Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Something About a Puzzle

We've been in Sweden for just under a year now, so we've only experienced one winter. I wouldn't call it harsh, certainly not compared to the winters I'm accustomed to in the northeastern US, or the ones I experienced in the Pacific Northwest...on an island. It was cold, certainly, but it rarely got windy or completely, bitchingly, make-you-want-to-die freezing (not like nights I remember my friend Matt and I would work until 3 or 4 in the morning at a video arcade in Pennsylvania and then have to walk home...). It would just snow alot, and never in any life-threatening way (well, not to us, who walked or biked everywhere and didn't have to deal with the long, flat stretches of highway here). So, the day in February when I decided to walk the pathless way from our nearby 'mall' to the almost-near-that Toys 'r' Us, there were maybe two feet of snow on the ground, but it wasn't very cold.
Still, why would I do that at all, you may ask. Why would I trek through deep snow, with no more than thermals and jeans covering my legs, just to go to a toy store? (Well, I guess that's not a question you'd ask, since you probably know me if you're reading this, and if you know me that doesn't seem so outlandish, but...) As trite as it's going to sound, I was doing it for L-U-V love!
About a week before, my wife's sister had come to visit us. Right after her visit, my wife was going on a trip of her own. So, we decided to cap off the sister's time with us, as well as see off my bride, with a couple days in Stockholm. This was the first time we were there, and we had an excellent time. The last day there, though, my wife and I (having seen the sis safely departed) went to a toystore in the city, a place called BR that's roughly equivalent to the US's KB -- right down to the logo. I'd wanted to pick up one of those plug-and-play video game controller dealies and this was looking like the only place to get it.
While there, we stopped off at the puzzle section, which was not as large as one might expect and in almost total disarray. Well, even in the mess, my wife found one puzzle that completely caught her attention. She's got a slight thing for egyptology -- or at least the imagery thereof -- so it was pretty natural for her to like the 2000 piece jigsaw we found of a painting titled 'Israel in Egypt,' though the box just called it 'Egypt.'

