Friday, December 28, 2007

I am a Swedish Public Transporter

I am officially reliant on public transportation. Accidentally. Don’t get me wrong. I love driving. So much freedom. I can get in my car and go anywhere I like whenever I want. It’s an amazing feeling and something I have grown very used to over my seven years of driving in the US. But here, it’s just so expensive. And mostly a pain in the ass to try to drive around in Stockholm. Plus they just added a toll getting inside the city limits. Trying to force people to use public transportation. And I do.

Earlier in the summer I had a premonition of this happening. I just didn’t realize how strong it would become and it was before I had a car here so it didn’t seem like such a big deal. My parents needed directions to a store and I told them what bus to take not being able to explain how to drive there. But at that point I hadn’t been driving around at all so it seemed justified.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized just how reliant I am on public transportation. I was giving directions to our apartment and immediately found myself explaining how to get there using only public transportation. Which stop to get off at, which way to walk, all the basics of a public transporter. And then I was told our guests were coming by car. And I was taken completely by surprise. While, I feel confident in my abilities to give driving directions it was just such a shock that I ended up only giving my address and pointing them towards the trusty Eniro Kartor website for directions. But now after this episode it seems like I am just a changed man. And I’m not sure I like it.

This incident came just a few days after having taken the car down and back to southern Sweden for the second weekend in a row. They explained to me how they also liked taking road trips. I was dumbfounded. It takes five hours to drive down there. Maybe six. That’s not a road trip. Hell, I can almost make that on one tank of gas which means there’s not even a reason to stop. But driving more than a couple of hours seems to constitute a road trip in this country. Silly Swedes.

Swedes don’t understand when I tell them the beauty of driving. Actually, Swedes living in Stockholm don’t understand. They try to argue that there is always a train or subway or bus on its way. But what if I want to go now? I mean right now. Then you wait for the train. And we use the commuter train. Which has a nasty habit of being late, cancelled, or running irregularly because we aren’t included in the main subway line. And there’s also the business of summer and holiday times when the train comes maybe twice an hour. I have things to do. And these things involve me getting places in a timely fashion. Which is what a trusty car can do. In my case a Saab. Of course.

The next argument is usually the importance of the environment. But honestly, I’m not that concerned. I drive because I like to and it gets me places quickly. Here in Stockholm, I drive less because of the negative impact on my wallet and because it’s a pain sometimes. Not because of the environment.

Plus there is the whole idea of things being so much bigger in the US. America is big. There is a lot of space there. Sweden is not. It’s the size of California. Granted, California is a solid sized state. But it’s just that – a state. We have 50 of them. It takes time to get places, and time usually means using a car to cut down on some of that time. Swedes can’t grasp the concept of how big America is and the reliance on cars to get us places unless they have spent a good amount of time in the states. Most have not.

Finally, it devolves into some sort of pissing match and Americans are called wasteful and lazy. Maybe, but we get where we want to be and we do it quickly. And that’s why when I finally move back to the US I intend to drive 3 minutes to pick up a gallon of milk at 2:47 am. Because I can.

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  1. Oh my god!! I am so you!!! I am the same 1 million percent..god and I thought i was the only one. I cannot wait to drive for milk half a block away again, though i admit i will miss the spårvagn. Its my sole transportation device to and from work. My american license has ran out dec 10th seeing as I have been here 1 year..bleh!

  2. Well, it is lazy and wasteful... Why drive when you live in Stockholm? Honestly i don't get it.I mean, you don't even have to be reliant on public transportation, just walk damnit. But Americans can't grasp that concept - the concept of walking to a place when it's within 20 minutes range. Silly Americans. And lazy.

  3. The problem is the attitude "hairy Swede" shows, which he shares together with many other Americans. As he said about the negative effects on the retirement's caused by driving cars: "I’m not that concerned". It's selfish, lazy and

    No wonder USA is both the fattest country and the country which contribute most to the global warming.

    What strikes me most is that a lot of Americans have the balls to blame China for a lot of the global warming, because of all the people getting better standards of living and better incomes and now can afford to drive cárs and other things that contributes to the global warming.

    Well, of course it contributes, they're more than 1 billion people, damn it! But it's still Northern America and the west world (USA being the worst) who contributes most to it, and it was in USA this culture started, grew strong and spread to western Europe and now to the third world.

    In China, unlike USA, there are more efforts to start building in a more environment-friendly way and there are quite a lot more buildings being built in that way than in USA, still the biggest polluter, remember?

    Oh, you're gonna do it because you can, huh? That's why you're so selfishly and lazily going to keep pollute the earth? America, fuck yeah!

