Sunday, December 18, 2005

Those Poor Brave Viking Souls

One of the things that struck me most when I first moved to Sweden was how much Swedes live their lives according to the rhythm of the seasons. In the fall months, it's almost as if they live in denial that the long, dark winter is on the horizon. "No, November is not coming. Really, it's not." They try to squeeze every last ounce (or, in their case, gram) of sunlight and warmth out of the waning autumn days.

This is extended to the extensive use of outdoor terraces even through the beginning of October, long after the time when green things (and human toes and fingers, for that matter) should be taken indoors in order to avoid frostbite. The longevity of outdoor terraces can be extended a few different ways: heat lamps that radiate warmth (but that are really only warm if you are sitting directly under them), and perhaps more practically, a large supply of fleece blankets that customers can wrap up in as they cuddle up and drink their cafe lattes through shivering lips.

From June 1, 2005, a "rökförbud" (smoking prohibition) has been in place in all of Sweden's bars and restaurants. This worked quite well during the warm summer months, when all Swedes wanted to be outside anyway. However, the winter months pose a new challenge. If people want to smoke, they have to go outside, into the cold, to do it.

In previous years, the supply of fleece blankets are usually retired at the beginning of October for their long, winter hibernation on the shelves of the stock room, only to make their spring debut at the same time as the first rays of sunshine at the end of March. However, it seems that ingenious bar and club owners have discovered an entirely new use for these blankets.

Last night, while strolling along Götgatan in Södermalm, I noticed a group of smokers, decked out in party gear, huddled outside of the back entrance of a club, with hands shaking so badly that it was difficult for them to hold onto their cigarettes. Their only protection against the chilly Scandinavian winter was a thin, red fleece barrier and presumably, several "stor starks" to fortify themselves before they braved the cold for that oh-so-necessary nicotine fix.

Now, I know how cold it can be in Stockholm without the comfort of a down jacket, a wool scarf, a hat, leather gloves, and an extra sweater or two underneath. This leaves a bit of a conundrum for Friday and Saturday nights, as it is a general rule that when out, the fewer clothes you have on, the better (this especially applies to girls, I guess). A few years ago on a night out at Stureplan, Wild Child and I had the brilliant idea of saving 15 kronor by leaving our jackets in the coat check of one club while we ran across the street to another club.

Unfortunately, we encountered the most sadistic bouncer on the face of the earth, who kept us outside shivering, and turning blue, for a good quarter hour before he let us into the club. By that time, we no longer felt the cold, as we were both in a state of advanced hypothermia.

That money-saving measure was never to be repeated, and it was a good lesson that vanity should not always proceed practicality and comfort, because by the time we got inside, all we wanted to do was go home and curl up with the thermal water bottle, trying to thaw out our frozen limbs. It no longer mattered how "cute" we looked in our sequin tops. We ended up being two very cute, and cold, popsicles. So much for drunken and wild debauchery.

Anyway, I think that making the fleece blankets available year-round is actually a creative ploy of bar owners to prey on unsuspecting smokers. The fleece only provides a very thin shield against the cold, but just enough so that hypothermia and numbness don't set in. Therefore, smokers are still able to feel how very, very cold they really are.

And the only way to warm up? Buying more alcohol, of course.



Blogger Anna said...

istället för att bara inse att man inte ska röka, men nu tappar de ju sina kroppsdelar pga köldskador innan de tappar dom av cancer, så de påskyndar ju bara förloppet...eller?

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eller så kan staten inse att den kanske inte skall reglera vad barägare tillåter på sin egendom eller alternativt inte haft med klausulen om att mat/dryck inte får innehas i ett rökrum.

6:18 PM  
Blogger eff said...

The fact that alcohol makes you feel warmer when it actually makes you colder (since the capillaries expand and more blood is transported close to the surface of the skin removing heat from the body) is also a very nice fact that bar owners must rejoice over. Go out in the cold, take a drink, feel warmer, actually get colder, drink even more. Merry-go-round-o'-profit...

As for the ban on smoking, it's as natural as not allowing people to walk around with pieces of asbestos that they wave in front of strangers' faces.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for the ban on smoking, it's as natural as not allowing people to walk around with pieces of asbestos that they wave in front of strangers' faces."

Are you aware that there is only a weak correlation at best between second hand smoke and cancer? I dare you to find a study that shows a strong correlation or a causal relashionship.

Besides if you don't want second hand smoke then don't go to a bar which allows smoking. It is as simple as that. There is and was no law that prohibited bars from disallowing smoking. It's not your goddamn property and it's not your right to force someone to disallow smoking. If you don't like it then support establishments that disallows smoking.

4:44 PM  

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