And so it was on Monday, at the market in the Danish village I sometimes call my own. I’d left The Dane searching for Israeli couscous while I ran back for I-don’t-remember-now. Cutting through produce, I found the puddle of water and fell face first to the floor. It’s always face first. Always.
And as always, it went a little dark and there was more nausea than pain. Until I heard a shriek and realized it wasn’t my face that had hit, but my right knee. God, I hate that.
And of course, I digress
This is the story: as I writhed in pain on the floor of the produce section, my fellow shoppers engaged in sudden and urgent activity that did not involve coming to my aid. Two women began comparing melons. The cart behind me reversed its course. And to my horror, a ham–standing within mere arm’s reach–began texting. I felt certain it was not to summon paramedics.
I stayed for a moment as I always do, attempting to re-right the world. Assessing damage. Eager to get up. Which proved difficult. Despite the ham’s tee shirt (neon silk-screamed tuxedo jacket strained mercilessly over his pork-and-beer physique), I stared into his porcine eyes as if by pure force of will I could persuade him to see me and offer a meaty hand. But getting a Danish stranger to look you in the eye is positively Sisyphean. It’s not going to happen no matter how hard you wish. Or stare. Or push.
It seemed I’d offended the entire produce-shopping populace by having the audacity to fall. And in order to shame me, they would ignore me. Lurking in the shadows I sensed the insufferable Law of Jante, not merely excusing their behavior but indeed demanding it.
And so I climbed the banana bin and removed my inconvenient presence by hopping on my left leg, and using my right hand to propel me from bananas to apples to peaches and so on. Passing the tuxedoed porchetta, I said sotto vocce, “Thank you. You are truly a gentleman.” Too far from my next hand-hold to employ sarcasm? As if it mattered. As if he cared. As if anyone in this fruit-and-veggie purgatory cared about anything more than my post-haste departure.
It’s relatively easy to hop on one leg and stabilize oneself in a market, and I soon found The Dane, whose kindness at my least distress is positively heroic. I reconstructed the events as we tried to figure out how to view my knee through my trousers. We assessed my likelihood of survival and hobbled down the aisle. Until I realized that my pain was small compared to my anguish at the non-action of those around me.
“When this happens in Chicago, I have to push people away just to breathe,” I complained. No. I whimpered. Perhaps you’ve gathered that I’m quite a sissy when I’m hurt.
“I want a manager.” Make that an indignant sissy.
When Herr Kjaer said with a smile that insurance would “take care” of everything, he meant something far different from what I’d understood him to mean. I thought he meant they’d send me to a doctor for a look and then replace my damaged trousers. (After all, there’s injury and then there’s the heart-wrenching loss of anything Day.) But what he actually meant was that they’d get rid of me. “No one is responsible,” said their insurance company. Yes, I quote: “The manager did not know there was water on the floor and so he is not responsible.” Seriously? The manager didn’t know that heavy rain would mean water puddles near the entrance? Had he never experienced rain? Or linoleum?
No one is responsible for customer safety? Really?
Of course I wrote a scathing letter and as I’ve not mastered their language, I used my own. With extreme petulance and an abundance of five-dollar words, I wrote
and copied his supervisor;
and the CEO. (Challenging, as he had absolutely no available email address. Anywhere. But if I want to find you I most certainly will, and thus it was that I employed the Facebook feature that automatically and without consent changes one’s primary email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Message received.)
Alas, I’ve had no response. Alack, I am unsurprised. As no one is responsible.
I’ve been coming to Denmark for years but I still don’t speak the language. (No, darling, that’s not a metaphor.) My excuses, which are legion, include the fact that they refuse to pronounce half the letters in any given word. But in truth, I suspect it’s because I’m lazy and prefer to rely on my tri-lingual, nimble-tongued Dane.
In fact, there are only three things I’ve learned to say. In perfect Danish and with flawless dialect, I can tell you that I don’t speak Danish. And I can tell you that I want to be left alone. The third thing I can say involves a cruel trick once played on me by The Dane, wherein he taught me that to say “I love you” på Dansk was to say, “Din pik er smuk.” Look it up.
Upon reflection, I believe these cover it quite well.