  4. I see your point here, but coming from Finland I don't quite get it. It's very handily arranged here so that you don't really need a car at all. Think of warm Summer evenings after work. On the way home it's nice to relax and have a couple of drinks, or eat a dinner with wine, and not having to worry about who's driving! It's a big plus to me. Don't have to call a cab/taxi, just hop on a subway train. It's cheaper, a lot cheaper.

    This attitude is because I don't like driving. I do it because I have to. I can understand you because you like it. I know many people who also like driving. This is something that's not getting any cheers in Sweden, as you can see. Nor would it in Finland either. Ten points for being honest though :)

  5. Greetings, Hairy Swede!

    For some reason a couple of my latest posts have been removed in my blog. I'm so pissed-off about it that I'll stop blogging if Metro can't revive them. Maybe it doesn't seem like it, but I have my 100% in it there.

    This is just to tell you the reason why it's not happening anything in my blog... Will write Mogli too. Ha det bra!!!

  6. @ Mrs. Cecrux - I'm sorry about your license! I'm dreading the day mine expires. But longing for the day I can drive wherever I want for cheap.

    @ Isle Dance - It's true, I think for the full American experience a TV is required.

    @ anonymous - lazy is nice sometimes. and in my post I actually comment on the fact that I don't drive while in Stockholm. The thing is, in a whole lot of places in the US things aren't within a 20 minute walking distance. We have a whole lot of room in the US and we use it. The US is the size of all of Europe. Which means that we need to drive places if we want to get anywhere in a timely fashion.

    @ Mrs. Cecrux - I agree completely. Lazy is good every now and again!

    @ anonymous - Just because I like to drive doesn't mean I, or all Americans for that matter, should be described as fat, lazy, and selfish. I am definitely not fat. I am, usually, not lazy. And I don't consider myself selfish.

    My views on global warming are that driving isn't that good. Because spewing all kinds of exhaust into the air just isn't. But I don't but into the doomsday the sky is falling Al Gore nonsense that says we're all going to die in 50 years because the oceans are flooding. Ridiculous. Temperatures rise and fall throughout history, with huge variation. And yeah, I think people play a role, but not to the extent that the hippies would have you believe. And so I drive when I'm in the US, and ride public transportation while in Stockholm.

    I find it interesting though that you defend the Chinese by saying that they have a better standard of living and that you make that judgement by the fact that they are driving more. But Americans are vilified for having that standard of living and driving. What's the difference? Americans should know better? Or are they just the handy scapegoat that you, like so many of your fellow Swedes and Europeans, use for anything bad happening in the world? And your assertion that the Chinese are doing more to go green than Americans is based on what?

    Make argument all you want, but back it up with some sort of evidence. Or say that it is only an opinion, like I usually do, and get off of your High Dalahorse.

    So damm right. America! Fuck Yeah!

    @ Smek This - You bring up an excellent point. In Finland it is clearly possible to rock public transportation. Smaller country more concentrated population areas. It's perfect. The US is so spread out though that cars are an incredibly important aspect of our everyday lives.

    @ Smek This (again) - In all honesty I've been internetless so I haven't noticed. But now that I'm connected again I'll check it out. Hopefully it starts working again!

  7. I'm not defending the Chinese and vilifiing the Americans for having good standards of living and driving. All Chinese people aren't driving anyway, it's a lot smaller percentage of Chinese people than American people that drive, but it's probably more people since there live so many more people in that country. Oh, darn gosh, do I really need to go through it again to make you understand? Well, clearly, so here it goes...

    Many Americans have said that it's the decisions China make that will be decisive and will determine whether the global warming is gonna rise or stay at it's current point. Yet the government of USA and many Americans (like yourself, for example) make no effort to decrease their own contributions to the global warming, when they are the biggest contributor (is that what you call blaming USA for everything bad that happens, just like so many Swedes and Europeans? Just curious...). I don't know wat president it was who said that "the American lifestyle is non-negotiable" but it doesn't matter, what matters is how many Americans who was behind him and still feel the same way. I know it wasn't the current president but Bush isn't exactly a "miljökämpe" and he refuses to agree on the Kyoto-protocoll (which, according to most people who know anything about the global-warming-situation, only is a minor step towards slowing the global warming down. Note that pretty much all of Europe, including my country of Sweden, have agreed upon the kyoto-protocoll) so it's fair to say your current government isn't making any efforts to even slow down the global warming just a little bit.

