Sauna talk

One of the traditions of Finland is sitting in a sauna, talking of all manner of things.

Indeed, the line that Finns don’t speak is untrue: Finns talk just fine once the temperature rises above 60 degrees Celsius. (140 degrees Fahrenheit)

That misconception is understandable, though; such temperatures are in Finland rare outside a sauna or a forest fire, and in the latter case most of the talk will be just screaming.

Sometimes the talk is serious, sometimes speculative, sometimes outright deep, or deepity-full if there has been some consumption of alcohol. There is never any anger or rancor, because in a sauna that Simply Would Not Do. All is light as a feather. (Really, when you’re sitting on high, flimsy pews next to a pile of rocks heated well above the boiling point of water, civility’s a strongly Darwinian survival trait. My guess is those with a tendency to start fights in a sauna were booted out of the village — at this early point in time Finland was just a single village located somewhere north of Savonlinna — and were forced to move to other lands, probably to Sweden where the Vikings were never averse to taking in fractious warrior types, as far as I know.)

Thus what follows.

Today while sitting, sweating and jawing in a sauna with my father, and after all good and decent ideas were disposed of, the thought of a sauna as a decent simulation of (some parts of) more southern lands came up. A sauna’s very hot, and very humid; southlands are like that, as far as I know. Tropical Germany and all that.

Thus, wouldn’t it be easy to “train” those with plans for a tropical vacation by equipping a sauna with some potted plants, a parrot, and maybe a suitably tropical monkey or orang-outan? Then just fire the thing up, lock the would-be exoticists inside, and wait a day or two. See if they really want to leave the chill, arctic, sterile breast of Mother Finland.

Then again, what would the zookeeper say if you asked to borrow a macaque or two, and said you were going to give them a bit of sauna?

Or what would the shopkeeper say if you inquired if her parrots are waterproof, or heat-resistant? (And not Norwegian because Norwegian parrots used to simulate a southern place, well, that’s a comedy sketch and no mistake.)

After that the talk turned to another way to use parrots for fun and profit: namely, take a number of clever parrots, the sort that learns to caw words after hearing them only a couple of times. Distribute them to various kinds of people, let them take a parrot each with them to their workplaces, and at the end of the day collect the parrots, write down their cawings, and give them as a project to some socioethobiologist doing her degree: “Guess who this little parrot went to work with?”

“Oh, that’s easy. It says ‘Yerdriverslisenseandregistrashun! Rrrak! Rrrak!’, which except for the ‘Rrak’:s sounds like a policeman. Unless the Department’s started hiring vultures or something.”

That’s sauna talk.

Then there was the question of whether a sauna makes any sense if built in a tropical clime; in Mozambique, Angola or something like that; it will be just as warm outside as it is inside. That’s bad for taking a jäähy (a ‘coldie’), as a breather outside is called.

That is, unless the sauna is built next to a walk-in freezer. Which could then lead to an uncomfortable situation as someone walks in to grab a few cold cutlets and discovers five naked men with beers in the freezer.

That’s a very sauna-talklike turn of speculation, too.

An earlier conversation was about “You would be really fagged out at ninety if you started writing a book called ‘One Hundred Variations of Darts’, right?” — during that conversation, targets painted on pigs came up, as did the fact that not only would this be unusual and cruel, it would be unlikely, too, to be a good sport if the purpose was to dart-nudge your pig through an obstacle course of some kind. The pigs would go wild; all sportlike decorum would be utterly destroyed.

Or the hypothetical darts variation where the targets were balloons drifting across a field, and your scoring depended not only on how many balloons you hit, but where they came down.

Or the variation where the target was horizontal, and you either had to get all ballistic and lob the darts up and towards, or then push straight at the target with maximum force and hope the darts stuck instead of ricocheting.

By my experience this is the kind of talk a sauna causes in a Finnish man. About women I can’t say anything because it would be a little bit creepy if I sneaked close enough to listen. (Also, as a final disturbing thought: there’s dressing in drag, but is there such a thing as being in drag while in the nude? Pushing your chest out, clamping your thighs together, and trying to look less hairy, or something? Is that a sport more challenging and thus less common than merely dressing to look like the opposite sex? Please note I do not ask for any pictures as I like being able to sleep without waking up screaming.)

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