Monday, October 26, 2009

Saabs to Skåne, Busses to Stockholm

On Saturday I left my apartment around 8:30 in the morning to drive down and visit my family in southern Sweden. I had hoped to leave Friday afternoon but got stuck at work. Seeing as how I have no heat my car, I wasn’t too excited about driving down late at night. It tends to get cold.

So Saturday morning I bundle up. Hoodie, hat, gloves and a jacket just in case and I am ready to go. Immediately, I am cold and have to pee. Because despite being 25, I still am not responsible enough to pee before I leave the house to drive for five hours.

As I’m driving, I’m listening to my iPod. Because along with not having any heat, my radio doesn’t work. All the while I am shivering. I’m pretty sure driving for five hours was the best workout I’ve had in quite some time. My traps were sore the next day. It was quite the workout.

But I made it through the drive without incident, which, considering my history of running out of gas, having my battery die, or nearly losing a tire, seemed like a small victory. While I was visiting my family, I changed to the winter tires as required by law here in good old Sweden.

Since my winter tires had been sitting unused for a few months, I decided I would go to the gas station and put a little air in them. So I got into my car. And turned the key. And the car started. And the car died. And my sore traps sagged.

I am not good with cars. The only things I know how to fix have been forced upon me because I buy old run down cars. I can change a muffler for example and am capable of using enough duct tape to get a 1989 Saab 9000 to drive me home. But I cannot open the hood and look in and figure out what is wrong. It doesn’t help that my manual is written in French. I’m surprisingly ok with all of this until my car dies. At which point I am surprisingly angry at myself.

This time was worse. For a variety of reasons. One being that I had scheduled an appointment to get the heat fixed with my local mechanic, local meaning Stockholm, on Monday morning. My car died on Saturday. Suddenly, I was faced with the possibility that what should have been a relatively simple fix of the heating system would result in me just junking the car.

So after some phone calls to my old man in the US (who, by the way, has received phone calls from me about car trouble from various corner of the globe, including Australia) I was able to get the car started. Kind of. If I kept the RPMs revving high enough I could go places. Of course, that makes stop signs and roundabouts troublesome.

With ample use of my emergency lights, I was able to get my car to a mechanic. Of course, mechanics are closed on the weekend so I left it out front with a little note saying please steal me so I can get insurance money (that’s not true... I do not endorse insurance fraud). Turns out, that very night the mechanic was the victim of a little vandalism and several cars were broken into. Mine was not amongst them.

Instead of driving home at a leisurely pace on Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on a cramped bus for over seven hours. In silence. In the dark. The clocks had changed the night before so suddenly the sun was setting around 4:15 in the afternoon. And I was sitting on a bus in total silence, wondering how much I would have to pay to have a functioning car.

The call came Monday morning. I prepared for the worst. I had eaten some yogurt in advance just in case. The mechanic had taken a look, it wasn’t a big deal, parts and labor to get the car running, the heat working, and even the radio playing, would be less than $500. I let out an awkward relieved laugh. You know the one. Kind of high pitched while exhaling.

So I have a working car again. Kind of. Because it is parked nearly 600 km away from home. Looks like I have another bus ride in my future.

Welcome to Sweden. Where driving down South might result in a bus ride back North.

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  1. allegedly, people plan for their weekend on Monday here. Perhaps you need to use some of those genes, my friend.

  2. Well, that sounds it like really sucked.

    On a personal note, the bit about the sun setting in the afternoon was really depressing.

  3. Well done!

    The Old Man

  4. "If it has tires or testicles it'll give you trouble."

    I love the yogurt as inoculation against bad news thing, though. Wait. Yoghurt. Joghurt!

  5. Not too bad. Sorry you have to do the bus ride again though. i thought your car was "done fer".
    Hope you at least got a nice dinner with your auntie while there! (i also hope you had a good book with you for the bus ride!)

  6. ps,
    if he is the "old man" does that mean i am the "old woman"? don't like that very much!

