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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Excuse me, where can I spend a krona?

The good and bad of going out in Stockholm

When I arrived in Stockholm I took a bus from the port to the town and went for a walk through some of the town centre. I began where I was dropped off in the modern part and continued until reaching the old theatre, a distance of about one kilometre. And what a contrast!

The modern area appears to have been built mostly during the 1960's in that ugly square style, while the old part has all the grace and charm of 19th century northern Europe.

Today Saturday the entire population of Stockholm seemed crowded into the big city centre department stores of which there are lots and lots. Some you reach by crossing over without going into the street. With others you are not even aware you have left one shop before you find yourself in another and today they were all full of people, looking, buying, walking around, bumping into each other, an agitated mass in a constant state of movement.

The problem for me today was not the enormous crowds overflowing onto the pavements, nor was it to absorb the violent contrasts of architecture, nor even that I cannot speak Swedish. No, the problem was finding a toilet.

The first place I entered was a 4-storey department store with basement where I found a toilet on the top floor. As I approached it I saw a queue of 20 men, women and children standing quite still in silence.

In the second store I couldn't find a toilet. In the third one they told me they didn't have one but that McDonald's next door did. So that's where I went. I found another queue. I decided to join it.
It came to my turn. The door wouldn't open. It was locked. It needed a coin. But I didn't have a coin. I left disappointed.

The fifth building I entered was the elegant Radisson Hotel. There too I found the bathroom locked. But this time I was ready. Nearby there was a cleaning lady. In an authoritative voice I said to her "Please open the door".

Now, you try speaking with authority when you can't hold it any more and you will see how difficult it is.

"Yes sir." On a key pad she pressed a few numbers on an illuminated panel next to the door. How incredible! Is going to the bathroom a secret mission for the Swedes?

When she opened the door instead of finding myself in a private cubicle I was shown into a communal one where there were various men standing with pained expressions. Had each of them memorised the code to enter?
Had the cleaning lady confused me for one of this band secretly gathered? With my heart racing I did my business and left as quickly as I could.

My conclusion? The biggest defect of the Swedes is to consider the bathroom a secret meeting place with carefully controlled and paid admission. This may explain why everyone walks in such a hurry even when they are out shopping. They just can't wait to get home to go to the toilet.

When this country accepts more readily going to the toilet as a perfectly normal human function, and ceases to shroud it in expense and mystery then I will love it to bits for all its wonderful qualities which I have not mentioned so far!

June 2010

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=50 .
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