Uh oh. It’s official. We’ve hit the January blues. I know it’s quite common for people living in wintery climates to hit a bit of a low after the holidays have worn off and we are stuck in gray, cold Jaunary with no spring in sight and no holiday twinkle lights to make us feel cozy. We’re all starved for heat, warmth and outdoor physical activity without having to dress in 10 layers. But it’s more than just that this year, and our detour to California last year spoiled me with more than just mild winters. I now remember the way January 2007 and 2008 felt.
For example, in the grocery store we have the system down to science. We read the total from the digital cash register, answer ‘no’ when they ask if we want a bag, give the money, pick up the change and answer ‘yes’ when they ask if we want the receipt. I know the script by heart. But once I a while, some helpful or cranky cashier deviates from their set lines. Asks if that item next to the conveyor belt is ours or if we have a smaller bill or if we are enjoying the weather. And for a moment it’s always stunned silence, during that moment you try to frantically search your brain for some familiar word from what was said and piece together the possible meaning of it all. Once in a while, we do figure it out and kind of answer with a stuttering ‘nnnnei’ or ‘taaakkk’ or whatever is appropriate. But mostly, we have to resort to asking, in our most practiced Norwegian, ‘Do you speak English?’ And usually they do, and often they are happy to. Despite that however, the whole exchange leaves you feeling exposed, a bit embarrassed and somewhat inadequate. As I walk through life in a foreign land, I sometimes find myself thinking ‘Please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me!’