A Swedish lesson

I don’t know what startled me more, what was being yelled at the office or who was yelling in the office, or whether it was the combination of what and who.

Thinking back, I think it may have been neither, because I couldn’t make out the words anyway and I didn’t recognize the voice so what shocked me must have been simply the sound. I didn’t know what it was, except that it was such a loud and piercing sound that not even Journey (playing in my headphones) could push it back, and I know I tried. I didn’t stop believin’ but I did remove my headphones to get a better idea what was going on.

It was a howl that sounded like it was coming from deep inside a tortured person, or a wounded animal. It was mid-range, though, so whether it was a man or a woman, I couldn’t tell. But I decided to find out.

As I walked towards the sound in our big open-space office, I saw others turn their heads towards the sound as well. When I got closer, I thought the sound was someone yelling, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The scream echoed from the walls but I could tell it was coming from one end of a wide corridor. Then there was silence, but only for a second or so, and then another growl, followed by the sound of a laughter.

I got even more curious so I took a couple of quick running steps and saw a colleague of mine lean back in his chair – laughing hysterically.

He – yes, a man – didn’t seem to be in pain, at least not anymore. However, he may have been in a state of shock.

What he was not, though, was a man in any danger. Not in any immediate life-threatening real danger, anyway.

“What’s going on,” I said, and laughed a little, showing that I wanted in on the fun. “What are we laughing at?”

“Oh, I just did something stupid,” he said, and then he laughed so hard he almost couldn’t breathe.

“Heh, what? What did you do?”

He exhaled, and pointed at his computer screen.

“I did a ‘reply to all’ when I should have forwarded an email to somebody here,” he said.

“What did you say?”

“I just sent the client’s entire management team a one-word reply to their rejection of our proposal when I really meant to forward their email just to her,” he said and nodded his head at our colleague who was sitting at her desk, laughing and crying at the same time.

“Oh, wow. Crazy. Geez,” I said, but wanted more. “What did you say? Did you drop the F-bomb?”

“No, no, nothing like that. In fact, there’s a chance they may think I’m just being funny.”

“I don’t think so,” shouted our female colleague.

“You never know. They do like me,” he said, with a grin.

Then they laughed again, for a long time. I stood there and laughed a little, too.

“So,” I said. “You just sent them a one-word reply? That’s it? How bad can it be? What was it?”

He looked at me, and then he told me what it was – and that’s how I learned the Swedish word for  “cheapskate”.


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