In the mix of traits, between the English and the Swedish, there is none so contrasting as the attitude toward going on a bus or a train. While the Swede will labour to find a seat which has no neighbour in it, even if it means traversing a whole train, the Englishman suffer the armpits of smelly seat neighbours with stoic endurance.
I saw a clip of a video from the underground in Tokyo, and there they had people going along the platform to push people further into the train so that the doors could close. Imagine it, some uniformed guy whose only job is to push the bums and bottoms sticking out as Japanese have stuffed themselves like sardines into their commuter vehicles.
I thought of that clip today when we took the train into London for a day-trip, and the train was absolutely packed with people. No, neither of us got a seat, and neither of us could stand upright. I almost had my nose stuck in somebody’s navel the entire trip. And of course, half-way through the trip Mark’s inhaler came out and got a good working for the rest of the trip.
Luckily the trip is just short of an hour, and then we’re at Waterloo station, and we can feel the luxury of having more space than two inches to the next stranger who may or may not have showered that morning. But I was thinking about the English who suffer this, while a Swede would have looked into the train, and then decided to take the next, or the next one after that, or none at all if the crowds persisted.
Maybe the English do need to learn some things from the Swedish; we’re both socially awkward people with a strong sense of shyness to us. Well, except when we’re drunk, then both people’s are as obnoxious. Sweden is not in the Vodka-belt for nothing.
My Swedish side was much more satisfied on the return trip when we had lots of room, and could find seats that had no next-seat neighbours. But by that time, the morning’s crowd was just a bad memory, which had been purged by a nice day out in London.
I like going in there. I really do.