Since we were there for one thing, though, and she was on her way out of the country, I couldn't convince her we should drop the bills and pick up the one copy they had of the thing! We left the store (with my video game thing), and the next day she was on her way to the US and I was on my way home.
I don't work, so I had to have some cash to survive on while she was gone, and as soon as I had it in pocket, I decided I was going to find that puzzle and get it as a gift on my wife's return home. Little did I know what I was in for.
When I got back into town, I went into our little downtown and checked our two toystores. One didn't really have a puzzle section, and the other just didn't have the one she wanted. I knew there was an actual BR at our nearest mall-type shopping center (more like an inside strip mall, but the best we get), so I figured I may as well just bus out there and check it out (a decision made even easier since the bus would be free for 3 hours after my first trip).
The bus system here is pretty simple, and equally reliable, but it can be easy to screw up right in the center of town where all buses must stop...and that's what I did. I got on the wrong side of the road -- in spite of having checked the schedule posted -- and had to sit on the bus while it went in what I knew was the wrong direction, figuring I'd just stay on until we turned back 'round. Well, we reached the far end of the route, and I was the only one on the bus. The driver turned around and yelled something at me in Swedish (I barely know any now, and I knew even less then), so I went up to him to see what was going on. Turns out this was the stop where he took his break. He'd be going out to Marieberg (where I wanted to go), but I had to step off the bus for ten minutes while he had his required intermission. We were in the middle of a distant residential area (near a lake where folk go ice-skating), so all I could do was get out and stand at the snowy stop and wait. In about five minutes, the bus doors opened and he let me and the one new passenger in, telling me it was 'a short ten minutes.' Nice fella.
So, we had to go back through town to get to where I wanted to be, meaning a trip that should have taken only about 20 minutes was already an hour and a half! And, of course, when we finally got to the shopping center, it was to find that the BR there had about five puzzles in the store. I knew, however, that there was a Toys 'r' Us nearby. I'd never been there, but the same bus here went on to IKEA and we'd always pass TRU on the way. Unfortunately, it'd be another half-hour or so for the next bus. Rather than wait, I did the American thing and just forged blindly onward, pointing myself in the general direction I wanted to go and walking straight ahead.
There may well have been a path, but I couldn't see it for the deep, smooth snow covering the entire area. All I could do was first walk along the highway to get around the least hospitable looking area, then just plow right through whatever stood between me and the store. That turned out to be easily 50 yards of dense, powdery snow, with no concept of the underlying terrain. I came out of it with my legs covered in white up to my thighs, but I got to the store!
That should be the end of this story -- I buy the puzzle, get on a bus and go home -- but I (and you) should be so lucky. It took almost no time to find the store's puzzle section, which was well organised (by company and then piece-quantity) and covered about a sixth of the warehouse length back wall. The puzzle HAD to be here, right? Well, I spent about twenty minutes checking every one of the puzzles they had in stock, and there was no 'Egypt' in sight. Having worked in a store like this before, though, I knew that the stock wasn't necessarily rotated as regularly as it should, and that overstock was kept above the shelves. So, I started squinting at the overstock shelf atop all these puzzles, but it was about two feet above my head AND there was a rising lip that was blocking my view of most of what was up there.
Now, in an American store this size, you wouldn't normally be able to spend five minutes staring at a given section without someone accosting you, but here I'd been for about half an hour and none of the three or four employees who'd passed (I was right next to the store's back employee section) had offered to help. So, seeing that I was at an impasse, I went off looking for some assistance. The first person I found was diligently stocking wrapping paper, and just as I was about to ask her help I noticed a tall ladder laying on its side down the aisle. Being bold, I told her all I really needed was to use that ladder. She gestured to indicate 'go ahead, what do I care?' and away I went! (That's right, folks, this store employee just told me to go ahead and climb a ten foot ladder on their premises! Definitely not in America anymore...)
Okay, cutting this part of the story short, they had the puzzle, and I didn't fall off the ladder. I retrieved the jigsaw, returned the ladder and remitted my payment without bother to get a bag. Now, I just had to get home.
From where I was, I thought the nearest bus would be the one at IKEA (I'd find out later there was one a little nearer). I trekked the lots dividing the two shopping areas, as well as another few feet of thick white, and got to the bus stop only to find out there were no buses scheduled for that day! This meant I'd have to get back to the shopping center, where I'd first gotten off...
The trip back was easier than the trip there, as I could see from this way that there was actually a paved and shovelled sidewalk connecting the two places! I didn't see it the first time because it was in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be, so I didn't even look.
And NOW all I had to do was wait for the bus, and go home...
The story ends happily, of course, because I did get the puzzle. My wife came home safely and was surprised and delighted by the gift, and we got right on assembling it. It took us about two weeks of on and off hardcore work...

(It's pretty enormous! That's a pencil in the upper right of the table, for scale.)
That was around March...now it's June, nearly July, and there it sits taking up an entire table. Occasionally, I'll dust it off. Last week, without thinking, I tried to vacuum it! After a moment of panic, while pieces were clattering up the tube and falling all over the table, I was able to shut off the machine and reassemble the damage I'd done. I'd only sucked up three pieces in the end, and thankfully the machine's designed in a way that makes it easy to retrieve things from the bag.
Was it worth it? Worth the trip and the trying, the space it takes up now and the money we'll eventually spend to (probably) frame it and hang it (yeah, we're like that...)? Damn right it was! Worth every second, just for that moment of seeing my girl smile. I know, how sappy can it be? Well, you were warned...


Blogger SaraS-P said...

awwwww, that's love.

That's the thing about puzzles ... you never want to take 'em apart once you've finished.

Just don't become one of those people who get a puzzle framed in a glued-together form.

10:56 PM  
Blogger aliceboy said...

But I DO want to take it apart! We just can't decide if we want to or not. I'd totally take it apart and look forward to doing it all over again in the future...except for the vacuuming part...

11:18 PM  
Blogger lunas_eve said...

I'm glad it's apart, and I'm selfishly glad you went through hell to get it - particularly because you came back to me!

3:44 PM  
Blogger aliceboy said...

Anything for my girl, especially to hell and back! I'd've done it even if I'd known what it was going to entail.

5:15 PM  

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