So, what happened in August?...
Well, I go out to the mailbox one Saturday and there, like a punch to the gut, is a Jury Summons! I stood there staring at it, saying in a low , gravely voice, Oooooh noooo! I don't actually mind the idea of doing my Civic Duty, but it's 1) not something I really want to do, based on previous experiences of sitting and being rejected for 2-3 days and then being told "we don't really need you anymore", and sent home, and 2) my job is such that it is very difficult to find coverage when I am out.
So, first thing Monday morning, I send out a few texts to other therapists to see if I could get any coverage. Then I get on the phone to "Jury Central" and prepare myself to sound as pitiful as possible and try to plead my case to be excused. I had heard it is now nearly impossible to get excused without actually going down to the Courthouse and begging in person to some sympathetic judge why even though I love the democratic process, it would do immeasurable harm to the well-oiled wheels of Economic Society if I was sucked out of the work environment:
Them: Courthouse. Can I help you?
Me: Good morning ma'am. How are you?
Them: Fine. Can I help you?
Me: I need to talk to some (kind) person about getting excused from Jury Duty.
Them: Why do you need to be excused?
Me: I'm a Physical Therapist and it's awfully hard to find coverage and my (happy) patients can't be treated.
Them: Ok, we'll strike you.
Me: (Incredulously) That's it?
As soon as I got off the phone, I almost immediately saw that I had texts and I had coverage for 3 days! Now I had a week off that I hadn't planned for. So, I tell my wife, who is happy that we'll have some vacation time, but we don't have any idea what to do or where to go. After about a week or so of no idea, I say "What about Iceland?". Her facial expression is along the lines of "huh?". You see, I absolutely HATE cold weather, and here I am suggesting that in the middle of a perfectly good HOT Alabama summer, we pack up and go to ICEland. Crazy, right? Turned out to be a great vacation and not nearly as cold (or rainy) as expected.
I won't go into a detailed description of the trip, but here are some of the highlights:
-- ALL HOT WATER IS NATURAL...Iceland is the only country in the world that can claim to obtain 100% of it's heat and electricity from renewable sources. Geothermal water is heated deep in the ground due to the fact that Iceland sits on a gigantic fault line between North America and Europe that is responsible for 140 volcanoes (not all active) and the country being very earthquake prone. Geothermal water is used to heat 90% of Iceland's homes, and most of the hot water in the country is tapped through boreholes (where the water can be boiling) and transported through pipelines to the cities and houses. No hot water heaters! Hot water smells like rotten eggs because of the Sulpher Dioxide in the water. Can't drink it! All through the country, you see thick steam coming from these cracks in the earth. Some places it looks like a scene from "The Day the Earth Ended".
--NO TIPPING....The prices in Iceland are high, but there is absolutely no tipping...taxis, restaurants, hotel, tour driver, anywhere! So, you basically save 15-20% right there! I must admit, I did feel rather guilty.
--10,000 WATERFALLS...They are everywhere. Beautiful 200-300 foot falls. Absolutely gorgeous. Did I say they're everywhere?
--EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH...all children are taught English in school from age 10 through High School, which goes to age 19-20. Amongst themselves, they speak Icelandic, which is basically the language of the Vikings and impossible for a southerner originally from New Jersey to even attempt to stumble through. Remember the volcano that erupted in 2010 in Iceland that shut down European air travel for 2 weeks? It's name is Mt Eyjafjallajokull. I rest my case!!
-- ICEBERGS AND GLACIERS...when I was in grade school a hundred years ago, we learned about glaciers, but it was like learning about Mars - it was pretty abstract. I mean, a solid river of ice so big and so heavy, it moves due to it's own weight hundreds of miles (or even thousands in an ice age) and literally destroys everything in its path, carving the shape of the landscape. When it reaches water, it breaks off in pieces, and ta-da, you have icebergs. Some are gigantic (the Titanic mean anything?). To see these boyhood curiosities was magnificent. Glaciers cover 11% of Iceland's ground surface and the one pictured in the backround below is bigger than Kentucky!
--BEER...love my beer, and Stout beer in particular. I always say Lite beer is just for people who like to pee. Anyway, found me a friend, and so did Wendy, at The Drunken Rabbit.
--BLACK BEACHES...Alabama has the most beautiful pristine white beaches you could ever find, and I've seen pink beaches in Bermuda, but in Iceland, when the glaciers grind all the volcanic lava to fine dust, you wind up with black beaches. Pretty cool!
--SHEEP...ok, no big whoop. Sheep are everywhere, but in Iceland , sheep are literally EVERYWHERE. Around May or June, all the sheep farmers let their sheep (and wild horses) loose to roam free all over the country to go and get fat. Wherever you go away from the towns, there are grazing sheep. Come Autumn, in a huge holiday-like celebration, the herders roundup ALL the sheep and determine who belongs to who by their ear markings (the sheep, not the herders).
--FINALLY RUNNING...Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to run too much while there. Running around the city of Reykjavik presented a little problem in that you don't just try to remember the street names so eventually you can find your way back to the hotel.
...however, you will see some beautiful scenery in the early morning (gets light by 5)
...and artwork and sculptures all over the city
And best of all...there are NO SNAKES in all of Iceland. That gets them the instant Al Seal of Approval.
And so, a week that was supposed to be spent sitting on some metal chair outside some jury room in Birmingham, Alabama transformed into a vacation in a wonderful country that even a month ago never crossed my mind of visiting. Like MC Hammer said..."Life comes at ya fast".
I'll see you on the road and trails - Al