  7. Your weekend is like a tragicomedy...definitely dramatic must have being the 7 hours bus ride back to Stockholm. Positive side: they will probably still have heating system when you take it to go pick your car up.
    Actually I share you pain, my bicycle it's been mean to me the tire kind of losing air..(seriously, I'm not being sarcastic!). I guess is always better to have a car 600km away than not having a car at all, right?

    I prefer my bicycle though:)

    Cheers from Sydney

  8. I love the comment about if have tires or testicles will be trouble! As a mother of three boys that made me laugh!

  9. Hey Hairy -

    I don't catch the blog all that much any more (mostly cause living our own Swedish adventure keeps most of my wife's and my time!) but next time you are in Skåne let us know and we'll buy you a beer.

  10. Hairy - don't take another godforsaken busride down there! Seriously - look into flying to Ängelholm, it really might be cheaper as well as faster. I've paid 450 SEK in the past. SAS (who I know you hate) and Kullaflyg fly there. It's definitely worth a look!

  11. I've been a silent reader of your blog for some time now and thoroughly enjoy what you write since I am preparing for my own "journey into the Swedish unknown" soon. I have to tell you this line -
    "I had eaten some yogurt in advance just in case." -made me laugh out loud! Glad your car wasn't that expensive and hope you can get to it soon!

  12. dude you need to get a proper BMW or something... aren't you a pro blogger?

    I wonder if Sweden has anything of a car culture to the degree the US does...

  13. @Tod – planning ahead s horribly overrated. I much prefer making decisions on the fly.

    @Eva – It did. And it is.

    @Anonymous (Old Man) – that’s just because you need a car when you come visit. I see right through your games old man.

    @not undecided – hmm... Im pretty sure theres an inappropriate joke to turn that around on women as well, but Im going to avoid the temptation.

    As a general rule I think yogurt (without the h obviously) should be eaten to ward off evil spirits. Had I not eaten so much yogurt, Im sure my car would have exploded.

    @mamma – I had an ok book, or play to be exact. Fröken Julie by Strindberg. It’s not really on my list of suggestions Im afraid.

    @mamma – p.s. yes.

    @TNT – maybe not undecided was on to something with the tire comment. Doesnt matter if its a car or a bike, they just come with problems.

    @mamma – Im sure you meant to say that as the mother of three boys you ended up being more awesome because we were so awesome that it rubbed off on you.

    @John – I might have to take you up on that. Especially if the car breaks again at which point I will need more than one beer.

    @terander – I do hate SAS, but for 450 SEK I can learn to love them.

    @Leplume – well Im glad I made you laugh, and good luck with your adventure!

    @JD – at the rate Im going, lets say I find a new BMW for $30,000, I will have to keep this blog going for 250 years. And I’m just not sure if Ive got it in me.

    In terms of car culture, definitely not. At least not in Stockholm, it still amazes me how many people I know here who don’t have a drivers license.

  14. Hairy,
    Yes I do want your car and the funny thing is.. it worked
    See what I did there...
    The Old Man

  15. laughed out loud through the whole blog AND the comments! good job. go for an Audi 4 - my dream car.

  16. to be honest i prefer to be spontaneous too, beside if you use your genes then who gonna write in here !

  17. I just discovered your blog and am Really enjoying. I kind of had the opposite childhood from you- born in the US to Swedish dad and American mom- moved to Sweden when I was a few years old and stayed till I was 12. Recently I had the chance to go back and study abroad and it was the best experience, and I'm Extremely jealous that you just picked up and moved there. Goodluck and keep up the blog!

  18. @anonymous - hmmm... well played.

    @Swedish Sue - I think it is going to be a while before I am anywhere near the price range for an audi. instead, it looks like a '93 Saab 9000 is the way to go.

    @Tod - it does make for more excitement.

    @Darlene - thanks! it is pretty fun.

  19. I'm curious why you aren't taking the train?

    You seriously have some horrible bad luck with that car!! Can't wait to hear about your next adventure with it breaking down and such ;).

  20. I prefer driving. plus a lot of the time it ends up being cheaper.