Print Story The Iceland Diaries II - - Day 8
By BadDoggie (Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 12:55:22 AM EST) (all tags)
Day 8: Reykjavík
Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005

I'm an idiot.

The SMS section of my cell phone's SIM was full and so the phone didn't alert me that a message came in. Or maybe it did but during the period between 11:30pm and 2am that I'd passed out from too much Icelandic courage before trying a particular bit of þorramatur. And once I was up, I couldn't get back to sleep. Two episodes of Monk and half of Prime Suspect 4 and I finally, restlessly drifted off for a couple hours. This always happens when I get a cold.

  • Dude, where's my cash?
  • A helpful bank?
  • Cat food?
  • Do I know you?
The Iceland Diaries II: Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, "Food", Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16, Day 17, The End.

Óðin I'm tired!

I need money!
I have money; I just can't get hold of it!
I went back to 22 with my computers to write as I do every day and also to find the contact information at my bank's Web site. The only numbers they have are "0180" which cost per minute and which can't be dialled from Iceland. The one international number considered me inside Germany because of my German cell phone number and re-routed me to a recording telling me to call an 0180 number. I finally found a contact form and sent a desperate plea for help. and after three hours still had no reply. I also posted a note on a Munich forum for English-speaking ex-pats and while some tried to be helpful, I'm no better off than I was last night.

I managed to ask correctly if I could leave my computers on the table for 5-10 minutes and the girl actually patiently waited for me to spit out the phrase Má ég að láta tölvanum eiga sig fyrir fimmm til tíu minutar? and better still, she understood. She asked something back that I didn't understand, but the gesture cleared it up. I just said yes and it was no problem. It's pretty unlikely that I'm running off from a 1500kr bill and leaving two laptops behind. I got pics of the offending ATMs as well as the addresses and bank contact numbers.

KB bank           Landsbanki Ã?slands
Contact info for the two machines in case of problems.

Why did I choose to deal with Landsbanki rather than KB? Because the KB bank transaction wasn't showing on my Postbank statement as pending transactions, and the pending status locks the money and limit in the account just as transaction approval does on a credit card.

Lunch is served
The president ate here.

Bæjarins Beztu
Not the best hot dog I've ever had, but not bad.
I called the Landsbanki number and they told me I had to go down to the branch office. No problem, it's just down the road. On my way I decided food might be a good idea and made it to Bæjarins Beztu1, supposedly Iceland's best hot dog stand and I have no idea how I missed it the first trip. It was only around the corner from the bank. Unfortunately they didn't have fries.

Meh. I was unimpressed. I've had much better ones at Shell stations. Not only didn't they have fries, they didn't even have potato salad for the dogs.

When I mentioned this experience later and noted they use the same "SS" brand hot dogs, someone told me that BB cooks their dogs differently, possibly in beer. I again said I wasn't impressed. I was then told that even President Clinton went there. Ugh. I asked how you say "intern" in Icelandic2, but they didn't get it.

You'll help me?!
I keep telling you how great this place is!
I went back to the bank and they were very helpful; much more so than my own bank or the pieces of shit at HSBC in the UK who effectively told me they wouldn't retrieve my card and that if I didn't fuck off out of the branch immediately, they'd get the cop standing outside to arrest me. Sólveig3 started making calls to the various transactions handlers trying to find out the status and causes. She spent an hour and a half helping me.

Sólveig told me she had the key to the ATM and that I should try using it here at the branch, something markedly different from what the pigfucker at the Camden Town branch of HSBC had said despite having a key himself. Even if the machine takes my card (which it should have done if the card's been nullified), she can retrieve it so that I'll at least have the card and the info on it.

We went together and I tried a considerably lower amount -- 20,000kr (about €240) and it worked! I think she was as relieved as I was. It also means I was right about how the transaction and error messages worked, namely, that the card was accepted, my request was passed on, rejected by my bank as too much inside one week, and an error message thrown back which the machines here didn't understand. It also means that "Bad PIN" is the default error message. I'm sure there are crackers and carders out there think they could use this sort of information for nefarious reasons, but anyone really interested and capable already knows this and much more.

