Last year, I spent a lot of time at the The National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, doing research for an article series I was working on, and almost every time I walked back to the train through the city tunnel comes out to Olof Palme’s Street. And every time I was there, I thought of my high school Swedish teacher because I think I remember her saying that it might be smart to read up on Olof Palme, because it was possible he was going to be an essay topic in our high school finals.
“Now that he got assassinated and all,” she said.
That may be a false memory because I can see on Wikipedia that by the time the Swedish Prime Minister was shot in downtown Stockholm, my and my classmates had already left school for our study period during which we were supposed to cram for the final exams.
Maybe she told us that during one of the visits back to school when we had our “pre-finals”, or maybe she never said it at all. All I know is that I did not brush up my knowledge on Sweden or Palme, and instead, focused on biology and history of Finland.
Sweden, Palme, and the prime suspect, Christer Pettersson of Sollentuna, seemed so far away.
I was never the captain of my hockey teams when I was a kid, which was fine with me, it was never a big deal for me – as long as I was the first line center. I always thought I wasn’t the captain because in the younger junior teams, the captain was named by the coach, and the coach was my father. I figured that Dad didn’t want to make me the captain to avoid talk of favoritism.
I also assumed that was the reason he expected me to be the hardest working player on the ice and why he though benching me was a good way to signal to the team that they should pick up the pace. (It only happened once, but I remember it well).
Also, I never wanted to be the captain.
Everybody should have a friend like Emma. I don’t know if I deserved her, or if that’s even a word you can ever use about your friends, but I’m really happy she’s my friend. Or that she was my friend. Or possibly is, I don’t know which word to use since I haven’t seen her in almost thirty years.
It’s always been like that, though. Not that you always don’t see her for thirty years, but it’s always been Emma who’s chosen the level of friendship we were going to have.
Her first words to me were, “We’re going to be friends forever.”
Only two percent of financial transactions in Sweden are made in cash. Fitting then that King Gustav Vasa will be replaced by Dag Hammarsköjd in the new 1000-krona bill.
In their hit 2015 two-man comedy show Ägd, Swedish comedians Henrik Schyffert and Fredrik Lindström ran a bit about a Swede walking past a beggar and instead of giving him or her money, she just pats her pockets and shrugs her shoulders apologetically as if to say she’d give some money, if only she had some cash.
It always got a laugh because it was so easy to relate to. It felt true not only because the citizens of this Scandinavian welfare state have a hard time confronting underprivileged people in person to begin with, but also because nobody in Sweden carries cash with them anymore.
If they can’t pay with a debit or credit card, then surely the seller will accept Swish, an electronic payment solution that connects the users mobile phone number with a bank account and enables quick and secure transactions between consumers.
“Only about two percent of all payments in Sweden are made in cash,” says Jacob de Geer, CEO and co-founder of iZettle, a seven-year-old mobile payments company known for its payment card readers.
Andy always said that “not every night ends at the karaoke bar, but every good night does”, but Andy was always saying stuff like that. He was one of those guys who always had an answer to everything, and not only that, he made his answers sound like they were eternal truths, originally from God (or something) that had since been passed from generation to generation to him, and him only.
“Any decision you make mustn’t take longer than it takes to cook an egg” was one.
“People who wear hats are always hiding something” was another.
“Never eat a meal alone” was a third, but there were dozens of others.
The one that we lived our lives by right then was the one I quoted first, the one about the karaoke places. That’s how I found myself sitting in a dark bar with my back against the wall, surrounded by a group of people I didn’t know. Andy didn’t, either, but since “strangers are only people you haven’t gotten drunk with yet”, that’s where we were.
Now that Sweden made all kinds of news – fake and real – I’m sure the Stockholm Syndrome will also hit the headlines shortly. I first heard of the Stockholm Syndrome when I watched Die Hard. Now, the first Die Hard movie came out in 1988 so I probably watched it on video a year later because back then, it took at least a year for Hollywood movies to hit the video stores in Finland.
Also, what really made me pay attention to a weird psychological condition that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have cared about was that in the movie, they mistakenly called it the Helsinki Syndrome, a thing I had never heard of so I had to look into it. And that’s when I learned it was really called the Stockholm Syndrome.
Mother was right, I think it’s fair to say now. After all, I’m 60 years old, still unmarried, and the way things are going, I’ll stay unmarried not matter how long I live. She was right about that, but she wasn’t right about everything. Oh, no, Mother dear, you weren’t right about everything.
When I was a kid, and Mom wanted me to behave well with my cousins, she always told me that she counted on my being nice because “you’re their idol”. I’ve never been a troublemaker to begin with, but the flattery worked, too. Whenever dealing with my younger cousins – or young kids in general – I always tried to be on my best behavior.
I wanted to be a good role model.
And I wanted my Mom to be proud. Still do.
Dear 11-year-old Risto,
You’re probably reading this at breakfast, while eating Star Wars cereal. No, wait. There is no Star Wars cereal yet. My bad, a bit of a spoiler but at least it’s something to look forward to. (Chocolate cereal … I know!)
It’s funny what sticks to your mind from reading books. What we remember from a book may be just a throwaway line – if there ever are such things – the author may have thought was slightly amusing, or a description of a character who’s not key to the plot. (Then again, if you remember that, maybe she was).
Anyway, this is once again a way to make a short story long to say that I once read a book and the only thing that’s stuck with me through the decades is not its name (so I can’t tell you which one it was or anything else that seems important) but instead, I remember a character description. In the book there was someone who “liked to give nicknames to people”.