I’m sure it’s happened to you. You’re walking down the street. Someone else is walking along in the opposite direction. Even though you try to avoid them, somehow you end up nose to nose. You move to the left, they move to the left. You both say sorry. You move to the right, they move to the right. You both say sorry. In Ireland, this can go on for some time. “Jane, cancel my meetings for the day. I’m trapped in a never-ending ‘sorry-sorry-shuffle’ loop.” Eventually you figure it out, share an embarrassed giggle and go on your merry way, feeling a little silly but also with a little extra pep in your step.
This does not happen in Latvia. If the ice isn’t trying to put you on your arse, a Latvian is. They plough straight through you as if you don’t exist. Do NOT attempt to play ‘chicken’ with these people. They will take you down. There’s no time for a shuffle – you hop it if you’ve got any sense.
It’s almost worse if they’re walking in the same direction as you. If they’re in front of you, they tend to move at the approximate speed of a slug on a Zimmer frame. And even though 99% of the population is half my size, they somehow manage to take up a pavement that could fit six arm-in-arm sumo wrestlers. They achieve this by walking in a highly exasperating zig-zaggy pattern. If you try to overtake them on the left, they lurch to the left. If you try to overtake them on the right, they veer in that direction. I think they must have eyes in the backs of their heads.
The eyes on the fronts of their heads don’t seem to work so well though – if they want to overtake you (rare), they will ram raid you at warp speed from behind. With no giggling, apologies or warm fuzzy afterglow.
However, watching a Latvian in a supermarket is probably one of the most frustrating things a person can do. The zombie-like state that grips most people the second they set foot inside an airport, takes hold of the average Latvian as soon as I decide to do my weekly shop. First of all, getting into the supermarket is a challenge, as there are always two or three old ladies having what looks like a shouting match in the middle of the entrance. A teenage girl is usually pouting into her mobile right in front of the baskets. Every aisle is barred by a confused-looking, directionally-challenged man with a trolley.
You can forget about trying to get close to fridges or freezers. The decision-making part of the Latvian brain switches off when faced with a brightly-lit array of chilled goods.
For example, you want milk. A Latvian is blocking the fridge, staring uncertainly inside. He raises his hand to open the door, then drops it again just before making contact. You successfully manoeuvre all the obstacles to complete the rest of your shopping and come back for the milk. The same Latvian is still standing there in exactly the same position. In a country where the choices are fattening and more fattening, I really don’t understand what the hold-up is.
But I think that maybe this short clip can convey my typical Saturday morning better than I ever could. I just wish I could be that oblivious…