    What's also fair to say is that USA is the biggest contributor with only 300 million people, while China has more than a billion people. It's interesting that you said that USA is the size of Europe (approximately, though, USA is smaller) but the population of USA is approximately 300 million while the population of Europe is approximately 720 million. Do I really need to mention again that USA is the biggest contributor? i don't think so... What I maybe do need to mention, though, is that it's pretty much bigger contributor than Europe (I wasn't able to find the figures, but believe me I HAVE seen pretty many of them, in both magazines, newspapers, TV and last but not least on the internet). by the way, what does it matter that USA is a big country when it comes to driving? You mean that people don't drive to other countries in Europe (which is slightly bigger than USA) but if you're an American, living in, for example, in New York, just because USa is one country you have to drive all through the country to get where you need to go? What, are there no grocery stores in New York, so thye have to go to California to tank they're cars, or do they to go to Texas to buy corn flakes? That's pretty much bullshit that you use to defend your and most other Americans' lifestyle, that many of you btw, think is "non-negotiable".

    This doesn't mean that I say that all Americans, or you for that matter, are "fat, lazy, and selfish" and nowhere have I stated that. Even though they are leading the statistics on fat people... What I have said is that USA is the biggest contributor on global warming (I know, but I'm proving a point here...) yet it is one of the smallest contributors on the fight to stop the global warming 8and when I'm saying this I'm not using USA as "the handy scapegoat", that apparently so many Swedes and Europeans use to blame for everything bad in the world, I'm telling the truth). that's why I'm saying Americans shouldn't blame the more and more Chinese people who, just in recent years, have gotten a better standard of living and therefore can afford to buy a car and supply it with gas.

    When it comes to that "Al Gore nonsense", that you're talking about, can I just say you're wrong on that too? First of all, he isn't saying we're going to die in 50 years if we don't stop it, what he's doing is putting forward evidence after evidence that if we don't do something the climate will indeed change, even on a 50years-scale, and will get a lot hotter and more extreme. This will lead to ice melting and the water level of the world's oceans will indeed rise. This isn't bullshit, it's what most professors believe (that haven't been paid by people who have an interest in the climate-threat being closed down and quieted down) and they are people who know something about this. What do you know about the globalw arming, huh? Clearly, very little. you believe what you want to believe, what suits you and your lifestyle best.

    I have the opinions of most professors behind me both when I say that USA is the biggest contributor to the global warming, and doing very little to stop it, and when I say that the global warming is indeed happening and that Al Gore isn't talking bullshit. Who do you have behind you?

    Btw, I was being ironic when I said "America, fuck yeah!".

  8. wow! I am an American and not too fat and maybe just a bit lazy but really quite nice. I think Anonymous would like us a little if he gave us a chance! we are not all so bad!! Are we??

  9. It´s is you (the americans)who ruin the world, destroying the climate and start war with everyone who is in your way.

    We have so high gas price's in the nordic countries becouse we actually trying to save the climate.

  10. @ anonymous - Oh, darn gosh; you better go through it all again. Silly American. I guess I’ll just have to speak louder so you understand. Had you done a better job explaining yourself in the first place you would have been able to avoid this. Unfortunately, you chose to make sweeping generalizations that only served to diminish any valid point you may have had.

    Your point about the Chinese is completely irrelevant. You state that they have more people so then it’s ok to pollute more but then later on you state that Europe has more people but less pollution. Contradictions don’t serve your argument well.

    And I find it interesting that most Americans make no effort to decrease their contribution to global warming. Despite the growing number of wind farms, alternative fuels, hybrids and electric cars, stringent anti-pollution measures, carbon credits, and an untold number of entrepreneurial “green” technologies. But go China. Because it’s not the US. I actually just have a hard time with the damned if you do damned if you don’t predicament that the US finds itself in because it is seen as a world power. But we’ll stay focused here…

    In response to the quote. That would be George H. W. Bush and I believe it was uttered about 15 years ago, right around ’92. Anyway, the Kyoto Protocol has actually been signed by the US. In fact, your friend and mine, Al Gore, signed it. Of course, he also stated that the US wouldn’t act on that until developing countries were forced to comply with emission standards instead of only report. You then go on to say that this protocol is only a minor step in slowing warming. You follow that with the bold statement that because the US hasn’t ratified this agreement they aren’t “making any efforts to even slow down the global warming,” as if ratifying something is the only way to slow carbon emissions. This is of course staying the party line that carbon is demolishing the earth.

    On another note, just looking purely at semantics here, you refer to Sweden as your country and the US as mine. But I have Swedish citizenship and am living here. Maybe I’ll claim it for my country as well. In my country, that being Sweden, everyone

    Your point that the US is the biggest contributor (I assume of carbon emissions, you don’t specify) is false. In fact, China took over that spot in mid 2007 and is now the biggest total contributor according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Damn it. It’s probably there increased standard of living. Clearly the Chinese need to be held accountable for reducing green house emissions. Good thing they ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Oh wait. They are considered a developing nation and don’t have to do a damn thing. So stop mentioning that the US is the biggest contributor. In fact, according to that study, the US actually decreased carbon emissions.

