The Vikings -- those grungy, gnarly guys who grunt and grimace as they gouge and grapple -- have been much discussed at our house lately.
No, I don’t mean the team from Minnesota. We’re talking about the original Vikings, the manly men who were the Super Bowl champs of world dominance for nearly three centuries.
My wife has long been fascinated by Vikings. In her imagination, they are tall, blonde, rugged, fearless seafarers with startlingly blue eyes and a startling obsession with horned hats.
But she wound up with me instead. Through sheer force of will I was able to inherit the correct eye and hair color, but fell short regarding the height and the fearlessness. And as far as seafaring goes, I will only say that I don’t know how to swim and leave it at that.
I have managed to acquire some Viking skills such as the knack for bringing vast amounts grunge into the house and my freestyle table manners. However, these have done little to create a favorable impression.
One wonders what impelled my Nordic ancestors to quit the safe shores of Scandinavia and set sail on the vast, uncharted ocean. And what did they tell their wives as they left?
“Where you going?
“When will you get there?”
“When will you be back?”
“Could you at least get some groceries on your way home? And pick up the dry cleaning?”
The Viking sighs deeply. “OK. Make a list.”
My grandpa Hammer is as close as I will ever come to knowing an actual Viking. I once asked what prompted him to leave Norway as a young man and he cited the dearth of farmland and the lack of economic opportunities. According to the History Channel, these are the same forces that gave rise to the Vikings more than a thousand years ago. Some things never change.
The Vikings were extremely successful at viking, eventually forging an empire that stretched from North America to the Arabian Peninsula. The problem is, the Vikings’ business methods were a bit, um, unrefined. Nowadays, this problem would be smoothed over by a skilled PR agency.
For instance, the Vikings didn’t conduct raids; they would dynamically deploy asset reallocation professionals. They didn’t pillage; they synergistically actualized integrative property transfer solutions. The Vikings didn’t take over villages and farms; they interactively leveraged premier real estate growth strategies. And they didn’t rule with iron-fisted brutality; they were proactive distributors of bleeding-edge leadership imperatives.
As a kid, I imagined that being a Viking would have been fun and often cursed my luck for being born in the wrong millennia. In my mind’s eye I could see a fearsome longship cresting the waves, its dragon figurehead shooting bolts of terror through the heart a particular schoolyard bully.
But I was instead imprisoned on a long bus. It was noisy and smelly and crowded, but that’s where the similarities to a longship ended.