July 20, 2006

A Gypsy and Two Vets from Indiana

I always try to get a seat with a table on the train. The tables are small but large enough for a laptop. The set includes a window and four seats, two facing forward and two back.

On the way home yesterday I shared my space with a gypsy and two veterinarians from Indiana. The gypsy got on first, smelling like an Amsterdam hash cafe with nuances of beer tent and dentist's office. His skin was bothering him; he kept discretely spitting on his hands and rubbing his arms. The Americans got on next, on their way to the airport. I was trying to focus on writing but couldn't stop listening.

The vets were in Denmark for a conference. It's a short trip to the airport but I learned that they were from rural Indiana and their specialty was pigs. The gypsy explained in poor English that they were second only to the Italian Mafia in crime. The woman was polite. She explained slowly, using simple words, that 'gypsy' in America was used to describe people who moved around a lot. The gypsy complained that nobody pays any attention to the gypsies that were killed in the holocaust. The vet noted that pig doctors were at the bottom of the social ladder in Denmark. The gypsy replied that Swedes smile at your face but that they are all racists. The train pulled into the airport station, the couple was saved.

A Swedish man came aboard, took a seat, smelling of business, reading a section of the Financial Times. The gypsy took him in and asked in passing Swedish if he could borrow the other section of the paper; the request was granted. The gypsy asked me where he was, complained that he was tired. He clutched the paper and fell asleep. The businessman got off at the next station and left the main section of the paper behind, unread, rather than wake the man.

The gypsy stirs, comments that I have a strange accent in Swedish and asks me where I'm from. Minnesota I reply. He has never heard of Minneapolis and wants to know how many people live there. Its the same size as Copenhagen I say. He complains that his legs hurt, spits on his hands, adjusts his shirt. When he talks his eyelids are half closed. He nods off. The train pulls into Malmoe, the gypsy's stop. He askes me how much my computer is worth. I reply that I have a lot of work to do. Suddenly he realizes he has reached Malmoe and bolts from the train. Who would have guessed he could move so fast? I check my bag, my pockets, everything is there, but you read about pickpockets in the paper every day. My colleage was robbed on the train a couple of weeks ago by a foreigner asking questions in English-- she was trying to ignore him and didn't notice that he left with her bag. So far I have not had anything stolen but it's important to stay alert.


At July 21, 2006 5:35 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

Hitler was tough on veterinarians too. The ones you sat with were probably too polite to mention it.

At July 23, 2006 1:10 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

He was wasn't he! Nobody talks about that either.
I have to give her credit though-- the lady vet was really working hard at not being an 'ugly American.'


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