Seinfeld was famously a TV show about nothing. A study of the mundane aspects of everyday life. Caught as we are in a kind of pregnancy limbo, “Is it happening yet? No. How about now? No.”, on Tuesday me and Alex experienced what I have coined ‘Stockholm Seinfeld Syndrome’ with a visit to Täby Centrum (http://www.tabycentrum.se/W/do/centre/hem)
Täby Centrum is a giant shopping centre just north of Stockholm and what started as a quick trip to fix an iphone, ended up being a seven hour existentialist study in the peculiarities of modern living – including a debate on the merits of children’s cereal multi-packs, but more on that later.
About 6 months ago Alex dropped her iphone and thus began the slowest mechanical death in modern mobile phone history… First the screen started to slowly crack… then it stopped ringing… voicemail disappeared… certain apps didn’t work… and so on and so forth.
But obviously it wasn’t until it would no longer turn on that we decided to actually get it fixed.
Alex’s old iphone. I’m no tech expert but this doesn’t look right to me.
Now the strange thing is that despite it being an incredible tech savvy nation, Stockholm only has one Apple store, which is located in the Täby Centrum shopping centre. So off we popped to drop in and get the phone fixed. We really should have known better, one Apple store for a city of a million people? Just dropping in and seeing one of their ‘Geniuses at the Apple Genius Bar’ (incidentally the worst bar in the world and I’ve been out drinking in Hull) was never going to happen. Having not made an appointment we were informed it would be a “three and a half hour wait or a little sooner if we were lucky” – ah, the tiny little phrase that set us off this whole journey.
You see had it DEFINITELY been three and a half hours we could have driven somewhere else and come back. But that little breadcrumb of hope that it might be a lot quicker left us with only one option: hang around the shopping centre. Now given I’m not an angsty teenager, what the hell do you do to fill three hours in a shopping centre whilst simultaneously retaining your sanity? Well dear reader, I still have no idea because I believe that at some point as you’ll see in the story that follows, we not only lost our minds but ended up, seven hours later, creating one of the most surreal sights you have surely ever seen in a shopping centre.
But where did the descent into madness begin? Perhaps it first became apparent that things were not going to end well when in the first ten minutes I was trying on girls head bands.
I should explain. I have, to quote a friend, gone native and decided to grow a top knot.
Now contain yourself dear reader, I’m well aware of the stigma attached to this endeavour but before you launch into reams of abuse let me explain,
- They are all the rage over here and as you know I am committed to embracing all aspects of Swedish life for your benefit. So technically, if there is someone to blame …
- It’s about to get very cold and long hair could in fact be a life saver… ok, not a life saver but having been born in the Australia in the middle of heat wave (fact) I’m am, like a really rubbish X-Man, genetically adverse to being cold (not technically a fact)
- I think it will be funny and just think of the abuse
Anyhow to achieve this ‘hair dream’ or ‘haiream’ I have to pass through the whole “what the **** is that on the top of your head?” stage which has not gone down well with Alex to the point that she has started forcing me to wear one of her old headbands round the house. To be precise, a polka dotted headband with a bow at the back. A replacement was required and whilst a mini gold crown was perhaps not the way forward, we were at least headed in the right direction.
10 minutes killed, 170 to go. Now what?
Well instead of details here’s a percentage summary of the next 170 minutes,
50% – ‘Random Wandering’ which left a lot of unanswered questions,
- How many different kinds of plaid shirt are there in the world?
- How many cushions is it acceptable for a person to pick up, squeeze, rub on their face and then not buy?
- Why are there more mobile phone shops than exits?
- Why is the shop you want to go to always directly in the middle of two escalators on the floor above?
30% – ‘Café break sanity checks’ including a quick cuppa at the brilliantly named ‘Green Drizzle’,
Though something tells me this wouldn’t be especially successful in the UK,
“Hey, fancy nipping in the Green Drizzle for a brew Helen?”
“Do you know what Liz I think I’ll pass…”
15% – ‘Baby shops’ which increasingly remind me increasingly of golf shops. For those not familiar, golf shops are crammed to rafters with devices/tools/aids/rubbish designed to fool you into thinking they can make you a better golfer. It’s exactly the same in baby shops …
Key: Baby Shop (Golf Shop)
- This play mat (swing mat) will improve your child’s development (swing development) by 50%
- This bouncing chair (club) will make your baby sleep 5 times longer (ball fly 5 seconds longer)
- Strap this to your baby’s nappy bag (golf bag) and it’ll count how many times they’ve pooed (you’ve hit the ball) so you don’t have to
- Quick fit rain jacket for sudden downpours (Quick fit rain jacket for sudden downpours)
5% – Toilet stops
Finally the three hours were up but tragically still no word from Apple. Fear not though because it gave us an opportunity to once again encounter the wonderfully surreal world of Swedish bureaucracy.
Basically you only have three hours free parking in the shopping centre and given we still hadn’t been summoned by The Mighty God Of Electronica, I went to the Information Desk to explain the situation and see what could be done.
Here’s the conversation which is going straight into my ‘Swedish Bureaucracy Explained’ folder,
“Hi, we arrived about three hours ago and I believe you only get three hours free parking?”
