Remember a while ago when I wrote that “[t]here is no place – and this is no exaggaration, simply a fact, so I repeat it: no place – a Swede can’t set up a bench, or hasn’t already done so”?
Yeah, the other day I went for a walk and thought about how I said that, and how right I was. I think I may have even said it out loud, “that thing you wrote about the benches last summer, on July 14, that was so right on, it was so true.” The thing that made me remind myself of that piece was a bench that I saw on my way to the mall.
There’s nothing special about it. It’s another one of those benches that the Swedes have spread out all over the country, in strategic locations. This particular model – serie number 322611S (as in Stockholm) – comes from the same production line as the rest of them, but is a basic version. It’s a three-seater, overlooking a recreational park area, towards a four-lane road that takes people to the mall and back, and a good three meters from the somewhat heavily trafficked bike path.
(This reminds of something I wrote a few months ago, “the view comes from within, I suppose, because I have seen benches overlooking a construction site and a parking lot.“ I really nailed it with that one.)
The wooden one-plank back support is ergonomically designed to help the Nordic walkers regain their strength and give their backs a break, but its high position will also give desired legroom for anybody sleeping on the bench.
The bench is available for general public 24 hours a day, all year round, and can be used on a first-come, first-served basis, without the need or the possibility for pre-booking. Since this particular bench lacks the garbage can often available in the more expensive models, users are kindly asked to take their garbage with them, not leave them on the ground behind the bench.
Even if all benches come from the same factory, and use similar parts, they are manually assembled by skilled bench builders in Sweden, making each unit unique.
“The bench is there because sometimes you need a break. You need to think, talk it out with a friend, or just listen to your inner voice, make a mental note of that idea you have. Or, the sun may come out for the first time in a while.”
While the Swedish government is still supporting the bench system, and has publicly committed itself to keeping the people benched, an increasing number of people want to have more individuality, and opt for a private solution. They will get themselves a bench, or a chair, that is tailored for their needs – and meant for private use only.
However, the downside of having a private bench is its poor mobility, so it’s not uncommon to see an upper bench class person briefly enjoy a public bench.
And yet, as the old Swedish proverb goes, “min bänk är min tron.”
“My bench is my throne.”