Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adding Insult to Tardiness - More Adventures on Stockholm’s Public Transportation

Last night I was out on the town. And by out on the town I went to dinner and grabbed a drink with a friend. I was home before 10. I am a rebel without a cause.

But the ride home on good old SL presented me with a new experience. A very aggravated train conductor. Now, the train conductors in Sweden tend to be heard but not seen. And not even seen unless you are late for the train. They hide in their little compartments at the front and back of each train. They pop out at the stops to make sure no one has a leg stuck in the door. Other than that, you don’t see them. You only hear them if they want to make an announcement.

Usually they stick to the basics. Se upp för dörrarna, dörrarna stängs. The British version being, Mind the Gap. Perhaps they’ll come on to tell you that they are running behind because of leaves on the tracks. Because once again, Mother Nature and her never ending cycle of decay during the autumnal months has caught SL off guard once again. Or maybe it’s December and SL was surprised by the snow. Because living near the Arctic Circle would suggest that snow in December is an anomaly. And sometimes maybe they just want to get something off their chest.

And last night, the train conductor wanted to do just that. An announcement to clear the air. One that seemed to suggest she was at the end of her shift. And her rope for that matter.

Because as we waited a bit longer than usual at a stop, the distant crackling voice of a conductor came over the loudspeakers. Var snäll och släpp dörrarna. Pucko.

The first part isn’t so strange. Kind of polite in that Swedish way. Please let go of the doors. Because the doors can be held open. Which means the train can’t leave. It’s obnoxious when you have somewhere to be. But when you’re in no big hurry, it’s dealable. Which sounds like a word. Kind of.

Anyway, it was that final word that caught my attention. Pucko. Freak. Idiot. It’s also a delicious chocolate milk drink sold here in Sweden. One which another former Coloradoan has adopted down in Lund.

The train conductor said what everyone else was probably thinking. Clearly the person doing this was a delicious chocolate milk drink. Or a freak and idiot. I loved it. It was a beautiful display of passive aggressiveness. Mostly because of the politeness that preceded the insult.

But whoever was holding the door let it go. And we were on our way. And we didn’t get held up at any more stops after that. She did her job. And she did it well.

Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. Haha, that was the most hilarious post ever... Well, if you're going to insult someone you might as well do it politely, right? Especially if you have a job that you want to keep...

  2. I think "pucko" has more of a "dumbo" connotation, in that you might playfully call your friend "pucko", rather than "idiot".

    I'd give anything to hear a train conductor say "You damn fool" or something to that extent in Swedish when people mess around with the trains. Like these damn kids I saw once, who had forced open doors before the train pulled into the station, oggling and laughing at their genius and terrified spectators.

    But the point is: I think that many people would want to applaud that, at an unmistakable verbal show of anger rather than a passive aggressive mumbling. But of course they wouldn't. It wouldn't be correct. The Swedes only applaud at the ends of a particularly good movie in the cinema, something which still catches me off-guard and even has me feeling slightly embarrassed on their behalf - except in the case of maybe that ONE guy who's maybe never seen a movie before, having lived in a cave for the better part of his life.

    Or the guy with some tic that makes him think he's a seal and that it's time for fish. Either way.

  3. @robban - its true. she was hedging her bets. didnt want to go too far what with the uncertain economy and all.

    @creep - yeah it would be pretty great if they just went all out on someone over the loud speakers.

    and Ive never thought about it, but youre right. clapping at movie theaters confuses me too.

    also, when I was flying ryan air last time between poland and here, they clapped when we landed. which just threw me off. thats the pilots job. to make sure we land. the fact that we arent in a burning pile of rubble should be thanks enough. the pilot doesnt need applaud.

  4. Well, it's ncie with applauds like that, even though I've never heard it...<

  5. Applause when the plan lands, is a custom on tourist charter flights. Never on a regular flight, but maybe there were some n00bs on board who had only ever flown to Mallorca...

  6. @anonymous - it really threw me off. I didnt like it at all. maybe Im just a grouch.

    @oaklandisk - interesting... Ive never been on a charter flight, maybe I had somehow missed the memom that flying on ryanair to poland was akin to taking a charter to mallorca.

    I mean they are similar right? poland and mallorca. ryanair and charter flights. nearly identical really.

  7. Ha! I love your blog! We seem to have similar backgrounds! My family is Swedish, but I was raised in the US, as well. I grew up in NW Florida (Panama City Beach), then spent '97 till '05 in Denver, Colorado =) We moved here in late '05! I can so relate!!!!

  8. Pucko used for name calling.... how brilliently Swedish! I think I'll treat myself to a glass. Keep on keeping on.

  9. dudes dude i think the insult came before the drink, at least i think they're totaly unrelated to eachother

  10. Angry train drivers is not uncommon. The best comment I heard was the driver telling a gang of teenagers to stop acting like apes.

  11. @angelica – thanks! Its quite the country. And quite the difference between states. You’ve been here for a while now though again. Whats your take on the differences between the countries now? Has it changed quite a bit since you first moved back?

    @The dude – indeed… they do it all here in Sweden. They do it all.

    @anonymous – I hope they are unrelated. Otherwise someone in the marketing department seemed to have dropped the ball. Or they are complete geniuses. Because a lot of people love pucko.

    @jesper – I love it. Im going to have to pay more attention. This was the first time I ever noticed any name calling.

  12. haha this was really funny cus it was so unexpected.. please let go of the doors...pucko! haha love it

  13. I once had a train conductor who started a countdown everytime the doors was about to close. "You better get in before the doors close: 5...4...3...2...1" *doors closing*. Like the train really was some kind of a rocket taking of. Was kind of funny :) I havn't heard any insulting conductor though. The pucko-insult sure was a nice one!

  14. Last week I had a train conductor who stepped on the brakes in every goddamn 5 seconds. All the way from Kista to Näckrosen, and propably after that too. I began to feel sick after constant braking and accelerating. I mean, what was his problem..? I saw the face of the conductor at Näckrosen, and it was an old man. So not a trainee anymore. Pissed off maybe?

  15. well if you happen to be a member of the family that owns the co that makes Pucko then you realize it's far from an insult to be called Pucko. lucky person to be associated wih something rich and smooth like a Pucko!

  16. @anonymous - yeah it was pretty unexpected. I started laughing.

    @Izi - that's awesome. I think that would make the train ride a lot more fun. mostly becausr rockets are awesome. obviously.

    @smek - apparently. or maybe there was a leaf on the tracks. that usually is enough to throw sl off schedule.

    @anonymous - very true. its all a matter of perspective.

  17. In regards to the hand clapping after landing: It originates from when the charter flights were really popular (a couple of decades ago). It's also become something of a cultural in-joke since the swedish cult-comedy classic "Sällskapsresan" (1980). If you see a swede doing this it's probably a sarcastic reference to this phenomena. I still feel uncomfortable seeing it though since you invariably come across as an uncivilized lout (which is more or less the intention).

    Also I hear the subway driver tell people off rather often (usually kids).

  18. @anonymous - thanks for the heads up with the history behind the clapping. very interesting. now the question is... is the movie worth seeing?

    since writing this Ive heard a lot of people tell me that subway drivers do this quite often. this wa the first time for e and Ive been here for a year and a half. I really need to start paying more attention I guess.

  19. Yes, Sällskapsresan is worth seeing.
    It makes fun of Swedes ;)

  20. alright its on my list of movies to see then