Thursday, April 8, 2010

On getting out of bed on the wrong foot

[Å stå opp med det gærne beinet først]

I’m aware that the English equivalent of this saying that I conveniently translated from Norwegian, is “to get off on the wrong foot”. That is, it’s not really equivalent, because while the English one more generally covers a “bad start”, the Norwegian one quite specifically is used to explain a bad day. If you’re having a bad day, the theory is that you put the “wrong” foot down on the floor before the “right” one that morning.

It is a silly explanation, of course, especially considering that most people tend to get out from their bed on the same side each day (either because their bed is standing next to a wall, or because there is a partner on the other side of the bed). And if you’re getting out of bed on the same side each morning, it takes some skill and a level of concentration most people don’t have when they have just woken up, to put down another foot than the one you always do. One can, of course, assume that you’re always putting down the “wrong” foot first, but this also diminishes the meaning of the saying, because no one has a bad day every day, right?

However stupid the saying is, there is no escaping the fact that every now and then we all have days where it feels like everything works in your disfavor, from the second you get out of bed.

Like the other morning, when everything seemed to go wrong right from the very beginning. Fortunately, it wasn’t my morning.

When I was in the US (slight digression here, but I do have a point), one thing I really appreciated was the US way of eating breakfast out, or at the very least take a coffee to go on the way to work. The latter is quite common here too, actually, but that’s beside the point. What is also beside the point is that I didn’t really appreciate it all that much (the breakfast part of it – the coffee thing I love, even if it is environmentally unfriendly. Sigh. All the good things are) because I’ve grown up with always, always eating breakfast at home before leaving the house. So not doing that makes me feel like I’m not really awake. Or starved. Or something. I had a point? Oh, right…

The point, if you ignore all the “besides”, is that it is possible to eat breakfast out. They do it in the US. I’ve started doing it sometimes after returning to Norway, mostly because I’m in a rush to get out of the house in the morning, and thus don’t have time to eat. But then I don’t eat “out”, I eat at the break room at the university. Which isn’t the same at all.

A few weeks ago, however (still no right or wrong foot on the floor, sorry), I impulsively went off the tram five stops early because I had an urge to go to a coffee shop I’ve been eyeing from the tram (I struggled with writing “tram” two times within the same sentence, but I couldn’t be bothered to figure out a better way to put it. If I were to say streetcar instead, for instance, that would have been such a horrid mix of American English and British English within the same sentence that I couldn’t stand it. I do mix a lot, but I try to avoid doing so within one sentence). This is a very American-like coffee shop (in fact, it’s the most American-like we’ve got in Oslo. Norway must be the only developed country without a Starbucks), and it took me right back to the US.

Nevermind that I didn’t actually eat breakfast out all that often while in the US (nevernevermind that I didn’t even like it all that much) – eating breakfast in a coffee house before work (uni, whatever) was bliss! What a lovely start of the day! (I am totally failing on the “bad start of the day” anecdote…)

As an added bonus, I had my laptop with me, and with no distracting internet (if that coffee shop has a wifi, I don’t want to know about it!), I managed to get a whole lot of work done!

Consequently, I decided to repeat the experience.

I chose a different coffee house (in fact, it is a bakery), but otherwise I had the same basic approach. Take the tram as usual (so I am close to the university for when I am ready to leave), have a cup of coffee and something to eat, and then – work.

This is where I ran into that poor soul who definitely must have put the wrong foot down on the floor first thing that morning.

The girl working in the bakery (alone, in a bakery, early in the morning, when the major rush of the day – apart from lunch – is taking place) was all smiles. Which was about to impress me.

The first thing that happened was that she ran out of milk. Have you ever tried making a latte without milk (soya drinkers not included)? Not that easy. And seeing as Norwegians have become rather continental in their coffee taste the last few years, at least half of the coffees ordered were lattes. Or other types with steamed milk. Which she didn’t have.

Well, she handled this professionally, and politely excused to each customer that she didn’t have any milk. But then the coffee machine started crashing. You could practically see her blood pressure rising. Still, she kept smiling. The customers were behaving relatively well, and after a while the worst rush was over. She then decided to run out to buy milk. I was the only customer there, but she asked me if it would be okay if she ran out for a minute. Half wanting to offer to buy the milk myself (I felt really bad for her by now), I was more than happy to sit idly by and look after the shop.

Unfortunately the grocery shop wasn’t open yet. Still no milk. When she got back, another customer had come by. He accepted regular coffee instead of latte, and things were looking okay until the register crashed. I surely thought she would lose it then. But no, she was still standing, and more incredibly, she was still smiling!

