It happened again. I talked to a crazy person. It happens more than I’d care to admit. Two in the morning on the subway home though is a classic time. But this time was different and, as it turned out, rather entertaining. Maybe because an old man was involved, an old man who had obviously had a rough life.
I was discussing work with a buddy of mine. A subject that I try to avoid because I get plenty of work discussion at work. Strangely enough. The man sitting across the aisle from us piped in and began hounding me about my pay. Did the money matter. Did a title matter. Wouldn’t life be better if everyone made the exact same salary. No. No it would not. Apparently that was the wrong answer.
Well wouldn’t life be better if everyone got the exact same retirement. No. Not it would not. Again, the wrong answer. At this point he began questioning me about my parents and their retirement. When I told him they were in the US, he lit up. In that sort of, oooh, now I’ve got you kind of way.
I humored him though. I let him spout his ideals. I usually do. I can handle the opinions, but I struggle with the boldfaced misconceptions. He began telling me that there is no such thing as retirement in the US, that disabled people (I really don’t know what the politically correct term is for disabled. Handicapped? Disabled? Handicapable?) do not receive any help, from anyone, and that I have no right to compare Sweden and the US but he had lived in the US so he could do it. Really, it wasn't until this point that I realized the old man wasn't quite all there.
I was nice though. I was even respectful when he said that handicapped people should be given the same amount of money as Bill Gates. Which made no sense to me at all. But I went with it.
It was a hard argument to follow really. Especially after drinking. But it was amazing to see the old man fishing for anything and everything that might be wrong with the US. Anything and everything that might be seen as controversial. He played the usual cards. Focusing mostly on the health care thing, but also the Social Security thing. It was a tired argument, and one that has been heard before. This man offered nothing new to the conversation. Except for his delivery.
He had slightly crazy eyes. The kind with a flickering flame burning just beneath the surface. As if at one point he really was an intelligent man rather than a babbling fool riding the subway at two in the morning. He kept flicking his tongue over his yellowing teeth with a half smile/half smirk on his face. It was mildly disconcerting. But fascinating. So much so that I nearly missed my stop. But I ripped myself away from the conversation, hastily leaving my buddy (who is Swedish) to discuss the intricacies of Social Security with the old man. It went well.
Welcome to Sweden. And late night conversations.
Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden