay, that title was misleading. Molli, who turned nine months old yesterday, still hasn't taken any actual walking steps (the slouch). But up at her grandfather's house last night she did manage—three or four times—to crawl up to an ottoman, grasp it with both hands, and pull herself up to a standing position.
What's more, she's added some strange variations to her formerly conservative crawling. In the most extraordinary variation, she lifts her butt as far in the air as possible and crawls on her hands and toes, with no other part of her body touching the ground. While doing this she'll then sometimes lift one hand and rotate directionally using the planted hand as a pivot—it reminded me of a drill we linemen used to have to do at football camp.
At one point last night, while doing this impressive four-point crawl-and-pivot, she stopped herself mid-pivot, raised her upper body, and lifted her planted hand. This left her in a low squat with no arm support at all. She looked like a sumo wrestler, or someone taking a dump in the woods. She glanced over at me and the astonishment on my face apparently communicated to her that she was doing something amazing. This shocked and excited her, so she tumbled immediately ass-over-elbow onto the wooden floor.
Then she scrambled back onto all fours and crawled, laughing maniacally, toward a nearby stack of CDs just begging to be scattered.
"She's like a little monkey," I thought to myself.
"Hun er ligesom en lille abe!" said my father-in-law. (Which means: she's like a little monkey.)
I'm starting to wonder whether we ought to babyproof the ceilings...
* * *
Today is the fourth day of the fourth month, and therefore one of twelve days each year where I'm not confused by the difference between American and European date notations. (And next month even the year will be the same!)
© 2005, The Moron's Almanac