#137: The Danish Invasion

March 13th, 2013

“How do you spell that?” the woman in the security blazer asked as she looked down the laminated sheet.

I blinked twice.

“D-E-N-,” I said, pausing to let her check the sheet. “M-A-R-K.”

She looked up and down the sheet again.

“It’s not here,” she said.

The John Hancock Center lost Denmark.

To be fair, I lost Denmark too. An entire nation, or at least the little arm that rents office space in the downtown skyscraper with the bar on top, went walkabout. The directory on the Hancock lobby wall was giving nothing under D (Danish Consulate), C (Consulate of Denmark), G (Government of Denmark) or L (I got very tired of staring at D).

It turned up under T for Trade Commission of Denmark. A smiling man with a shaved head gave me a little sticker for my shirt and walked me to the elevator to the 39th floor.

I’m going to Denmark with the lady this summer. We’ll see my friends Steve and Cille, hopping over to Norway by ferry to see the lady’s friends Shea and Vidar. We’ll go to the Tivoli carnival, maybe hit Christiania and, if the weather’s nice, lie around on a beach, basically spending an amazing assload of money before scurrying back to Chicago to make more for the next trip somewhere.

To ensure the amazing fortunes of a freelance writer/part-time college adjunct go toward smørrebrød on the Rådhuspladsen rather than Lonely Planet guides on Michigan Avenue, I’m doing my planning on the cheap. New passport pics and a Europe guide free from the AAA before my membership lapses, Internet searching all around for to-dos and whatever tourist information I can scam off the consulate.

The elevator in the Hancock took me to a waiting area by an open, airy and completely vacant luxury office space. I headed down a narrow hallway lined with the names of law firms I’ve never heard of.

The shared office of the Consulate General and Trade Commission of Denmark was at the end of the hall. I walked through the door to find a small, white waiting area with a glass bullet-proof window like you’ll see at gas stations in bad neighborhoods. Lying in the open end of the sliding drawer were two Verizon bills for Deutsche Bank and a magazine for a plastic surgeon one floor below. A pink sticky note on the pile of mail said “Not here!”

The only place where one could conceivably sit in the bathroom-sized waiting area was on a white, plastic stool attached to the wall-mounted camera for Danish passport photos. Crisply designed pictographs on the camera explained the stool was for children.

No one was there. I was alone in Denmark’s waiting room.

I pressed an efficiently designed buzzer to call a woman with wide blue eyes and a sweet-natured deadpan to the window.

“Can I help you?” she asked with a twinge of Copenhagen in her voice.

I hadn’t finished explaining what I wanted before she started shaking her head.

“We don’t have that,” the Danish woman said.

“No travel information at all?” I asked. “I was told at AAA that you would be the place to provide that.”

She shook her head again, those big blue eyes never breaking gaze through the glass.

“I don’t know if that’s something we used to do,” she said. “Wait a second.”

She bustled off. I could see a bit of the office area through the window. A corner of one room had a series of paintings leaning against the wall. Denmark was moving out, in or had some storage space to spare.

“Here you go,” she said, returning with two issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark Trade Council’s Focus Denmark magazine and the 2012 The Monocle Denmark Survey. “They’re more business-related.”

Denmark is a beautiful country with a pleasant people, a happy lifestyle and apparently a burgeoning market in enzyme-based biofuels. Attractions include castles, wind power, a decline in the number of clinical trials to study the efficacy of medicines based on new competition from Asian markets and a boom in voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility reports since the 1990s.

And the Raveonettes have a new album, I learned.

“You should go to Tivoli,” the Danish woman with the big blue eyes told me.

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