Let’s take a cruise

I once tried to estimate the number of times I’ve been on these ferries that traffic between Sweden and Finland. It’s almost like one of those questions you might expect to get at a Google job interview in which the right answer is less important than how you try to get there.

The first three – six, if you count return trips, and why wouldn’t you? – are pretty easy.

The first one was my hockey team’s trip to Stockholm to play a few games against the local teams. We were gobsmacked by the cultural differences, which for ten-year-olds meant two-stick popsicles, eating cereal with sour milk, and funny cheers from the stands. (And a fight, but not my team).

The second one was a trip I made with my college buddies in the late 1980s, just because somebody found cheap tickets somehow. It was, in fact, the fall of 1989 because the Globe arena was brand new, and we had to take the subway out there to see it with our own eyes. I bought Alannah Myles’s self-titled debut album. Yes, the one with “Black Velvet.”

That’s also the time I got lost in the Old Town, and had to run back to the ferry.

My third trip on the ferry was a business trip, of sorts, because I had a job interview at a Norwegian sports marketing company in a downtown hotel – and because as a recently graduated, unemployed fellow, I had to borrow money for the trip.

Back then, getting on board still had some magic left. There was still that special feeling of stepping on Love Boat, and shopping at the duty free, and having a great steak at one of the restaurants, maybe even catch a show.

However – and you knew there was going to be a however – the fact that I moved to Sweden 25 years ago and then back, and then to Sweden again has made the magic fade a little.

I’m back on the ferry today, and like most often these days, I’m in my small windowless cabin, my laptop on my knees, a can of soda within reach on one side of me, and a bag of chips equally close on the other side. I had a sandwich down on the restaurant deck earlier, then took a quick walk through the duty free – hence the soda and the chips – and called it a night.

Of all the times I’ve been on these ferries, a few rise above the others.

There’s the one time when Wife and I traveled with a newborn, and I had booked a cabin in the “economy” class without realizing it didn’t have a bathroom

There’s the time when Son and I took a ferry to Finland, visited family, and came back on the same ferry, and found a crayon he had lost on the way to Finland under the bed.

There’s the one time when I suddenly really heard “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, played by a ferry troubadour.

There’s one trip with a friend when we met a Bulgarian band and a magician who showed us tricks in the ferry night club.

There’s the time when we moved back to Sweden, and my cousin and I drove around the Helsinki pier, trying to find how to get on the ferry and got on as the last vehicle with seconds to spare.

And there’s last summer’s trip to Turku during the day when Son and Daughter sang karaoke and I had The Meatballs for lunch. (Yes, that’s what it was called, that’s what I ordered, and that’s definitely what I got).

Not bad for, let’s say, 150 cruises.

No, wait. Must be more. During my first year in Sweden, I went back to Finland at least six times. That alone is another dozen. Make it 199.

I’ll celebrate my 200th cruise on the way back. Look out, The Meatballs!

Let's talk! Write a comment below.