But back to Blönduós.
A few years back I received some Christmas presents from my sister living in Blönduós. She asked me if I could do her a favour and deliver a couple of other presents that arrived with mine. I would deliver them to her husband’s niece, whose name is Stefanía. “No problem,” I said, and she gave me Stefanía´s number. I ring the number:
Hi, is this Stefanía?
‘Yes, this is her,’ she says. I respond: My name is Sigtryggur, I am Dísa´s brother and she asked me to get some Christmas packages to you!
There is an unnerving hush on the other end of the phone. Then she says, ambiguously: ‘What did you say your name was?’
I am getting a little weirded out by this conversation. I have met this woman at my sister’s family functions.... also, I am at least a semi-celeb in Iceland and am used to being recognised. Is she fooling with me or could it be that she is actually deranged to some extent, maybe drunk or on some kind of prescription drug?
I say: ‘Sigtryggur Baldursson is my name, you know, Dísa´s brother! My sister Dísa who is married to your mother’s brother Gísli!’ I am getting a little heated...
She goes: ‘Huh!?? Who’s Gísli?’
I am sure she is deranged, her voice sounds a little sluggish. Doesn’t it?
I say: ‘Your mother’s name is Sigga, is it not?
She replies with a very curt: ‘No.’
I say: ‘Your name is Stefanía, right?’
She says: ‘Yes it is, but not the one you are looking for.’
It dawns on me that this is perhaps a bizarre coincidence. I beg my pardon and put the phone down.
I call my sister. Lo and behold, there is one digit askew in the number she gave me. But that’s not all.
All this came back to me earlier this summer, as I was going to my niece’s wedding in Blönduós.
I had just been fishing nearby and managed—with the help of a rocky road leading to the river—to put a hole in the exhaust pipe of my car, which tends to be in denial of the fact that it is not a jeep.
I ask my sister Dísa whether she knows the local mechanic and she says ‘no.’ But Gísli does.
Too bad Gísli is at the wedding rehearsal and I need to get this fixed pronto. It is a Friday afternoon, and my wife and daughter are coming early evening. I want to get this fixed now.
I call directory enquiries. 118. I ask them for a car mechanic in Blönduós. They hook me up, the phone rings and a guy answers on the other side.
Hi, is this the garage? I hear kids in the background and have a feeling I have the wrong number.
He responds: ‘Well, I’m the mechanic, but I am at home. What do you want?’
‘Well, my name is Sigtryggur. I am Gísli´s brother in law, and am going to his daughter’s wedding tomorrow. I managed to put a hole in my exhaust and need some help fixing it today. Can you help me?’ I tell him all this to try and establish a personal contact with the man, hoping he is a friend of my brother in law, and will thus treat me like a local. And not rip me off.
‘Well, you should call Gunnar at the garage, he can help you...’
I take down the number and call Gunnar. Gunnar gets the same stupid introduction from me, pleading close connections with locals. He gives me a friendly hum hum, and tells me to come at three o’clock.
I ask my sister where the garage is located. She says it’s somewhere up the hill by the N1 station and tells me I can’t miss it. Then she pulls a strange, almost worried look and says that I better check with the guy, since she thinks there are more than one garages in town.
‘No problem,’ I say, ‘I still have his number written down.’ I put on my shoes and make a move to get on my way.
I go and get some gas at the N1 station. I decide to call Gunnar the mechanic from there, to see where he is located: ‘Hi it’s Sigtryggur again, I called you earlier about fixing my exhaust!’
‘Yeah, man, how are you?’
‘Yeah, good man. Good. How can I find your place?’
‘Well, I’m just up the hill on Dyngjuvegur.’
‘I’m sorry but I don’t know where that is. ‘Is it close to the N1 station?’
‘What N1 station?’
‘Well, the one up on the hill...’ (To the guy at the counter, I remark, ‘isn’t this a N1 station?’ He points at the sign outside the window. It should be obvious).
I carry on and ask the guy at the counter where I can find Dyngjuvegur. He just shakes his head and says there is no such street in Blönduós.
It’s finally happened. My phone has hit a secret line in a parallel universe. Obviously. The damn microwaves have altered my brainwaves after ten years of heavy cellphone abuse.
There is an ominous silence on the other end.
‘I’m at the N1 station alright, where can I find you?’
‘There is no N1 station here. Where are you?’
I cannot believe this shit. Is this a hidden camera show? Damned reality TV again!
I blurt out: ‘Ha ha ha man. I’m standing in a middle of a N1 station here in Blönduós and I swear to you, it is very real. At least to me!’ I produce a stifled cough.
There is a silence. Then he says: ‘You better check your map, man. I am in Bolungarvík [a small town, hundreds of kilometres away].’
I feel semi violated, like being shat on by a bird.
To the right of the N1 station is something called Jóhann’s garage. I walk in there and speak to the first person I see. A lanky youth examining the underside of a beat up jeep.
He recognises me immediately and asks me if I am going to the wedding tomorrow.
I do not know what it is about Blönduós that brings on confusion. If I did, I could bottle it and sell it as bottled misunderstanding. I would become very rich indeed. Bottled misunderstanding would no doubt make a good party gift and become popular at stag and hen parties that frequently dish out the most outlandish forms of humiliation and torture to the recipients. Everything taped and shown on reality TV infiltrates everything, also weddings and Christmas parties, with its inglorious intimacy, like smelling someone else’s socks.