Metropolitan Diary

Oslo Metropolitan Diary - February 12, 2019

I was driving through the Opera Tunnel towards the east end to look at one last apartment after a week of looking. I’d gotten a job in the city and so was moving my nature-loving girlfriend to the last place in Norway she’d expected to live.

Our search was not going well. With just my starting salary between us, we were priced out because I insisted on a second bedroom for family visits. We’d seen paint peeling from a bathroom ceiling, obscure utility payment schemes, and a balcony so close to E6 I bet I could have overheard the news from commuters’ cars as they went by. It was the city, exactly what my girlfriend had never wanted – and I was the one bringing her here.

It was with this feeling that I drove to Bøler for our final viewing. The owner of the apartment met us at the door and showed us around. It was two bedrooms, quiet, with a balcony that overlooked the woods and ski-in/ski-out access to a forest full of trails. My girlfriend was sold.

We went for a walk in the woods to talk it over. It was sunny and warm in late August. People were out on the trails, walking, running, and biking. I could hear children playing. It was perfect, better than what we had imagined possible, but the rent was beyond our already extended budget. We were worried there wouldn’t be enough left over.

We turned to head home. An elderly Norwegian man came along with his dog. To my surprise, he looked at me and gave me the slightest of nods – strictly against social norms in the city. I smiled, nodded back, and took my girlfriend’s hand.

"Did you see that?" I said.

"We can make it work," she said. We turned down all our other offers when we came to the car and signed at Bøler. 

For the first few months, I took sandwiches to work instead of eating at the cantina. We bought First Price everything and stayed in on weekends until my girlfriend found work and I got a raise. A few months after that, the owner called us and said she wanted to sell. We took a walk, called back, and said we wanted to buy.

Oslo Metropolitan Diary – February 7, 2019

One of my favorite features of the Times is the Metropolitan Diary which they publish each Tuesday. If you haven’t read it, a quick synopsis is that it contains brief accounts of encounters NYC residents have with each other, whether as an observer or participant. I was inspired enough that I thought to create my own version for Oslo. One entry a week, published each Tuesday by 5:00 PM Central European Time. I am late this week, but I wanted to post nonetheless. Next edition will be released February 12. Now, without further ado…

A Caught Glove

Dear Diary,

I’d forgotten to check the timetables and so was early for the T-Bane on a freeze-the-inside-of-your-nose kind of morning. I stamped around the platform to keep warm, watching the snow fall so slowly it seemed at some moments to almost float in the dark air.

When the train came, snow sparkling behind like a cape, a woman deep in a fur hood stepped off with a mitten dangling from a catch on her jacket. I took an open seat next to some Polish workers talking together, arms folded over hi-viz overalls. As the doors began to close, I saw the hooded woman, already a few steps from the train, notice the mitten, turn on her toes, and fling it towards the narrowing gap. It flew end over end, passed through the doors just before they squeezed shut, and traced a parabola right onto the owner’s lap.

In quiet awe, everyone in the train car watched the owner hold up the mitten in surprised recognition. Then the train pulled away, leaving the woman on the platform undoubtably feeling triumphant. The Poles and I exchanged a glance in acknowledgement of the impressive display of agility and compassion, then they resumed talking, I slipped a book from my pack, and the owner tucked the mitten into her coat pocket and bent back over her phone.

— Mark Watkins