There was no more to be done today and Sólveig said to come back tomorrow and see if we couldn't find out why my bank was still showing a hold and potential completion for the 50,000kr transaction which was rejected by Landsbanki but still listed on my account as pending.

I went back to 22 relieved and wrote some more. Three well-nursed beers later I paid and headed on home to get some of the food experiments out of the way. I flipped on the TV. Nothing much for a while, but then a show called Óp came on. It seems to be for adolescents. good. Simple dialogue, I hope.

The boob tube
Home-grown entertainment

There were some guitar contests between teens in front of a bunch of pre-teens who cheer to determine the winners. They also ran the new Björk video which she shot here in Iceland. The Train of our Hearts Forgives Us or something like that. Björk is one wacked-out chick. Gorgeous, but totally flipped out. The scary thing is that I've been here long enough that a lot of the scenes don't seem as weird to me anymore.

Heh. What I didn't notice because I turned to it as it was already running was that Óp runs SMS voting for something stupid at the end of each show. As the show was finishing up, I saw the them waiting for the last minute of SMSes (at 49kr per message) to decide which one of the two host chicks had to eat a tin of Whiskas cat food. The vote went 52-48% in favour of Þóra, or rather, against her. Her co-host Ragnhildur was making sure no fakery was involved and þóra was choking and gagging with each forkful. Now that was quality entertainment and well worth the price of admission. Of course, I bet that girl scarfs down þorramat and goes back for seconds and thirds.

Óp Ragnhildur (L) and Þóra (R) and the cat food Þóra later gets to eat.
No screen-cap of the moment of joy due to video controls and time.

What's with the cat food tonight? I went out briefly and nothing was going on. I came back in and there was a local game show called Jing Jang ("ying yang") where they bet on what people can/will do. Would some guy make it through 3, 4 or 5 spoons of cat food? This isn't "I Bet You Will" or that silly UK show Bonzai, the one with Mr Shake Hands Guy. This is home-grown fun. Cat Food Guy almost brought up lunch in holding down spoon two and gave up at three.

A little masochism may be in order
What can I say? It's close to home.
I went back out to Sirkus and sat at the bar with Vera again. Who shows up but the guy I thought was BEIG's boyfriend at the birthday party last August. It seems the flashy outfits weren't just for that birthday party. He wears this kit all the time. He recognised me and we chatted a bit. I ended up moving to his table and then started talking with a couple other people.

Among the others was Alex, a French dancer who's here for a few weeks with some show. She twigged real fast that it would be better to talk in English than French. I wish languages weren't so easy to forget, especially the more useful ones.

Catty-cornered from us at another table were Guðmundur, Lisa, and another girl whose name I never got. As Alex and some others went to the bar for refills, I started talking with the new girls for a while though I have no idea what about. It was mostly in Icelandic which may explain it. Something else that would explain it might be the Elephant beer, the gin and the Brennevín I downed while doing quite a few food experiments.

Sadly drinks up came promptly at one and we were all out the door by 1:30. But we didn't go home. More than 40 people stood outside in the cold with bottles or cups of beer in hand, talking with each other and acting as if the bar was still open, which was fine with Sirkus as long as we were doing it on the cold side of the door. It was another two hours before the crowd broke up and I stumbled on home...

1 Icelandic doesn't normally use the letter "z" except for foreign words. Up until about 20 or 30 years ago, it was seen in print and a couple of my old children's books have it. I expect the letter was forced on them by the Danish for use based on some sort of grammatical rule I haven't figured out yet.
2 It's "nemi", and when I went back to look through the photos found the word thankfully absent, as was any variant of "sokkur".
3 You only use first names here. You don't say "Ms. Jónsdóttir" here because her name is Solveig and not Ms John's Daughter. Addressing people by their first names even in the most formal situations takes a bit of getting used to.

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