Friday, December 21, 2007

A Battle of the Wills

We have a food store “Nóatún” not far from our house. It is a nice place to shop: good selection of products and not crowded most of the time. When I came there for the first time and greeted a cashier with “Góðan dag” and a smile, she rewarded me with a blank stare. It is uncommon here that somebody wouldn’t even smile to an attempt of using Icelandic language, so it stuck in my memory. Little did I know that this woman would be the only cashier available in the store whenever I visited it. So, we developed a ritual - I smiled and greeted her, she looked at me with disdain and proceeded to check out the products. I tried all known form of greetings and good-byes on her; I tried “Góðan dag” and “Góðan daginn”, I tried “Sæl” and “Blessuð”, I tried “Bless, bless” and “Komdu blessuð”, nothing could penetrate her frosty attitude. Suddenly, about three weeks ago, she warmed up to me and started to answer my greetings. What brought the change I will never know; perhaps, she figured out that I frequent the store enough to be worth a smile.

Today I went there with the kids. She said “Góðan dag” and smiled, looking kindly at the boys. Then she fired a question at them, which if I understood correctly was either “Are you from Iceland or do you speak Icelandic?” Since both of my sons obviously didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, I answered:
“Nei, þeir eru frá Ameríku; þeir tala ekki íslensku.” (No, they are from America, they don’t speak Icelandic).
And... just like that her face switched off, her smile melted away, replaced by the familiar stare. We were back at the square one.

Bad connection?

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