I have fallen into a bit of a routine here in Sweden. A Swedish routine. And I didn’t even realize it until this morning.
I found myself waiting around for the bus. And by waiting around I mean standing in line. A very orderly line. I turned back in line and saw at least 20 people doing the exact same thing. Headphones in. Heads tucked in newspapers. Not a word being spoken. But probably the nicest line I’ve been in since at least elementary school where lining up properly before lunch resulted in beating the other classes to the cafeteria.
As everyone stands in line, engrossed by their newspaper or iPods, they also look in the direction of the buses arrival. As if watching will somehow make the bus come faster. When the bus finally pulls up, there is a brief rustling of papers, a slight fuss as everyone prepares to climb on. And then the bus driver does something that never ceases to amaze me. He pulls a bus that has damn near the same area as my apartment centimeters away from the curb. He does not hit the curb. That could kill someone. He doesn’t leave a large gap between the steps and the curb. That could lead to catastrophe for the old ladies who I inevitably find myself standing behind. He pulls within inches of the curb. As if it was the easiest thing in the world. I struggle to pull the Saab into a parking spot without scraping the car next to me.
Sweden has by far the most orderly public transportation crowd I have ever seen. I think it has something to do with the ubiquitous line-up system you find in banks throughout the country. Take a number and wait. It has become such a habit to properly wait your turn in the exact order of arrival that it has extended to public transportation. And this morning was no different.
It’s all very fair. There’s no jockeying for position as the bus pulls up. You’ve already staked claim to your position. Just stand quietly and accept your lot in life.
It was amazing. Amazing that everyone quietly lines up to climb onto the bus. And I did it too. Amazing that no one speaks. And neither was I. Amazing that the bus driver can command the bus like he does. And I can’t.
For some reason it all seemed very Swedish. The line. The silence. The snow. The slowly spreading daylight. It was the epitome of a Swedish winter morning during the commuter rush. I soaked it all up. It was glorious, in a strange sort of way.
I couldn’t help but chuckle heartily. To myself obviously though. There were people around. And this is Sweden.
So, Welcome to Sweden.