“Yes that is correct.”
“Ok, well we are waiting for an appointment at Apple, is there any way I can extend the time?”
“It’s fine if we have to pay.”
“Oh you don’t pay to park here during week days.”
“But you can only park for three hours right?”
“But what if I want to stay longer?”
“Oh, you just have to move your car to another level in the car park.”
“Yes, the three hours only apply to the parking spot you are parked in.”
“So if I move the car to level 2 instead of level 1 where it’s parked now that’s ok?”
“I don’t have to leave the car park and drive it back in or anything like that?”
“No, of course not. Why would you do that?”
I tell you dear reader there is a lot to love about Sweden but honestly sometimes I really don’t get it…
Anyhow, as I was moving the car from a space outside the entrance to level 1 to an identical space outside the entrance to level 2 (just think about that for a minute) my phone finally buzzed and we were in. A quick skip up to Apple and we could finally rid ourselves of this soul and sanity destroying place!
We ran, well as much as Alex can run, back to the Apple to see our ‘genius at the bar’ (has a phrase ever been more misleading?). To be fair he was good, or rather he had better things to do because he took one look at Alex’s phone and said, ‘yea, you need a new phone’… not a great deal of genius involved there and I was gasping for a pint, so the bar thing was also hugely disappointing. But he worked quickly and we were finally done, we could leave. Only problem, it was now quite late and as neither of us could be bothered cooking we thought it best to eat in the shopping centre.
…In the Italian we’d seen earlier…
I’d never heard of Vapiano (http://www.vapiano.com/en/home/) but let me just sum it up by saying that it’s the place Italian food goes to die. I can’t stress enough that if you have Italian friends or family like I do, under no circumstances ever take them. I reckon there are Eskimos with more Italian heritage than this place.
The concept is simple enough, ‘fast food Italian’ – and if that doesn’t strike fear into your heart I don’t know what will. Basically there is no table service, you are given a ‘top up’ card which you take to the cooking stations in the pictures above where a dead eyed chief (I’m sure the pasta in my bowl spelt out ‘please help me’) makes your dish in front of you.
As you can imagine all of this is about as efficient as a chocolate fireguard, because not only does the same chef have to make anything requested from the extensive menu, there are separate stations for ‘pasta’, ‘salads & antipasti’ and ‘pizza’. So if like us you want some pasta and bruschetta, you have to queue for the pasta, and then queue again for the bruschetta… God only knows what happens if you fancy a slice of Hawaiian to go with that!
Of course, the big problem was that having starved ourselves all day in the time vacuum that is the modern shopping centre, eating refuelled us and we decided, in what must be the most stupid decision in the history of mankind that then would be an excellent time to do a pre-pregnancy Big Shop.
A Big Shop? Yes of course, what could be better after 5 hours of wandering aimlessly round a shopping centre than to go buy enough supplies to sustain the Swedish army for six months?
Predictably, it quickly descended into exhaustion induced madness.
At one stage I was completely overcome with uncontrollable joy at finding out that my favourite fruit cordial, the one I keep regularly stocked in the cupboard at home, also comes in jam form,
To complete despair, a genuine moment of darkness, when Alex wouldn’t let me buy a variety eight pack of children’s cereal,
Forgive her Tony the Tiger for she knows not what she does
It was clear that the time had come to leave but not before the most truly surreal moment of the entire misadventure.
It’s hard for me to even explain these pictures as by this stage I’m fairly sure I had no control over my own mind, because clearly things are not going well when you find yourself pushing a stacked supermarket trolley round a shopping centre desperately looking for an exit. How did I even get from the supermarket to the middle of the shopping centre?
I’m also willing to bet that when the Marketing teams at Hollister and Victoria’s Secret were sat around discussing an image that might capture the essence of their brands in the super trendy city of Stockholm, one that didn’t come up as crucial was a hairy beardy man in loafers and a heavily pregnant woman pushing a shopping cart rammed full of potatoes, mincemeat and carrots outside their store front… Yes, I’m fairly sure that as far as an image that ‘encapsulating the core brand values’ goes, this wasn’t exactly what they had in mind!
Finally, I want to continue on the theme of ‘Marketing Insanity’ (a theme very close to my heart) with this incredibly annoying advert currently running on Swedish TV.
‘Like expensive brands, just not expensive’ – What does that even mean? Brand value and price are two… do you know what, I don’t have the brain energy. Täby Centrum you win. I’m out. I give up. Friends have spent years trying to get me to stop talking about Marketing and in the space of seven excruciating hours you have achieved the impossible.
I salute you but know this, I will be back.
Ah the old waiting game. Official drop date is a week yesterday but could be any time now. Bags are packed, car seat fitted, route to hospital programmed… All we can do now is wait. Just not in a shopping centre.
Picture of week
Some of you will recall my blog from a few weeks ago which featured what I affectionately dubbed ‘that bloody bike’. We imagine my surprise when I came across its Orange flavoured motorbike cousin chained up to a lamppost on our street yesterday. And as much as it pains me to say it, I bloody love it!
Track of the week
Dedicated to the baby, The Supremes with ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’…
Fraser ‘Top Knot’ Hynes