50 Shades of Swedish Anger
I moved to Malmö from San Francisco with my wife and daughter four years ago. Aside from Sweden’s national health system and affordable childcare, Malmö’s urban bike lanes impress me the most.
Malmö’s abundant, accessible and safe network of bike lanes allows one to travel safely throughout the city and beyond.
I often ride to family functions about 20 kilometers
This integrated infrastructure allows and encourages people to bike.
Once a week I took her to swim class on the bike. In this moment exist my two favorite aspects of Swedish living – biking and swimming. Both organically integrated into life through the investment of infrastructure, which underlines Sweden’s cultural prioritization of healthy choices and lifestyles.
The Swedish Government requires that children possess basic swimming skills by age 11.
Global warming poses little threat to this nation of swimmers. If the polar icecaps melt they will simply back stroke away. Hypothermia may present a problem ,however, I am confident Swedish scientist are experimenting with genetic splicing with polar bears.
Ask any Swede “ Can you swim?” and most answer without hesitation, “Of course.
One day last fall, as we entered the street a car approached in our direction forcing us to the left side of the road. Then immediately a car came from behind and passed us. Anja still reeling from tunnel ride laughed and wiggled in the seat.
As the car, a little ford escort station wagon passed us the driver looked back.
His expression could only be described as the combination of the following possibilities: he’s insane, he knew me, I owned him money, he’s perplexed, he’s stressed or all of the above.
Rocking a wool cap with shoulder length blonde hair, he looked like the base player for a band that opened for Alanis Morissette at the Lilith Fair in 1993.
I noticed three kids in the car and concluded quickly he’s having a bad day.
But I realized this guy’s going Viking on me.
I’ve got my daughter with me and we’ve got to get to swim class.
Part of me, however, wants to test my theory about Swedes and confrontation. Are they truly committed to non-confrontation? What if I crank this up? It’s not going to be too hard to ratchet up this scenario.Yet I cannot afford to be wrestling on the ground with some Viking berserker if my theory turns out incorrect.
I’ve got my daughter with me – behind me – and we’ve got to get to swim class!
So I don’t.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand Swedish,” I calmly state.
“Oh you don’t do you! Well I will learn you!” he barks.
Now this statement offers many possible responses.
I want to say, “ Oh by the way it’s not learn it’s teach.”
But I don’t.
In my experience every Swede speaks English but not every Swede speaks English well, nor at the crucial times you need them to, like when you go in for the vasectomy and need clarity about what is going to be snipped.
Ask any Swede, “Do you speak English?’
And they generally respond “Of course.”, in a tone which seems to imply ‘What do you think I’m German?!”
Then they impress themselves with their English skills negating your opportunity to practice Swedish. Later they often resent you for living in Sweden and not learning Swedish.
Most importantly, I realize that Swedes lack, to coin and trademark a phrase, Mellan Anger or Middle Anger.
But anger, well, we had 17 levels of parking incident anger, 8 levels of pre- annoyance before you reach the stage of raging anger.
So I know anger.
I think to myself
ok come on, ‘not suppose to what?’ What is it that I could have possible done? What international crime against humanity did I commit that justifies this moment of rage? Please tell me now.
“Don’t you know that you are not suppose to bike on the left side of the road!”
Where was this flavor of rage when the NAZIs decided to take over Europe?
We could have used this guy then.
The Norwegians could have.
They might have shared the oil later, maybe not, maybe , probably not.
There are things to get upset about and there are things to get upset about.
So say a fascist regime passes through your land on their way to take over Europe and slaughter your neighbors now that one ignores because you are neutral and pacifist nation.
However, a guy riding his bike on the wrong side of road now that’s an injustice one can make a stand against.
“No actually I don’t ,,,”
Then I said “I’m sorry but you don’t need to be rude, I didn’t know …..”’
“ Oh you didn’t” he spits out.
“ Now you’re being hostile” I state.
This silver bullet stops him.
Then I repeat, reiterate. “ There is no reason to be rude and hostile.”
This psychological one-two combination, this emotionally intelligent Tai Kwon Do take down causes him internal reflection, I can see the wheel turning slowly.
We have the Nobel peace price.
His system clogs, his engine seizes, he toggles.
Then I motion to the door, an overture of kindness and manners, a gesture – please you go first.
An overturebut also street-smart maneuver, because I don’t want this berserker behind me.
I open the door for him and in the best Swedish I say “Varsågod” roughly translated meaning
“You are welcome”
A: to be polite
B: to speak his language.
I did not add Stockholm slang Miffo = Moron
But I wanted to.
But I don’t .
Because I’ve got my daughter with me
and we’ve got to get to Swim class.