As suggested in Hallgrímur Helgasson's novel "101 Reykjavík", Iceland is custom-made for the internet. This country hit economic prosperity just as the web began its boom.
Much can be made of the limited options in television here. I get one television station, and have twice watched a special in which a shepherd butchers his sheep, slowly, while speaking to the camera. This is how many nature shows go here: something is killed. And, unlike the hunting shows I watched in Wisconsin as a child, the focus isn't on the kill shot, but on slaughtering the animal. I can't tell you how many puffin necks I've watched get twisted and snapped on State television.
I justify the slow slaughters as a sacrifice of entertainment for penance.
So TV is slightly more moral, maybe, here than elsewhere. But it provides little in the way of entertainment.
The internet is a strong outlet for many here. And because of the internet, everybody in Iceland is a genius. Or, to quote Garrison Keillor, "all the children are above average."
A popular internet program that made the rounds even in this office was an IQ test. Done in 40 questions. Giving immediate results. Almost always the same results. The answer, if you remember the Pythagorean Theorem, you're a genius. If you can make change, you're at least above average.
The scores all sounded scientific enough and I was eventually dragged into the game. On being able to tell time, I was declared double-plus good smart.
This all brought back memories of my days among other double-plus good smart students in college when we would say: Why is everyone here, ourselves included, so profoundly stupid? We decided that many people who tested well might have a low Common Sense IQ. This could explain why our friend who did so well in Calculus was shocked when a car he was chasing stopped and knee capped him. Yes, he was a genius chasing a car. He also once dyed his hair with Kool-Aid and expressed surprise that his pillowcase changed colors. He once tried to woo women at a party by burning his leg hairs. Look, flames everywhere but I'm fine, he said. We had all run, the smell of burning hair not exactly an aphrodisiac.
Since our little IQ tests at work, I've been trying to follow rules of common sense. Put pants on BEFORE I put on my shoes. Refrain from drinking two liters of coffee in the morning just because it's free. Stretch after exercising. These kinds of things.
Another piece of common sense: don't get into a tiny airplane and fly over an active volcano.
Grímsvötn mountain is in its fifth day of eruption. On day two, the photographer announced he had booked a plane. I announced that it sounded charming but that I don't have to drink Draino to find out it's a bad idea.
Then there were the elections in the US.
Then I was in a plane much smaller than most subcompact cars staring down at a volcano.
Here's something I didn't know: volcanic eruptions, or at least this one, are continuous explosions. They are very scary. The instinct, when staring down at a mass of rock and soot being spewed from a crater, is to get away.
As my time over the volcano continued, I continued to fail common sense tests. For example, as I am double plus good smart, I know that when you go up in altitude the temperature goes down. I also know that glaciers are cold. Therefore, one would not expect me to have been sitting in a very small airplane with the windows open. But I did. Because photos really don't work when you take them through the glass.
Anyway, the lesson for the day was that sometimes forgetting about common sense is worthwhile. Kind of. I write this at home, having had to cancel a concert because somehow, while flying in an open plane over a volcano wearing a very thin coat-- there wasn't room for anything larger-- I caught a cold. BC [email protected]