Monday, August 10, 2020

Sweden 2020 Day 2

January 28

Sorta day two, anyway. The time change insured I had no idea what time it was for a several of weeks.

After sitting wide awake, airborne in the dark for a couple of hours, they served a nice and varied breakfast, which I ate while reading further into the day by day history of the Python’s first season.  The plane landed as hitchlessly as previously mentioned, I collected my carry-ons and followed signs through the airport.

Customs involved no forms and no kiosks, merely an officer asking if I had anything to declare.  “I'm terrified and exhausted” was conveyed easily from my expression, so I declared nothing.

Lars kindly set up a cab to pick me up, in an effort to assist the goal of prevent me spending the rest of my natural life wandering aimlessly around Europe, for which I was most grateful.

The fog was ridiculously thick and opaque, making me thankful for whatever instruments are used to land airplanes these days.  The weather would remain somewhere between that level of fog and a light misty rain almost the entire time I was in the country.  

The driver, contrary to nearly everyone else I met in Sweden the remainder of the stay, didn’t speak English all that well.  When he tapped the GPS and asked, “This how you usually go there?” I mentally prepared myself to spend the rest of my natural life wandering aimlessly around Europe.  Luckily, his GPS was more confident than he was. Also luckily, Swedish office buildings have giant lighted signs proclaiming all of the companies that reside within them, allowing me to spot it from a ways out as the fog thinned a smidgen in town.

The class was held in the lower level of the building in a meeting room that was technically part of the giant cafeteria style restaurant that served the location. (It was called “Restaurang S” for reasons I never determined.)  Taking a page from General Patton’s book, I made a quick stop to change socks before entering and taking my place on the podium in the middle of introductions.

Jim’s home group had an unscheduled audit, leading him to arrive later in the day.  This meant Lars took point  of going through the training at the start. I filled in for the early exercise Jim was initially supposed to lead.  

Since we knew from the week before that Jim was going to be late, if he made it at all, I had been assigned to review this exercise and be prepared to lead it.  

Since I was busy being excessively paranoid and terrified about travelling, I may not have done as thorough a job as I should have.  

Kerry graciously helped me review it again while the class was filling it out, and I managed to miraculously sound like I knew what I was doing when they finished.

It’s always interesting inside my brain when a room full of competent professionals is looking at me when I’m telling them accurate, important and useful information. This is because the internal voice in the back of my head is yelling, “Ha ha! Fooled ‘em again!”

During the mid-morning break, a large selection of buttered pita sandwiches, with mixtures of cold cuts, cheese and vegetables were put out.  Since I saw the coffee and fruit when I first arrived, I knew these were not breakfast.  In the initial stages of having no clue as to what time it was, I figured they put lunch out early, and grabbed one to keep up energy levels that my stow away Diet Dew was causing me to expend at an enhanced rate to stay conscious.

Imagine my surprise when we broke for lunch and a full hot meal buffet was spread out, with the addition of us being allowed to hit the extensive and exotic dessert bar in the restaurant.

Each table also had flavored cans of seltzer.  It was about this time I noticed the fancy looking hand filled bottles of water in the classroom were carbonated as well.  Normal water was not seen for most of the trip. This was in stark contrast to meetings in the U.S. where plastic water bottles are routinely tossed at our heads in large quantities.

The food didn’t end there, either. For the midafternoon break, ginormous cinnamon…um…things appeared. They were way crunchier than cinnamon buns, and had other sweet flavors on top. 

Class reached a successful end of the first day, and the rest of the group was kind enough to allow Jim and I to recover a bit from the overnight travel by agreeing to a later dinner.  Lars told us about a good restaurant a scenic walk away, and set us up with a reservation before biking to his home.

Our hotel was next door to the company which is an absolutely fabulous way to do things if you can get away with it.  We entered the revolving door and naturally, given my New York City area genetics and upbringing,  I pushed it to pass through faster. The door stopped dead leading me and others to bump the glass in front of us. 

Revolving doors are automatic in that dark and soggy far away land. If you start pushing per normal, in a hurry, New York area procedure, they read it as a change in resistance and stop to avoid crushing people.  This would take some getting used to. Eventually I’d walk through with my hands raised repeating, “No Touchie!”

Not having a clue what time it was, the midnight level appearing darkness coupled with the misty rain didn’t faze me.

What did faze me was being handed the bill at check in, rather than at the end of the stay like they do at home. Especially since, along with not knowing when it was, I forgot where I was and nearly passed out when the desk clerk started to say, “Three thousand…” before it hit me that there was a currency difference.

