Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nattbussen in Stockholm

Weekend nights sometimes end in a special transportation adventure. Nattbussen. The night bus. I try to avoid it. But sometimes it can’t be helped. Last night was one of those unavoidable times. Because the train just doesn’t go at 3:30 in the morning.

While those people who live smack dab in the middle of town, or at least near a subway line, can take the subway all night on the weekends, those of us who live away from the subway line have choices to make. Catch the last train early in the evening, or wait for the night bus.

It’s not an easy decision. For a variety of reasons. The main one being that the night bus just sucks. I tried coming up with something creative there but it just needs to be said. The night bus sucks.

It’s a collection of drunkards. Which is to be expected in the pre-dawn hours of a Sunday morning. But you never know what kind of drunkards you are going to get. It could be the sleepy drunkards. The ones who nod off and suddenly end up leaning their head on your shoulder. It’s cozy.

It could be the obsessive drunkards. The ones who sit and pick at the foam from the seat in front of them. The farther back in the bus you go the more destroyed each seat back becomes. Apparently even obsessive drunks understand that the bus driver just can’t possibly see what they are doing that far back.

It could even be the loud drunkards, the ones who after having been quiet and Swedish all week feel the need to scream, yell, and be obnoxious. These are the enjoyable ones. Because suddenly Swedes will talk to you. Sometimes they’ll feed you their life philosophy. Other times they’ll tell you about their night. And once they told me shame on me for being American. It’s a crapshoot really.

You’ll also encounter all kinds of fluids. Bodily and otherwise. Because you have an entire busload of drunk people. Do not wear sandals on the night bus.

To get drunk people tend to drink alcohol. It’s just the way it works. So there’s a good chance you are going to be putting your feet down in some beer. Booze isn’t really allowed on the bus, but people tend to just hide their beer in the coat pockets. Or, since everyone brings their own alcohol with them to parties, have a bag in which the beer is transported. And even though people are heading home, the ride takes a while. So why not crack open another beer? Over the course of a night in which hundreds of people make this trip, it’s just a matter of time before the floor is awash in beer as it slowly coagulates and gives off that unmistakable aroma.

People are also spitting on the floors. It’s that step right before you vomit. You start spitting a lot. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, the last place you want to be is on the night bus when you are caught by the pre-vomit spits. But it’s bound to happen. Someone is going to vomit. And if they don’t vomit while you are on the bus, chances are someone vomited before you stepped on the bus. A lot of it might have to do with the way the bus drivers drive. They seem to take a perverse pleasure in making the ride as wild as possible. If you don’t cut over the curb at least twice causing the whole back end of the bus to jiggle like a fat person jumping rope the bus driver just hasn’t been doing his job.

Anyway, always check your seat before sitting down. Blindly plopping your drunk ass down on the seat can end in disaster. Even stepping blindly can end in disaster. Like I said, sandals aren’t recommended.

You might even get to change busses. For some reason. No explanation. You just get off the bus with everyone else. Like a herd of cows in a drunken stupor. And then you get onto the bus waiting for you. And wait. And wait. Because it takes time to empty a bus full of inebriated Swedes and move them to the next bus. Plus, someone passed out. Which is a bad idea.

Because, no matter what happens, if you are riding the bus alone, stay awake. No one knows where you’re going. No one is going to wake you up. And the night bus goes a long ways. Falling asleep can result in you wandering around in the dead of night trying to find your way home. And it gets cold in Sweden at night.

The night bus does give you time to think. Ponder life’s many mysteries. Like why the hell you have to live so far away. Or why its 8 degrees at 3:40 in the morning in November and you’re just a few hours from the Arctic Circle. Or why you had that last beer. Or if it’s possible to run off the bus at the next stop so you can pee and make it back before the bus leaves. (It’s not.)

And then, when you’re starting to get lost in your own thoughts and maybe even enjoying the ride a bit, the girl four rows behind you vomits. While the group of guys in front of you starts heckling the two recently turned 18 year old guys who look like they haven’t started shaving yet. And then a half full can of Falcon rolls to your feet splashing beer on your jeans. And that’s when you remember. The night bus sucks.

Welcome to Sweden. And the night bus in the greater Stockholm area.

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  1. I rode the night bus. Once.

    At least all those drunks aren't piloting their own cars home as so many do here in the USA.

  2. its an interesting experience. probably one that everyone should experience. once.

    and thats true. Im all for anything that gets people home without a bunch of drunk drivers.

  3. I haven't done this in Stockholm, but I can relate to it easily. I've had too many night bus rides in Finland. Way too many...

    I have an idea for you: try taxi! It costs more but is a night bus worth the money saved really?

  4. Ive done the taxi before too... its just so damn expensive. and Im cheap. so I put up with the adventure that is the night bus.

  5. Hairy,

    Well done.Your essay brings back the not-so-fond memories of boozing while in the US Navy. I am reminded also of the English sea ditty:

    "What do you do with a drunken sailor ... (three times)

    Ear-lye in the morning?"

    An answer is, it seems: "put him on a night bus in Stockholm."

    Better than lying in a gutter.


    Sober Ron

  6. so very true.

    Ill take the night bus over the street any ear-lye morning.

  7. Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off!

    Oh Hairy Swede I here by worship thy blog!

    I just started this blog thing, and I must say it's quite amusing! I came across your blog by chance while I was doing traveling research on Sweden and frankly, reading your opinions and thoughts and funny as hell comments provided me with more insights and understanding than a tour book ever will! :D

    Keep the adventures coming!

  8. Im glad you've enjoyed it!

    it is pretty entertaining to see all these different sides of sweden when you live here instead of just coming to visit for a little bit.

  9. Never has a night bus ride been described so accurately. I had to take the night bus to work for a while, seven days a week, and it's the same every day. Weekends are just a little bit worse.

    Once I saw a sleeping guy get his pockets looted. Of course I didn't say anything, I Swedish. And small. And weak. And not in a good position to handle a mob of mean teenage girls. But I still feel ashamed, several years later.

  10. the night bus is an adventure everytime. I fought to stay awake every time I was on it not knowing what might happen if I fell asleep.