I cycle the last 140 or so kilometers from St Petersburg to Finland. It’s a dead boring road – lots of trucks – but worth it for the feeling of actually having cycled home again. As I close in on the border, I begin to think romantic stuff about Sweden and Finland. Brothers and sisters. I’m soon disappointed.
I hadn’t thought about really how common it had been before, and only realized it when it was so completely absent in Finland. ”Wow! Where have you cycled from?” had been the standing questions through-out my journey – from Turkey to China – but now, it was suddenly gone. Peoples’ curiosity; interest in one another. Not a curiosity specifically about my cycling, but more a handy excuse for starting a conversation. An icebreaker. Finish – as well as Swedish people – prefer to let the ice stay.
I wonder at what might have occupied the border guards’ mind. I was the only one passing by – it was midnight – and there were at least three guards there. None asked me anything. What were they thinking of instead? What made him avoid that perfect chance to meet someone new? Maybe he thought of to buy or not to buy new RAM memory for his desktop computer? Or if he remembered to turn off the stove when he left home that morning? Or how to ask his boss for a raise – although he knows that he’ll never have the courage to actually ask, regardless of how brilliant a way to do so that he can come up with during his daydreaming.
To suddenly remember how socially handicapped people here are made me depressed – not because I’d have to spend another five or so days here, but because I knew how it mirrored the way Swedish people are. It took me less than five minutes in Finland, to remember why I left Sweden in the first place in June last year. And to regret that I didn’t spend at least one final night in Russia. Or to put it as did a Finnish guy near the border, when I asked for a recommendation on a good place to camp at: ”Camping? No, that’s only in Russia!” A Russian would have replied: ”Camping? No, I have an extra bedroom!”
This is the society where the question is always mirrored:
– How are you?
– Fine and you?