Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Curious Me

 by Sybil Johnson

Writers are a curious bunch We see something we find interesting or we don’t understand, we look it up. I’m constantly finding stuff to investigate, partly because it’s fun and partly because you never know what might spark an idea for a story.

Here’s what I’ve been looking into recently: 

Exterior doors in Finland - I’ve watched a lot of Finnish/Norwegian/Swedish crime dramas recently. I just finished up Bordertown, a Finnish series set on the border of Finland and Russia. It’s called Sorjonen, the name of the main detective, in Finland. It took me many episodes before I noticed that the exterior doors for all homes in Finland open outward. That meant the police didn’t kick down doors, but shot out the locks.

Here in the U.S, since the Cocoanut Grove night club fire in the 1940s, all exterior doors on places of business must swing outward so people aren’t trapped inside if there’s a fire or some other emergency. That does not extend to private homes. All of the doors I’ve seen here in the U.S. swing inward. Though I hear there are homes in Florida where they open outward.

 So I was curious why Finland has doors that open outward. Is it weather related? Is it something else? Turns out, a false fire alert in Finland in the 19th century during a church service left dozens of people dead. They became crushed against the doors as they struggled to get out. Yes, you guessed it, those doors opened inward. Since that time, all exterior doors open outward, not just in public buildings. 

Black lines on the Freeway – While driving on the freeway here in Southern California, I noticed that the white lines that separated the lanes now have a black line on each side of the white stripe. I wondered what that was about. Apparently, putting those black stripes on can help drivers see the lines better on rainy days or when the glare is bad.

Åland islands – I watched Thicker Than Water, a TV series that is set mostly in the Åland islands, which are in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. Since the language used in the series is Swedish, I assumed the islands were part of Sweden. Silly me! When I looked them up, I discovered they are an autonomous and demilitarized region of Finland. The history of the islands is interesting. At various times, they were part of Sweden, Finland and Russia. The League of Nations in 1921 decided they should be part of Finland. The official language of the islands is Swedish.

Psychic Meditation – We were driving on the West side of Los Angeles the other day and I noticed a billboard that advertised psychic meditation. I wondered what that meant, so I did a little digging. Apparently, it’s a form of guided meditation that helps you focus on your psychic senses so you can tap into your psychic abilities. Regular meditation focuses on clearing your mind, psychic meditation focuses on enhancing your psychic gifts. Sounds very L.A., doesn’t it?

Disposal of animal carcass in a rural area – There was a column in the local paper where someone was complaining about a CA DMV written test that they’d taken. They’d taken practice tests, read the manual several times and still came across a question regarding disposal of a dog carcass in a rural area that they didn’t remember seeing in the manual. I don’t know what the exact question was, but I skimmed through the CA DMV manual online. Didn’t see anything that I thought would apply. But my searching did reveal that California recently passed the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act aka Roadkill Bill. It was recently signed into law by the governor, but is currently active in only 3 pilot regions. It allows people to take roadkill home and butcher it for the meat. Apparently, it was illegal before this.

I know from watching lots and lots of episodes of North Woods Law that, in Maine, if your car hits a moose you have first dibs on the meat. If you don’t want it, it goes to a needy family. You have to call and report it, of course. They investigate and, as long as you didn’t run into the moose on purpose, you can have it. I don’t know why anyone would run into a moose with their car. That seems a very dangerous thing. You'd be lucky to survive and your car probably wouldn’t. 

That’s what I’ve been looking into lately. Not sure if I have a story to go with any of these, but they were interesting. And, who knows, maybe one of them will spark an idea for a story in one of you.



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