I don't know what it is about this country, but boy do they love their lines here!  Just about anything you do here involves some sort of line.  It's borderline OCD if you ask me.  I don't know if it's American of me or not, but I like to kind of "go with the flow" sometimes.  Not here!  In Sweden it seems there is an obsession with order.  And that obsession has led to a country full of lines.

When Swedie first came to visit me in the States while we were in that "stare in each other's eyes and do everything holding hands" phase, we went on a movie date.  We got our tickets and some snacks that would clog our arteries and send us into a sugar-shock.  Nothing strange yet.  Then Swedie lovingly looked into my eyes and asked where we were going to sit.  What??? We weren't in the theater yet.  "Um... wherever we want to.  I guess we will try and sit in the middle of the theater." I was thoroughly confused.  Is this woman crazy?  Is she super controlling?  Is this a warning sign of things to come?  We sat where we wanted and she explained that it's different in Stockholm.  And boy was she right!  I swear to you it took me three attempts to watch Borat (it was 2006).  Why, you ask?  Because here, the movies have assigned seats!  Yeah, you heard right.  When you buy tickets, you tell the cashier where you want to sit.  During the busy times at the theater there can be four cashiers.  No one besides losers and movie critics (also losers) goes to the movies alone, so naturally by the time the last few people get to pick their seats there are none together.  The first time I went to see Borat there were eight seats available.  None of them were together.  We had to try later.  The second time there were no seats together again!  The third time was a charm and we got to sit at the back of the theater but together.  The guy next to me was there with a friend of his.  I guess they were in line after us because they didn't get to sit together.  His friend looked back from about four rows up and said "See you after the movie." How does this happen?!  What a system!

One line that I don't mind is the line when you call a company and are on hold.  In order to make Swedes feel all is right with the world, companies ensure you that you are in a line (so to speak) when you call their customer service.  You are reminded what place you are in the line periodically while you sit on hold!  This is cool, and I think it should be mandatory in all of the world.  I normally put my phone on speakerphone and start paying attention to the line when I hear someone has answered the call.  A few times I've actually realized someone was there too late and then they hang up!  Now I can start paying attention when I am told that I am number 2 in the line and avoid that FML feeling.

Public transportation is an entirely different animal.  These lines are man-made.  Go to a bus stop and wait for your bus and I guarantee you that each Swede is keeping track of who got there when.  And don't you dare try and go before someone who was there first.  But they are still a Swede, so there is no way they will say anything to you about it if you do cut them. They will just look to the other people in line and shake their heads. "What a jerk!" I once walked up to a bus stop right before the bus got there.  The Swedes had already formed their line. I did my normal chuckle to myself and walked past the line and stood off to the side.  The bus driver must have had a sense of humor because he pulled up and stopped short of the beginning of the line.  The bus door was right at ME.  Now I'm all for getting immersed in the culture, but there is no way I'm going to let everyone get in front of me when the bus is right there just to satisfy your line obsession.  As I prepared to get on the bus I felt the tension.  There was a wave of panic throughout the crowd.  This guy just got here!  He wasn't in line!  One guy eased up by my shoulder like he thought I was going to let all of them get on because they were here.  Haha.  I'm Expat Jon.  I'm getting on this bus before you bro. I smiled so hard at the bus driver when I got on.  My kinda guy!

There is this one indoor bus station at the bottom of a train station here.  The buses sit on the garage side of some glass walls and doors until they depart.  People can wait in comfortable seats in a warm lobby until the bus driver opens the doors so you can load the bus.  I like this station.  You don't have to worry about the bus leaving early because this is the origin of the bus route.  All you have to do is get down there on time and if the bus is still there (or not there yet) you're good.  There is also a screen over every bus' door with the time remaining before departure...  Maybe there is some type of evil bus driver that used to haunt everybody or something, but people act like the bus is going to leave them!  When that screen reads 3 minutes, it never fails, Swedes begin to form a line in front of the glass!  Why?  The screen shows 2 minutes now, ma'am.  The door isn't even opened yet.  Why are you in a line?  It is simply amazing.  I was so amazed that I took pictures of this phenomenon (below).

                                                Three minutes left... The line forming begins.

                                 This might be that driver that leaves people.  Let me join this line too!

          In less than one minute the line is almost complete.  Sick I tell you!  I did not raise from my seat until the driver opened the door.  Oddly, he did not leave me.

The lines don't end there.  There is a huge line for apartments here.  You can't just go to an apartment complex and ask if there are vacancies like in the US.  It takes a week or two, maybe to get into an apartment in every place I've lived in the States.  Here, you get in a line and depending on how long you have been in line, you are eligible to get the apartment.  Luckily for me, Swedie was in line for nine years and we were able to get an apartment in 6 months!  We were number 9 on the list for the place that we got.  Some turned it down and we ended up being number 2.  Then something happened and we got it.  People are like, "Wow that's awesome!  You guys got a place and your own contract so fast!" Fast?  I can't imagine what couples do if they split up.  Live together and get in the line and wait for 5 years for a nice place?  Move back in with your parents until you get a high number for an apartment?  As you can imagine, the system has brought about a huge black market where people charge you the equivalent of a down payment on a home just to begin paying rent on a place.  That's one line that I will never agree with.  However, this line made me appreciate this place when we finally got it.  And our lease is... FOREVER.  That's still strange to me.

Then when you get a place there is a line for doing laundry.  This is SUPER Swedish. You reserve a four hour block of time so you can do laundry.  There is actually a physical place holder for time blocks.  You get your place holder with your keys and then you fill in when available.  So now you are in line to wash clothes, AND you get the benefit of not having to communicate with another human being in the process!  How Swedish is that?  Our laundry room has an electronic system so you can't even trick it.  Nor can you sneak in and wash after hours.  You'd better have good timing when you spill grape juice on that white shirt.  Good luck if you have a last minute function to go to.  You should have had an emergency outfit on standby!

There is a line for jail!  I just found out about this.  You go to court.  You're found guilty.  The judge says come back on such and such date so you can begin your jail sentence.  I guess when your spot in the line comes up it's time.  I thought he was guilty!  You're going to put this guy back into society?  Of course this doesn't apply to all crimes, but nonetheless it's very strange.

I got hit with a double line recently.  I was trying to get enrolled in Swedish language classes.  I went in  and took a number and waited.  In line.  My number got called and I went up.  The lady told me the details of the school and asked if I was still interested.  Um... yeah.  She then told me to have a seat and my name will be called.  I was in another line!  Come on!  I sat down and realized she didn't give me a number.  Oh no!  I hope nobody goes before me that shouldn't.  How will I know?  Where am I in this new line?  I need order!  Wait a minute... Am I one of them now?!  Until next time...


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