And so there was no great disagreement and but a little gnashing of teeth when the plans for the new city bus terminus were unveiled. This was no tongue-in-cheek puerile joke at the expense of some imaginary entity known as ‘the establishment’ nor was it a political jibe meant to hurt and destroy rather than to inform and construct. And yet it stunned our protagonist into winded disbelief, leaving the usual cynics to shrug their shoulders and say they’d always told us so and the slightly more surprising political arse-lickers to pronounce that the scheme was the best of all possible schemes.
So our protagonist watched as the traffic blockages turned into a hole in the ground and gradually into a great, big, huge, great statement of a hole in the ground. It took up what had been until then a space of about five city blocks. Never an exact measure, even in the most standard of standard American cities, the fact of all those routes being closed off for all that time was barely less insulting than the idea of it. It was as if the idea of outdoing an American city with American measures of value was the underlying motive for the whole project. But to get it done required blasting out the solidity of the Nordic granite itself, getting to the bottom of things so that something totally new, utterly fictitious and alien to the place could be put there instead.
Artists photographed it, finding in its crevices and everydayness some element of scalar confusion that appealed to either their aesthetic sensibilities or unthinkingly managed to express their political impotence. Such a great hole in the ground for such a small-scale city seemed obscene in itself. Unless, of course, you were of the group for whom tall buildings, fast vehicles and all things not yet quite available in Finnish shops were as titillating as the idea of their sexiest school teacher in the nude. But no, our protagonist is a woman. Her kicks were of a somewhat different kind.
Having known tall buildings, fast cars and shiny surfaces, yet having been exposed in the midst of this thrusting economic power to far subtler forces, yet ones whose hold she intuited to be not just strong but enduring, the hole in the ground and the creations that slowly began to emerge out of it failed to impress her.
No, that is not entirely true. Like her neighbours, she clung from time to time to the railings and peep-holes provided on the walkways surrounding the gaping hole, and marvelled at the intricate choreography of the works going on. She counted the little men, as she called them, in hard hats, unable to resist metaphors of ants and industriousness. In the rain they worked, in the sunshine, from autumn to winter to spring and summer and around the calendar again. And again. It was, after all, a substantial hole. The little men were not, of course, little, nor was there anything to belittle about their work. She imagined also that, like ants, they operated a systematic yet probably fraught hierarchy where heads, computers, consultants, brains, hands, backs, diesel fuel, coffee, cat calls, personal animosities and friendships moved to the rhythm of intelligences somehow communicated adequately so that what had for decades been a field of ugly tarmac, could turn into … more on that later.
Image of Kamppi by Niko Lipsanen, Suomi 01.08.2003 from NGOPhotos.org http://www.ngophotos.org/