I entered my room on the top floor, likely left over from a preference I entered when there was a planned training session in a Disney World hotel within viewing distance of EPCOT.  That trip was cancelled by a hurricane, but the preference stayed, placing my occasionally acrophobic self nine stores above Solna in a room with floor to ceiling windows. 

Those giant tinted windows didn't help visibility in the room with the minimal dark and soggy light outside, sadly.  I came in, felt around the wall for a switch and didn't find one. Therefore, I felt around behind the door, found a switch, pushed it, and nothing happened.  Nothing luminescence related continued to happen as I staggered around the room and bathroom for about fifteen minutes trying all of the switches I could feel out, including one high on the wall that made a “beep” sound to no avail. 

I couldn’t call the front, since I hadn’t found the phone (or the desk for that matter), and planned to take the elevator down to complain.  As I approached the door with it closed, I saw an illuminated slit next to it.  I was griping to myself while fumbling for the key in the dark that having to use it to get out of the room was stupid.  That griping abruptly ended when the key going in activated all the lights in the room.  High marks for being ecological minded, low marks for being instructive.

There was one other person I talked to on the trip that didn’t know about this, but since I’ve embarrassed myself enough, there’s no need to embarrass them. 

The illumination did not expose much room in the room.  Unlike domestic hotel accommodations which tend to err on the side of allowing space for an extended family visit while a band plays, there was definitely only room for me.  The one twin bed had enough space to walk around it, and that’s about it. If I charged my phone on it, it removed all the usable space from the desk.

Unpacking I found my wife had sent a stuffed penguin to keep me company with a love note on it. (Awwwwwww.) Naturally, I put it on the television. It did not explode.

I washed up before dinner in a bathroom that was spacious by Cuzco, Peru standards, but otherwise on the small side.  At least there was a half wall between the shower and the rest, but I still evacuated stuff to be on the safe side before running any water.  Following cleansing the travel filth off myself, and a bit of rest and reading, I went down to the lobby to meet the rest of the dinner group. 

We strolled out into the continual misty (soggy) darkness and started our walk down to into the main part of town for dinner.  In spite of that continual soggy darkness, the bike paths were in constant use. I believe that use level is to offset the fantastic amount and quality of the food available. 

This is as good a point as any to bring up that everyone I met there was extremely helpful and friendly, dropping into English as soon as they saw my clearly unSwedishness.  I'm pretty sure I couldn’t maintain that level of congeniality normally, never mind in continual soggy darkness.  Most Swedes that learned we were visitors would apologize that it wasn’t ten below and snowing.  Talk about no need to apologize.

We believed we followed Lars’s directions and ended up in what looked like an area series of abandoned warehouses, normally used by Gotham City criminals.  There was a door to a restaurant, but it had a different name than the one we were looking for. I entered the title into my phone and it led us to a corner with no doors or signs.

We were about to give up shortly, when, following a little more wandering around that unlabeled corner, Jim found the door with the proper, if tiny, sign on it stating “The Public,” for that was its name.  The place clearly didn’t need advertising, as it was packed.   It is fortunate that we found it, as in our wanderings we’d forgotten Lars made a reservation, which we definitely needed.  When we got our food we found out why.  Jim had excellent fish, Kerry said the muscles were the best she’d tasted, and Karin got a big and fantastic tuna steak on a salad. I'm glad I misunderstood what they meant by “tuna salad” on the menu as I would have ordered that and missed out on the amazing deer steak with equally great sides and sauce.  As usual, we put in a heck of a day’s work when it is important enough for us to be together in person, and over dinner covered a few elements of the day, but mostly used the time to destress.

Nicely filled, we walked back up to the hotel.  I reentered my tiny European location, and got the lights on quickly. (Woo, go me!)  The time shift and travel continued messing with my operating parameters. I read a while and talked to my family.  Since I don’t think I conked out on the plane, this became the third all-nighter in my life.   Unlike most engineers, they had nothing to do with studying and centered around doing a radio show, attending a juggling festival…and Sweden.

I got into bed after I remade it.  

I initially tried to get under the sheet and learned there was only one fitted on the mattress.  What I thought was a blanket turned out to be a narrow strip on the foot of the bed.  However, the massive down comforter was smooth and warm enough to work fabulously for all needs.

I finally passed into a deep coma like state wrapped like a down filled burrito...

For about an hour.

Then I read for an hour.

Then I passed into a deep coma like state wrapped like a down filled burrito for an hour.

This summarized every night’s sleep there.  At least it made it easier to talk to my family when they were awake.

At about three in the morning, I discovered what the thing I hit on the wall that made beeping noises was. In my darkness induced staggering I had turned the heat completely off. Due to the awesomeness of the comforter, I didn't notice this until one arm slid out from under it and nearly froze off.

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