They say that people’s characters are partly formed by their environment. People in this part of the world are a determined lot, and known to be flexible and ‘can do’ (because if you can’t do then there isn’t anyone you can pay to do it for you, so it just won’t get done).
People are patient because ordinary things take a long time – going out the house for instance. You decide to go shopping. for instance. If you’re lucky you can walk, or go on your kick-sled. Next in the luck stakes is you have a car and it’s in the garage – you only have to make sure the drive is clear of snow so you can move it out the garage. If you haven’t cleared the drive lately, that’s a 10-20 minute job, depending on the size of your drive. After that you need a rest.
If your car isn’t in a garage then you have to go out, connect the engine heater and begin to push the snow off so that the car is actually visible. Then you begin the task of scraping the ice off the windscreen. You may have ice on the inside as well – that’s another ten minutes, once you’ve turned on the car fan heater. You forgot to lift up the windscreen wipers so they’re stuck to the screen. This procedure is not to be recommended if you want to get to accident and emergency in a hurry (which you probably do in Kiruna, since it shuts at 20.00hrs).
Then you get ready to go out. A warmer pair of socks to fit in your boots, trouser overalls (it’s minus 19 out there), the big coat, hat, gloves. By this time you’re perspiring because it’s warm in the house and you’re dressed for minus 25. You’re finally out the door, and it’s taken you 45 minutes. Can’t go to the shops in a rush then.
So people here are patient. When you get to the supermarket no-one will push in front of you at the till. The people working there will find time to have a chat with you about what they’re doing at the weekend. When you step into the car park the car about to drive past will stop and wave you across the path in front of them. People have learnt not to be in a hurry.
I wouldn’t say people are resigned to their fate, but they’re not very likely to rail against the gods when things aren’t perfect. This is a town that is about to fall into a pit (the iron ore mine is destabilising a large proportion of the town, causing it to be almost entirely rebuilt over the next 10-40 years). Are there protests on the street? Are there demands to close the mine? Are people panic selling their flats, due to be emptied in less than 5 years? No. People are calm. What will be will be, and somehow they’ll find a way to make it work. Can do.
I was thinking about this while shovelling snow. I’ve not grown up with snow, at least not the kind that lasts long enough to need shovelling. Here it falls and stays there, until you shovel it out the way. If you want to have access to your outbuildings/ garage /the street, or simply want to get in and out of your house, you need to shovel. Often.
It’s a pleasant process. We have a sled shovel; you throw your body weight into it and it glides forward. Pushing snow here – usually light and fluffy – isn’t difficult. But then you need to pile it up somewhere, because it isn’t going to go away until June. Piling it up is harder. Anyway, it’s satisfying, seeing the snow cleared, the piles growing. You collapse afterwards on the sofa, exhausted but feeling it was a job well done, with the results clear to see. You look out the window. The snow falls relentlessly on your freshly-cleared path. There is a seemingly unending supply of snow – it falls and falls and falls. Soon you will have to go out there and do it all over again. Oh well.