My trip is still going to happen -- just a few days later.
As I try to get myself in the right mood for a slog fom one train station to the next, or more likely, bus station, I was just reading today again how public services are closing en masse in the countryside. This is a serious trend. About one-tenth of Estonia's initial number of some 500 post offices closed in 2006, this year about another one-fifth will shut down. Today the yellow press wrote about a settlement in the NE that was picked as "village as the year" in 2006 that now lacks a kindergarten and general store and is set to lose its post office this summer.
Something similar happened to small towns in America in the 1970s -- except there's no four-lane commercial strips with chains, at least not outside of smaller Estonian towns. Where do the people go? Are they driving 50 km to a Selver supermarket? Have they moved to the city?
Quality of life is quite good in Estonia, but the streets are getting empty and the highways aren't getting filled, either.
Of course, like the 1970s, there's also back-to-the-landism, or at least a professed interest in old folkways. It's not like things (manor houses and buildings( are necessarily falling apart, but from what you read in the press, it sure sounds like ordinary middle-class life in the countryside is less viable.
I like to eat at the old radio building's canteen. Our own office building has a cafe, too, but the radio building's next door is better. The canteen doesn't advertise on the outside but people from the outside are allowed in, if they say the password -- "palun kohvikusse" (to the cafe, please). If you think this is an easy security workaround, then you haven't considered the other half of the story. You have to rely on the mercy of the security guard to get out.**
One of the three rotating security guards at the Raadiomaja seems to resent me. I'm not sure why. Maybe she generally dislikes "outside people" who eat at the canteen, or is tired of hitting the button to let people out and thinks the rules should be changed but doesn't have the power to change them.
She wasn't at her desk when I tried to leave the building today. No one was around. One of my pet peeves is being locked inside rooms and buildings. How strange; I know. But there you have it.
Since there were two switches on the wall next to the door I tried to operate them, as if this were your average apartment building entrance hall. Nothing happened, but just as I expected, it was then, as I was slightly mistreating one of the switches, that the security person returned, and gave me grief, telling me in a very nasty tone that the switches were not to be touched under any circumstance, as if they would cut the live feed from the studio upstairs or something.
When I inquired as to the possible avenues for leaving, especially if there was an emergency and no one was at her desk, she told me in a nasty voice that she didn't think she had to tell me that.
Something about the wording struck me, perhaps the way this withheld info from me while making her seem like a bit of a tool at the same time.
I decided to confide in her. I told her a funny thing that had happened several months ago after one of the first times I ate at the Raadiomaja. I made a wrong turn coming out of the canteen, and spying another exit, found myself trapped in the courtyard, a vast triangular area with some parked cars and no one around. The doors were electronic.
This being a radio station, I guess a lot of areas are soundproof. In any case, I pounded on the doors, but no one came, I signalled to passing cars on Gonsiori, and finally had to climb over an eight-foot metal fence at the vehicle entrance.
"Imagine if it had been someone really impatient," I said, shaking my head slowly, knowing well that no one gets more impatient than me in such a situation and that on that occasion I was that close to throwing a chunk of limestone through a window. "They could have done some real damage to the compound, yes, indeed."
She was nonplussed and wanted to know why I had gone into the courtyard and trapped myself there behind the electronic doors, as if this had been my cunning plan all along.
"Maybe you shouldn't eat at our cafe," she went on. "Maybe people shouldn't eat at our cafe."
Now she had gone too far. "Are you thinking of changing the policy?" I asked. "What would the cafe think? I think they have a lot of outside customers."
She admitted that she was not the one to make policy, which, feeling a bit nasty myself, is what I wanted to hear her say.
"Aha, OK, you should have told me that earlier. I'm sorry to have wasted our time, then," I said, walking out.
I don't like ending exchanges on such a superior note, but I like being trapped even less.
** There is some precedent for this in local culture -- a decade ago, cinema doors during screenings used to be...I don't want to say "locked", as that would sound criminally irresponsible on the part of the cinema. Let's just say they were "inoperable from the inside". If a movie was a total bomb, you couldn't indicate your displeasure by storming out. You had to get the attention of the attendant who would unlock the doors. It's fortunate nothing disastrous ever happened, like a fire.