“There is no 1A bus running from here,” the Danish metro transit security man told me on the corner of Kongens Nytorv (King’s Center Square), where I generally get off the subway and hop onto a bus. “You have to get back on the subway, go one stop, get off at the Norreport station. Then go outside, get on a 15 bus.”
“Why?” I asked, thinking it had something to do with the wave of people sure to be leaving the United Nations climate summit for dinner around 7pm. I was starting to get hungry myself, and hoped that the roommates hadn’t already left the apartment for dinner. “Are all the buses being used to shuttle people from the Bella Center?”
“The Bella Center?” he looked puzzled. “No. There’s a bomb or something”
I figured he was just joking about the reason for the police had lock down he described to me—absolutely no buses, cars, trains, or bikes were running anywhere near the Osterport station because the police had closed it off. When he first described the scene to me, I figured it was probably because of a protest going on—we heard this morning from fellow reporters covering the long lines outside the Bella Center that last night a group of protesters were doused with a water cannon. However, I think this might be another fine example of the press here in Copenhagen looking for a dramatic, shallow story that will grab the attention of readers surfing Google News. All the online reports I’ve found say that a burning car—set by pyromaniac protesters—was saturated with water, not the actual protesters themselves.
The Osterport station in Copenhagen has been closed for the last five hours-or-so due to a bomb threat. This meant I had one heck of a time getting home after spending the afternoon at the Klimaforum09 venue. I think “threat” is not a common Danish to English crossover word, because everyone I talked with tonight just kept saying “bomb” whenever I asked what was going on.
“What is going on?” I asked the blonde boy sitting behind me, who had just finished a conversation with the elderly woman in a fur coat sitting behind him. This was the second bus I had gotten on—the first was the 150S bus, which I confused for the 15 bus. The dozen people on the bus were chuckling after something that the bus driver said over the intercom. I heard something that told me he was taking us back to the Norreport train/subway station, where I had accidentally hopped onto the 150S bus not fifteen minutes earlier.
“The Osterport station is closed,” the blonde boy said, confirming what the security guard had told me more than half an hour ago. “There is a bomb.”
“A real bomb, or just a threat?” I asked him. He stared at me. puzzled.
“A bomb,” he said again, looking at me like I was stupid or possibly deaf in one ear.
“Like a bomb actually exploded or someone just said they were going to do it,” I clarified. The blonde boy turned to the woman in the fur coat again and symbolized with his hands an explosion as he rapidly spoke to her in Danish. The rest of the bus continued speaking with the bus driver—patrons yelling while he spoke over the intercom. They were shouting other bus and subway stops, and I quickly realized he had offered to drop them off wherever they wanted to go. “Sundby!” “Bella Center!” “New York!” “Thailand!”
“No, it was a game. A joke,” the boy turned back to me and said. No, it was a threat, I thought to myself. He looked at me, wondering if I knew was comprehending what everyone was laughing about as they spoke in Danish. The bus stopped at the Norreport station where I had started my adventure, and everyone filed off.
“Can I get to Arthursgade on this bus? Do you go there?” I asked the young buzzed-headed bus driver, Mulefel. He had no idea where that was. He asked me to explain where I was staying—uptown, downtown, outside of town—and I realized that I had no idea. I couldn’t even remember any major landmarks near our apartment besides the football (soccer) stadium, which I wasn’t even sure was anywhere close to where we live. There was my favorite little bakery on the corner, and “The Laundromat” diner where we eat dinner almost every night, but I doubt he knew those hole-in-the-wall places if he didn’t even recognize the street I lived on. I remembered there was a train station a few blocks down from our bus stop that started with an “S” but I had no idea what it was called.
“Saaaaa…” I tried to sound it out.
“Sydhavn” he suggested confidently. “That is over by…” I cut him off—that wasn’t it. It was some other crazy-sounding word that started with an “S” but had a strong “o” somewhere in the middle—I didn’t know what the middle letters of the word were, but I definitely knew what they were not.
Since I was the only person on the bus, Mulefel offered to take me where I needed to go—which seems like something he could get fired for—if I could just remember where I lived. He urged me to try harder to remember, but nothing was cutting through the fog. Finally I suggested the football stadium, and he said he would take me to the Vesterport station where I could hop on either a 14 or 15 bus going the other way, towards my apartment. By that point, I was ready to just get off the bus altogether and jump in a cab, but he refused to let me “waste my money.”
Although I promised Mulefel that I would sit right there and wait for the bus—he had radioed and found out the 15 bus was no longer coming through (possibly related to the bomb threat), so I needed to wait for the 14—I started walking down the street to catch a cab. When I turned the corner there it was, mocking me as I stood in the sleety mix descending from the dark sky: Klimaforum09.
I had spent the last hour on three buses, four subways, and one train to end up right where I had started.
Needless to say the cab ride cost me $30 but was well worth it, even though I couldn’t hail a cab for 45 minutes of trudging around in my soaked-to-the-bone ballet flats. My cabbie was Palestinian, however, he’s lived in Copenhagen for the last 20 years—even he didn’t know what street I live on and had to use his GPS to find it. As I explained my sob-story of traipsing around the city for the past hour, he told me he felt that there were “too many people in the city…and too many police responding.”
A little later he warned me to put on my seatbelt—a $100 fine—when we pulled up next to a full-sized blue van filled with more than a dozen police officers in navy uniforms and caps. On the radio, I heard a few familiar words, “Obama,” “Ethiopia,” “Osterport.”
“Can you understand any of what they are saying?” he asked me. “It’s the news. They are talking about the bomb.”
For the last time Danish people: it is a bomb threat, not a bomb.
After I told him the words I recognized in the broadcast, he explained that President Obama was urging the African nations to come back to the negotiating table. I told him that I had heard there is a major demonstration for tomorrow and that the Guatemalan and Venezuelan delegates are expected to walk out of negotiations—he added India to that list.
We’ll see how all of this will impact entering the Bella Center tomorrow, which was already about a five-hour wait today due to heightened security this week.