Photos: Arlanda, Stockholm

18 Oct


Travelling used to be fun.  Well for some people.  I always hated it.  A sufferer of both mild agoraphobia and claustrophobia, both airport crowds and then being packed into the tin cans airplanes have become and I’m a pile of nerves by the time I get anywhere I’m going.

So, realizing that eight or nine or ten hour translatlantic flights to and from Greece or Turkey or Russia were getting dangerous for my sanity, I started deliberately looking for flights with stopovers somewhere in Western Europe.  But that’s when stopovers were fun.  Now they suck too.

My budget Norwegian Air was pure misery.  They won’t even give you water if you haven’t paid for food.  I was next to an old Swedish couple and the man was coughing uncontrollably the whole time — they all look so healthy, I thought they never get sick — in between what was probably muttering about me for not turning my reading light off.  Because the wife had actually asked me to turn it off!  I said “I don’t sleep on planes so I need to read so I’m not turning my light off and sitting in the dark for six hours biting my nails….” and she called one of the flight attendants — who were all African-American (???) — and she told her “Sorry ma’am, we can’t make him turn his light off” and so the old lady sat there glaring at me the whole rest of the flight.

Plus…  I detest anyone who can sleep in today’s economy class seats.  Anybody who can actually sleep sitting up in those seat — for hours…the sleep of the just — has to be a little bit of a burro.  I look at them and want to scream like Blanche: “You healthy Polack without a nerve in your body; how can you possibly know what anxiety feels like!”  While I sit there feeling like I’m being forcibly sleep-deprived in Guantánamo or something.

But back to formerly fun stopovers.  You used to get out of the plane.  See foreign faces.  Hear foreign languages.  Drink a good foreign beer or try some foreign food.  It was like a mini-visit to another country not part of your itinerary.

Now globalization has made every airport almost exactly the same.

In Stockholm at Arlanda airport, which I was looking forward to.  But it’s 65 degrees!  In Stockholm in October…  And being all Green like all Euros are now the AC’s not strong enough and the seltzer’s warm and there’s no ice.  Plus…  I was looking forward to a beer and some herring in one form or other — and Swedes do a thousand different delicious things to herring; one of the reasons I remember loving Sweden — and there isn’t any anywhere.  I’m outraged.  Just fake Irish pubs and Starbucky-type chains that don’t even have good danishy things — the other things Swedes are great at — just microwaved scones and mozarella-ciabatta sandwiches.

I get a Brooklyn Lager at the fake Irish pub.  I look at the hamburgers and nachos and buffalo wings menu with disgust.  Not a piece of herring in sight. Two young girls are eating bacon-cheeseburgers next to me with their forks and knives.

Euro-losers, please, if you’re going to eat American garbage — and on what looks like a regular basis — eat it like an American.  I think of silly Italians, most of whom today treat pizza like it’s a night-out treat and who eat it with a fork and knife also, carefully cutting out and eating only the cheesy-tomato part in the middle and perversely leaving the intact ring of crust on their plate.  When I tell them that in nineteenth-century Naples pizza was street food, that it was folded over twice into a curved quarter and eaten by hand, like crêpes au sucre in France, they look at me like I’m crazy.
Finally I find the twisted, sticky cardomom buns Swedes make and that I’ve always loved.  And some of the best I’ve ever had…at the airport tattoo parlor.  Which was kind of sexy.  ‘Specially on the right blond shoulder.  But weird.  I have two to strengthen my nerves for the gate scene full of Greeks.  Four more hours and I’ll be free.
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