Short story: zip 02150 ESPOO

fiction set in the year 2001

Finland, a freezing -23 celsius. It’s December. Few weeks before New Year’s eve.

Espoo, the Otaniemi campus, home to HUT – Helsinki University of Technology. Otaniemi is the hub of Finnish information society. The major innovations that have shaped our world have risen from the laboratories and minds of Otaniemi.

Teekkaris (plural) are the burning fuel of this technological community. The “village” (teekkarikylä) always bustles with crazy ideas, booze, party people – and that insatiable, unexplainable primitive energy that drives experiments. Novelty is everywhere.

This very ZIP code 02150, Otaniemi, is the poorest in Finland; next to it the richest ZIP in Finland, Espoo’s Westend district. Every teekkari dreams of moving to Westend after having spent an exciting working life in one of the household tech companies, that have spawned… from Otaniemi!

Sibelius playing somewhere, probably in a student dorm. Someone is keeping a window open, even at this low temperature! The wooden yellowish stools and other furnitures are intermixed with red brick velours characteristic to this creation of the visionary Alvar Aalto. Army-related insignia is everywhere. The Teekkari are very proud of their country, and 97% of them have gone through army. Most of the initiation rites follow army style, with the occasional scandalous run-ins and pranks with police.

Juhani is one of them. For now. But his mind is already far ahead. He will be one of the future leaders – one that has both a bright mind and an effective leadership style. Of this he is certain. Absolutely certain. Juhani is 24 years old. Twenty-four years is considered as ‘senior’. He studies for the 4th year in electrical engineering. Some graduate at year 8, 9, 10, or never (simply the postfix ‘N’ students).

The average age of graduation has been rising since forever. Now it stands at around 6.9 years.

Juhani sips cognac from a classic, but simple glass, and puffs a large cloud of dark vapor from his cigarette. He is sitting on a small bench, just outside one of the red tile apartments. Strange bench. Wholly cast iron, seen its better days; paint ripping – landed there seemingly out of nowhere. This is just one aspect Juhani loves about the student village.

No one seems to be out in the wild. People are studying. Juhani has done all his courses. He is about to graduate. His Master’s in Electrical Engineering is a few pages short of completion. This is a sentimental moment to him. He sheds a tear in a strong emotion of patriotism and pride. Also a bit of sorrow. He’ll soon be leaving this place..

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