Guest Entry: Adventures in a Swedish Apartment Block
Normally the phrase signifies dissatisfaction regarding a domestic issue, as in: “I think it will be best that you turn the, er, thing up to, er, three when you are using the thing so that there will be no smell.” (I think that he was referring to the fan over the stove). That was until last Saturday’s variation: “I think it will be best that you do not come to collect the keys from me. I think it will be best that I come and let you in. But I am very busy. I can not do that now. I can not do that until at least about five.”
In regards to this particular event, it was an indication of a far deeper dissatisfaction that I had managed to lock myself out of his apartment, seemingly regardless of the fact that technically it was him who had locked me out of his apartment, by leaving and locking up while I was in the laundry room, diligently doing my bit for Swedish Society by moving marker 17 into column 18, row 19.00-22.00.
In retrospect, maybe I should have taken my door keys to cover all eventualities, but the laundry room is only down a small flight of stairs from the apartment, and I told Herr Fin where I was going, asked him for the laundry key, and left him sitting at the computer and the front door unlocked. This was 11.00 am.
Attempting to re-enter the apartment a mere three minutes later, I discovered the front door to be locked and the hallway (through the keyhole) to be dark and silent. Herr Fin can be fairly elusive at the best of times, so the first thing to cross my mind was that he might be crouching in a corner quietly.
After sixty seconds of doorbell ringing, an uneasy panic began to set in. The paranoid Londoner in me began to wonder whether Herr Fin had died suddenly as result of a carefully-concealed drug habit and was now possibly being eaten by the cat, or whether he was carefully practising the signature on my credit cards while flogging my laptop and Vivienne Westwood pirate boots on E-bay.
Then I shook myself and remembered that I was in Sweden.
This meant that there were 3 realistic possibilities:
a) Herr Fin was out buying herring
b) Herr Fin was out playing bandy
c) Herr Fin was out working at his office
I concluded that none of these activities were likely to take all day, so to fill the time (and keep warm) I ran around Norrmalm for 45 minutes. I arrived back at noon to find that the situation remained exactly the same.
Helpless (and now rather sweaty and unpleasant) I sat in the corridor for 3 and a quarter hours. It was freezing cold and I huddled against the solitary radiator, twisting and contorting in order to try to attach as much of my surface area to it as possible. I asked passers by if they knew Herr Fin, or if anyone might have his number or even a spare key. No one had ever seen Herr Fin before, which didn’t surprise me very much. Both of my immediate neighbours, whose doors I knocked on, turned out not to be entirely with-it, and both sung and shouted at me in Swedish for a length of time before retreating back behind closed doors (Editor's note I: It seems that some people believe the louder you shout in a foreign language, the more likely it is that there will be a miraculous repeat of theTower of Babel and the person you are yelling out will suddenly understand everything you are saying).
By 15.15, I had been adopted by an elderly alcoholic couple from the third floor. In situations like these, being blonde with large blue puppy eyes and the distinct appearance of a cute 5-year-old can prove to be advantageous. I politely refused offers of beer and wine but opted instead for a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea.
It was 15.30 by the time I finally managed to contact Herr Fin (an eccentric mathematician on the second floor lent me his internet connection and I retrieved the mobile number from my email inbox). Herr Fin seemed distressed at my suggestion that I walk to his office and collect his keys, and insisted that this was not possible and that I would simply have to wait until it was time for him to come home. So it was 17.40 before I was allowed back into the apartment. The explanation (when probed) for his unexpected departure that morning? He was worried he wouldn’t be on time. In other words, late. To get to the office on a Saturday.
Lesson learned? Never do anything so foolish that it threatens to interrupt a Swede’s timetable, as consequences could be potentially catastrophic for all concerned.
Editor's note II: I think it will be best that Miz ColdFeet never leaves the apartment without her keys again.
¤¤Aforementioned pseudonym chosen not because said guest author is having second thoughts regarding any particular aspect of her life (except perhaps her decision to leave her apartment without keys), but simply due to the fact that her lower extremities have been quite popsicle-like ever since her arrival in Stockholm.