Friday, July 17, 2009

Swedish Summer Public Transportation

I am a sweaty man. One of my more attractive qualities really. Which might not say much about my other qualities. But being sweaty and being in Stockholm when the sun is shining and it is humid doesn’t do me well.

And it’s even worse when I’m on the bus. Because until today, every Swedish bus I have ever been on has been lacking one key amenity. Air conditioning. Today though, I sat in the finest bus I have ever seen. And the air conditioning caressed my sweaty face whisking away my beads of perspiration. That last sentence was damn near poetic by the way. Feel free to use it in every day conversation.

It was a good thing though that the bus was air conditioned, because along with being sweaty I am judgmental. Mostly of people. And I do it quickly. Call it my Malcolm Gladwell Blink instinct. And I don’t tolerate stupid people. I just don’t. Maybe because, despite what some might gather from my writing, I don’t consider myself a stupid person.

But regardless of what you think of me, I think we can all agree that there are stupid people in the world. And one was sitting right behind me. At first I thought he was flirting with the older woman sitting next to him, which, to be honest, should have been warning enough about his intelligence level. But it got worse.

She asked him where he was headed. And he forgot. He spent five minutes trying to remember. An actual conversation took place as to why he was on the bus. Where he was going. What he was doing. And it wasn’t one of those scary “oh shit he forgot everything” moments, it was a scary” man that guy is an idiot” moments. Finally, he checked his cell phone. Turns out he was meeting his brother. Apparently family wasn’t at the top of his priorities when a haggard looking old lady with boobs hanging out was sitting next to him.

But my ride just got better. Because I transferred to the subway. And there was a busker on the subway. I don’t know if they are actually considered buskers if they are riding on the subway or if they were sitting at the station, but either way, the man was playing music and asking for money.

As a general rule I don’t give money away to strangers unless they have something unique to offer. Like people promising me a hug for a quarter. This man had music. Which just wasn’t enough for me. Then I started looking him up and down. The man was well dressed. Nice pants, nice shirt, an old, but nice sports jacket. And then I looked at his shoes. Because if I learned one thing in business school it’s that shoes make the man. The man had nicer shoes than me. I’m cheap, but these things were fancy looking.

My first reaction was that to be a beggar dressed better than your beggees seemed like a bad plan. Then I completely changed my mind. This man had balls. Dressing to the nines to go play music on a subway takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude. And I appreciate testicular fortitude. So I gave him the coins in my pocket. A grand total of 2.5 SEK. I can only appreciate testicular fortitude so much.

And finally, just a quick tip. When it is hot and humid and you plan on riding public transportation, there is one rule you should follow above all else. Wear deodorant. I know I sweat, so every morning I wear deodorant. Hell, I even have it in my bag that I carry to work every day. I don’t like it when my nostrils are assaulted.

Welcome to Sweden. And summer public transportation.

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  1. When I was in London two weeks ago I of course spent quite a bit of time on the tube, as you do (the lines that were actually running, that is), and I don't know if it was just a coincidence, but every car I was in had at least one ad for deodorants!!! I just wish people would actually read them and take them to heart... :(

  2. I don't really think of a street musician as a beggar. He's performing (for free) and hoping you'll feel inclined to drop a little into his hat for the pleasure of hearing his music. If his music is good, I'm happy to oblige, regardless of how snappy a dresser he is.

    I am assuming, based on your silence on the subject, that this guy wasn't a particularly good musician.

  3. Lucky for me most if not all buses are air conditioned here but this summer has been cool and rainy so I am amazed that they even turn it on! Our buses look like they were decorated by Swedes though. I bet the Public Transit Commisioner is a Swede because the Blå och Guld is all over the inside of the buses! I am a sweaty guy too so I totally understand you Hairy (I am hairy too so maybe that has something to do with it?).

  4. I don't like smelly people and I don't understand why they must inflict their stench upon others. It's just not right, the smelly sadists.

    I don't mind musicians though. It's the people who shove crap at you and then expect you to pay for it that really bother me.

    I think I'm a bit tipsy. Is there some rule about not commenting on blogs in this state?

  5. i can't really understand these buskers.the other day we were at Gamla stan sitting outside enjoying our coffee(as they say fika) one of them came out of no where started playing crap that reminds you of Paris in old movies so ofcourse we were bothered! and then he came to us begging in a most desperate way for money unfortunately i just lost on him , which made me look ugly...!
    and just recently very often i see a small girl at certain times on the train and another older woman at other times and you don't need to be sherlock holmes to notice how tight they look like each other!
    apparently it's even illegal to panhandle in Sweden and i don't know why they don't stop them!
    Sweden you never cease to amaze me!
    about they guy on the bus maybe he was thinking ok, these young girls are so slippy let's see how's this old one! beside someone said boobs?! ;)

  6. Inotice the lady who plays the accordian looking instrument outside of my COOP has a rather impressive collection of new sneakers. (tennis shoes)

    I may start pan handling myself soon. Tax free and cool shoes. Besides, no one knows me here.

  7. Began reading between the lines during your post. Maybe the sweating was caused by those hanging boobs and thus you didn't quite catch the conversation the allegedly stupid man was having..? LOL! Read you like a book, man :)

  8. @terander – well, at least they are targeting the right market

    @Laura – unfortunately, in this case, I think I still have to refer to this as begging. Take that for what its worth in terms of his musical skills…

    @Néstor - its just not fair that hairy people are sweaty. Makes for a rough go when it is hot. I think Canada and Sweden need to have some sort of partnership in terms of busses. Because Sweden needs some air conditioned busses.

    @E – I don’t like smelly people either. How do they not notice though? Everyone gets smelly at some point. It happens. But, I tend to notice when I stink and take appropriate measures to combat my stench. Like shower. Deodorant. Cologne. Toothpaste.

    And in terms of commenting after drinking, yes, there is a rule. The rule states as follows:
    The commenting while under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotics is strictly encouraged. Especially if said usage of alcohol and/or narcotics results in my laughing.

    @Mike – oh man… I think you nailed it with the guy on the bus. Someone said boobs and that’s all it took for him.

    @kmbr – my old man always tells a story of when he was living here one of the news agencies did a report on panhandling and followed a guy who was begging for moneyevery day. They followed him after his day of work and watched him get into a really nice car and drive to his very nice home.

    There was actually a similar study done in Denver, Colorado a few years back and they basically found that successful beggars were making a damn lot of money.

    @Smek – ewwww. Haha.

  9. Then I shouldn't have posted. Apologies. I'll keep your rule in mind if there is a next time. :)

    Anyway...I truly believe some people don't smell themselves. Or, don't mind their own stinky. It really does irritate me. People have actually made fun of me about my sensitivity, but I consider it common courtesy and try to smell decent...not offensive. People are always telling me how great I smell. I'm beginning to think I don't even smell particularly good...just good compared to all the other stinky people. It's way worse in Europe though, so I feel for you.

    Is Smek saying hanging boobs are attractive? *confused*

  10. some people are overly sensitive. but some people plain stink. and thats just not nice.