    Back to driving. I never said Europeans don’t drive to other countries. All though it seems from people I talk to less likely than it would be for Americans to drive to a different state. It matters not because I drive to Wyoming to buy milk. It matters because the entire country is spread out. There is a lot of space. Towns are not set up to accommodate the horses and buggies of medieval Europe. Everything isn’t centered around a nice little torg in the middle of town where you can walk to everything in 20 minutes. You are forced to use wheels of some sort. It’s the suburbs. And it is the way the US is set up. And I love how you keep using a quote that was said nearly 15 years ago. Very non-negotiable of you.

    Anyway, you were right. You didn’t say “fat, lazy, and selfish,” you said “selfish, lazy and
    irresponsible.” You then follow that by saying that the US is “the fattest country.” I apologize for the misquote, I was way off. But again, you’re wrong as long as we are talking about carbon emissions since good old China took over (I know, but I’m proving a point here). Why is the US seen as one of the smallest contributors to stop global warming? Because of the Kyoto Protocol? Or because of the green movement taking over in the country? Or the Nobel winner for environmental work being American (that being the wonderful marketer Al Gore, but then the IPCC shared that award and that’s where you can find John Christy, a member who has just co-authored a report disagreeing with the global warming hullabaloo)? Or the technological advances that are being used worldwide?

    Al Gore is our generations Chicken Little, running, well waddling… it’s kind of a fatty now, around yelling that the sky is falling. A six meter rise in ocean level? That’s about 15 times higher than what the IPCC suggests could happen according to Hendrik Tennekes, from the Netherlands' Royal National Meteorological Institute. You know, the guys who are actually scientists, and even they are extreme in their predictions. But we should probably listen to Al Gore because he made a shockumentary. There is plenty of contradictory evidence to the ice melting and flooding the world. Again, John Christy has said that the winter ice in Antarctica has actually reached an all-time maximum since they started measuring. Sounds like it’s not ice everywhere that is melting.

    So feel free to argue your point, but don’t accuse me of not being aware of what is going on in the world because I don’t agree with you and provide contradictory arguments. I form my opinions after reading and looking into both sides of the issue and don’t immediately dismiss one argument. Especially, when it comes to issues as complex as earth science and everything that goes into the ridiculously complicated planet we live on.

    Just because a lot of people say it doesn’t make it right. The mob mentality should never be misconstrued as the right mentality solely based on the number of people behind one idea. And actually, just recently a new report came out with the support of about 400 scientists from around the world who have referred to themselves as skeptics of global warming. Interestingly enough, a large number of these scientists are members of the IPCC, the recipients who shared the Nobel with Al Gore.

    And now to the new report that was published in the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society that I mentioned was co-authored by John Christy along with David Douglass, Benjamin Pearson, and S. Fred Singer. All professors, since you seem to need that reassurance. It seems that the models that have been used to predict global warming just aren’t working out all that well. According to the new report that just came out about a month ago, the models have been expecting greater rises in temperatures, but they just haven’t been happening. The actual data is falling short of the doomsday predictions. The conclusion they come to is that the greenhouse effect happens. It just doesn’t have the impact on global warming that up until this point has been so accepted by some. In fact they find that any global warming that is taking place is most likely caused by natural events that cannot be controlled by men, such as solar variability warming the planet. They even find that carbon dioxide isn’t actually the deadly pollutant it is made out to be. This study uses actual data compared to the modeled data that most predictions are based on, as well as information from numerous papers and articles written by other scientists suggesting similar ideas.

    So I am going to say this again. I don’t think putting all kinds of exhausts and man-made stuff into the environment is good for anyone. I just don’t agree that global warming is completely caused by man and not natural cycles of the earth’s temperatures. And I really don’t believe that global warming is anywhere near some sort of tipping point wherein we are all doomed if we don’t suddenly all stop driving.

    And thanks for pointing out your ironic comment. How could I have missed that? Apparently my sarcastic response to that very comment using that very language was missed by you.

  11. @ anonymous2 - nope not bad at all. Pretty good overall I'd say. Unfortunately the next commenter disagrees. Vehemently it seems.

    @ stupidamericans - wow.

  12. About that last thing anonymous wrote - ever heard of sarcasm?

  13. well there have been a few anonymous comments here. I'm assuming you mean the America! Fuck Yeah! comment. And yes I realized the sarcasm. Anonymous called it irony. Which is why I chose to turn the comment around and sarcastically throw it back at him.

