Thursday, April 28, 2005

The deadestrian

There has been a traffic safety campaign in Latvia, which an incident today inspired me to find a translation for. In Latvian it is "Gājējs vai bojāgājējs". Today it struck me that it could be translated as "Pedestrian or deadestrian".
I was walking home from work and chatting with an aquaintence. Just as we parted near the Osiris cafe favored by ex-pats in Riga, some dumb fucker ran into traffic and met his counterpart, an ABTW (asshole behind the wheel) who was racing to beat the lights. It was a dramatic near miss. The ABTW's lady companion buried her face in her hands. The dumb fucker stopped short of colliding with the left front door of the ABTW's bright red newly washed car. He then pranced around the car and ran off with a brain-dead shiteating grin on his face. I think he was running to catch the tram. Considering the trams on Barona Street run every few minutes during the evening rush hour (it was around 18:30), this would have been a rather silly waste of a fuckwit life (at worst) or a major expense for the medical system (shattered legs, ribs, pelvis, the kind of stuff that getting whacked by ABTW doing around 30 klicks would have done).
It made me think, shit, it was just Old Lady Dumb Luck, the guardian angel of the mentally underprivileged, that prevented a major readjusment of the fucker's vital anatomic components and the bashing in of ABTW's windshield and door. At least ABTW would not have roared off to endanger others, but been left dealing with the police and fixing his ride.
In a rare piece of good news, it seems that the slaughter on Latvia's roads is down noticeably from last year. Still high enough for several funerals a day, but not as bad as earlier. One would like to think that it is the population, at last, coming to its senses. On the other hand, it could be just Lady Dumb Luck doing her thing.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Oh my God, the horse tripped, and by the way...

I haven't posted here for months, but I think an English version of something I drafted for my newspaper after the state visit to Latvia merits summarizing. The editors were in one of their periodic dimwitted moods and missed the point. So this reporter's notebook piece (reflecting, of course, a point of view more than news), was spiked.

Latvian businessmen missed the main event of President Vaira Vike-Freibergas state visit to Sweden as played up in the Swedish press.
According to the tabloids, Swedish Queen Silvia looked distressed when, while approaching the Royal Palace courtyard, one of her chariot horses tripped.
And by the way, the husband of the president of Latvia, Imants Freibergs happened to be sitting in the chariot next to Silvia during "the horse drama", the papers wrote.
The Latvian business delegation, for the most part, missed this major national Swedish event while walking from their bus to the palace courtyard, but got to see and greet the president due to the slight delay of various ceremonies (while the horse got up, shook itself off, and the Swedes – seriously– started setting up an investigative commission regarding the stumbling horse).
I guess you could call this kind of press attention toward the Latvian state visit a sign of normalcy. After all, the Latvian press doesn't cover the visit of, say, the mayor of Bujumbura, but rather some bizarre incident where another 90 year-old pensioner living on a side street in Pardaugava is fined for not raising the flag on her house to honor the distinguished foreign guest.

Well, the rest of the piece went on to chat about some "real" issues, how Minister of Economics Krisjanis Karins had talked about Swedish labor unions forcing Latvian construction companies out of the market, how he was loudly applauded for saying Latvia had a 15 % corporate tax rate (there were some 300 Swedish businessmen registered for a forum).

Anyway, that is how our neighbors, who own Latvia's banks, telecommunications, forestry companies, part of air Baltic, and even run Irish Ryanair from Sweden, view Latvia. The media, not the business community, to be sure.