I could go on. The regular coffee is kept in huge containers, and she was unfortunate to drop one of them and both spill all the fresh coffee and break the container. One of her coworkers called in sick. The register crashed a second time.

Talk about having a hopeless morning! And here I was sitting comfortably, observing the whole thing (working was a lot harder that morning than the first, I can assure you), feeling slightly bad because I was having a positively super morning. And yet, she was the one smiling.

I think the next time I get out of bed on the wrong foot I will try to follow her example!

11 comments:

Not enough hours! said...

What an amazing lady!!!
I will think of her when I have one of those days!

Cruella Collett said...

I think we all should, Natasha (since when did you change your screen name? I just noticed!). It would make the world a better place to live for sure!

Anonymous said...

Hehe, I'm loving the way you write! I'm one of Ylva's friends on FB, and I couldn't help checking out your profile and then your blog after seeing your pic there (det er veldig søtt :9).
I just wanted to leave a comment 'cos we have a similar expression in Spanish (my mother tongue) (now it won't be difficult to know who I am, lol). We say -and I translate literally- "to get up with the LEFT foot"! Not bad, huh?

Cruella Collett said...

Anonymous friend of Ylva (any friend of Ylva's is a friend of mine...) - thank you! (I shall have to examine Ylva's friends list to try to figure out who you are... Spanish sounding names, eh?)
The expression you mention reminds me of the Norwegian "venstrehåndsarbeid" (left hand work, for any non-Norwegian speakers out there). I'm half willing to bet the "wrong" foot in Norwegian also would be the left one. Poor lefties! Whatever did they do wrong?
It is interesting to see how idioms travel, though with small changes, across language borders. Makes me all curious about the actual origin, and which way it travelled. I really should have been an etymologist...

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, etymology is definitely fascinating. I've recently gotten passionate about the word "inntrykk", 'cos it's exactly the same construction as "impression" in English or "impresión" in Spanish, that is the preposition "in" (in any of its forms: im-, inn-) and then the word "pression" ("trykk"). Isn't that amazing?
But anyway, back to the point -since digressions are YOUR thing, not mine, hehe-, I've always believed that the negative connotations of the left side in Spanish language had something to do with some Catholic symbols, there's some references in the Bible in whick evil is represented by the left.
Anyhow, I don't think there's anything religious about the word "venstrehåndsarbeid". I'd rather say it means something that a right-handed person has done WITH THE LEFT HAND, haha.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, etymology is definitely fascinating. I've recently gotten passionate about the word "inntrykk", 'cos it's exactly the same construction as "impression" in English or "impresión" in Spanish, that is the preposition "in" (in any of its forms: im-, inn-) and then the word "pression" ("trykk"). Isn't that amazing?
But anyway, back to the point -since digressions are YOUR thing, not mine, hehe-, I've always believed that the negative connotations of the left side in Spanish language had something to do with some Catholic symbols, there's some references in the Bible in whick evil is represented by the left.
Anyhow, I don't think there's anything religious about the word "venstrehåndsarbeid". I'd rather say it means something that a right-handed person has done WITH THE LEFT HAND, haha.

Cruella Collett said...

I adore the fact that someone can get passionate about the word "inntrykk"... (I can relate though - I just never had the impression that "inntrykk" was so fascinating... [bad pun intended])

As for the relationship between religion and the left, I think your assessment is probably correct. I'm not entirely sure, though, that a religious foundation isn't also the case for the Norwegian version (Protestantism isn't necessarily any better than Catholicism). I do like your explanation far better, though! Everything I try to do with my left hand (except using a knife, for some reason), turns out as your typical "venstrehåndsarbeid".

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TreeX said...

Right, I can help here ;)

The left side, and particularly the left HAND has always been bad because --well, lets just say toilet paper hadn't been invented yet and leave it at that... ;)
Also, did you know left in Latin is "sinister"? ;)

As for getting out of bed with the wrong foot/side/appendage, it's "stepping out of bed with the wrong leg" in Dutch :)

But I really admire that girl! I guess at some point you accept that things aren't going to go well that day and just take a step back and look at it as if it was someone else having the day -- I know I do when things start crashing down for me ;))

Cruella Collett said...

Joris - aha, so this poor girl had been getting out of bed on the sinster side, then... That explains so much!

As for the comment above this one - I'm sensing a troll. Either that or someone is *really* getting fed up with my complaining about my thesis, wanting me to just buy it online and get over it... (For the record: not gonna happen)

Anonymous said...

I didn't know thesises could be bought on-line. Impressive.

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