    If you're pointing out anonymous2then I read it as only having a hint of sarcasm but the main idea being that generalizations don't work because all in all most people are pretty decent and so chose to ignore it.

  14. I am an American but 25% Swedish so naturally I will take the Derek Smalls "Lukewarm water" approach:

    I've driven over 300k miles in several automobiles in the past 10 years and have come to this conclusion: Driving daily to and from work (mostly short[10-80miles round trip] distances) is a pain in the ass. Typically when one has to do this, they are in some sort of urban environment and therefore must endure traffic. Traffic sucks, and I feel that many people think that daily traffic is some sort of race(especially in TX where I am right now) which breeds quite a bit of ire for your fellow drivers....I "HATE" these people in my way and I don't even know them.
    For these sorts of trips, I'd much rather use public transportation which would allow me to read a book, use a laptop, etc. For longer trips, I can see the desire to have a car as you might want to follow your own schedule regarding where you might stop to sleep or for a bite to eat.

    Yes, The US has a lot of space but it doesn't really use it very wisely. Many of our communities are designed with cars in mind. I love the weird looks I get when I decide to walk through a mall parking lot to a store that is a few hundred yards away...people look at you like you're crazy..."look at that guy! He's WALKING!!!!" btw, Americans ARE fat. take a look around the next time you fly back. I remember being shocked the first time I came back to the states from Europe.

  15. @tp - agreed. traffic sucks. but it's not neccesarily the case that you're in an urban environment whch forces you to the car. I would aruge if anything it is more of a suburban environment. Big enough to need cars but not big enough for an effective mass-transit system. and in the suburban areas Ive lived in it seems that while traffic is always a pain rush hour is more like rush half hour. And I think anyone who has spent time driving in traffic shares your hatred towards some driver despite knowing nothing about them except for thekind of car they drive and how they drive it.

    I am a far away parker. But I must say Ive never felt like someone looked at me strangely. Except for a blizzard a couple of years ago. But that was crazy.

    And AMericans are bigger than Europeans. Agreed, but I just get tired of the stereotype that every American is fat and dumb. Not true. And exhausting to constantly have to refute. Interestingly enough there are all kinds of studies popping up here in Sweden about the imcrease in obesity in Europe and Sweden.

  16. Hmm... here I was loving the blog and then find you'll drive for extremely short trips because you can. Here are my thoughts on driving in US, everywhere.

    1) Average distance of destinations in US is not much different from Europe. In fact, 49% of all trips in US are under 3 miles– this distance can easily be cycled or taken by public transit

    2) Aside from being bad for enviro, we cannot afford for everyone to drive simply due to limited space which cars take up a lot of. Nobody wants to live next to noisy, high traffic streets yet you want to be free to drive wherever you want? Not gonna happen.

    3)Car centric design is ugly. What will one prefer, navigating a sea of parking to get to a big box store or walking from sidewalk into storefront of building? I'm not asking what's more convenient, but what do people want? Which do people want to live next to?

    4) Cars are dangerous and account for many, unnecessary deaths and injuries. Good driver or not, if you're behind the wheel you're operating a machine that can kill and not enough people understand that– especially those who give little thought about why or where they're driving.

    5)the noise, danger, blight, and pollution of cars on local streets is bad. It's selfish and unpractical and destroys quality of life for those subjected to being adjacent to traffic. Often people will not opt to walk or cycle at all because conditions are so unpleasant on their local business corridors.

    6) Think of your ideal neighborhood, is everyone driving? Is the air polluted? Are historic buildings preserved or demolished in favor of parking lots? Are the streets safe? Are kids playing outside? Are there parks? A lot of things people want are in conflict with their love of driving. Car centric/prioritization of cities ultimately results in: fewer parks/green space, dangerous streets, pollution, loss of community connectedness, noise pollution, inefficient land-use, difficulty for local/small businesses to open or last long, reduced mobility for children and elderly as street designs will favor driving over modes of transport more suitable for those demographics, makes life more difficult for those unable to afford cars...

    Cars are bad for so many reasons environment aside. I will never understand why people would support more driving or ENJOY it. People visit cities in Europe because they love the public transit, pedestrian plazas, bicycles and walkability. Little do they realize the US could be like that and with better weather in states like CA!

    Anyway what I'm saying at this point probably doesnt relate much.

  17. Yeah, I was totally being a smartass there. With a focus on the ass. I do have a car in the US now, but I drive maybe two or three times a week and one of those is to get groceries. I usually walk or take the bus.