Posts Tagged ‘commuting

14
Feb
12

Borg Central

Tegnerlunden Park

Tegnerlunden Park

Last Monday I rose and donned extra layers and a heavy coat in preparation for my commute from downtown Stockholm to our Sundbyberg office while the temperature hovered around -16c. I crunched my way across ice and snow, down the hill along with others equally insulated examples (EIEs) of 21st century mobile autonomous systems (as Eno has defined himself). I crunched to where I perceived the central station to be.

As I drew nearer I realised I was on too high a level and asked directions. Arriving at the station I found only computerised ticket machines and entrance turn-styles. I have never liked computerised ticket machines. They ask too many questions and give too many options. Also, one is left with the impression that they will answer whatever question one asks even if they have no business answering. It is like turning up at the British Airways desk when you are looking for the tube to Holborn and being sold a flight to  City Airport.

I wandered around aimlessly and entered another space where I overlooked the vast obligatory shopping mall that, by international law, must now be installed in every fucking public space on Earth. I expect that, by now, the Serengeti National Park in Kenya consists mostly of branches of Louis Fucking Vuitton.

People were marching around and it seemed to me that there were no railway employees to speak to. The whole station, perhaps even the whole of Stockholm and, quite possibly, the whole of Sweden seemed to be running on automatic. I felt like the man at the end of Invasion of The Body Snatchers. I wanted to shout: “Does anyone know where the ticket office is?” or “Where is the Information desk?” or “Where are all the fucking humans?”.

I held my tongue and descended an escalator into the heart of the machine where Swedes marched in robotic precision. I have braved the rush hours in Mumbai, London and Bangkok but never have I encountered such steadfast dedication to commuting. I leaped and dived between these creatures clad in boots and fur. Clutching their white iPhones they ignored me because I posed no threat, but I knew that, should I vocalise my anger and frustration, they would, as one, turn on me and tear me to pieces.

At the lowest level, at the beating heart of the Bjorn Borg mother ship, I found a ticket desk. No queue existed here but several of the creatures loitered and one pointed at a metal obelisk with no writing known to man but a strange symbol which may have depicted the apocalyptic death of the Swedish empire or, alternatively, a ticket being dispensed.

I placed my hand against the object and obtained the number 88. A display positioned above my head indicated 86. Whatever was going to happen, would happen soon. I stood and prepared myself. As an Englishman, I considered my reputation and refused to criticise the fact that several of the files were sitting lopsidedly behind the ticket clerks desk. Like a suburban health clinic where one waits patiently for the results of an X-ray though the preponderance of white plastic and perfect ergonomic machinery lent the area the feeling of a synthesis between Borg and Ikea technology.  87 glowed red. Was this it? Would I meet my end at number 88? Assimilated like so many millions before me? With a shock I realised that I too owned a white iPhone!

The man behind the desk was polite and spoke good English. I suggested that I may have come to the wrong place but he answered: “No. You have come to the right place”. My feeling of foreboding increased. I wondered how, this individual, who appeared almost Scandinavian in his sanity, could maintain any purchase on poetry, mythology or his imagination in an environment so devoid of stimulation.

He gave me two paths to travel. The quickest and simplest or the longest and most arduous. With the feeling that I was metamorphosing into Grendel, I chose the most arduous and entered the cold deep corridors packed with steaming Borg, silently striding, each avoiding the others with absolute precision as they held their dreams and emotions imprisoned in white iPhones.

Eventually, of course, I caught the train and emerged at Sundbyberg which was the wrong thing to do, I should have taken the Metro as the gentleman had suggested.

The problem with many modern northern European cities is that there is no sense of place. The station in Sundbyberg for example consists, at ground level at least, of two flights of steps leading down. Obviously this could be a station but equally it could be the entrance to a car park or public toilet.

I had arranged to meet a colleague but he was unaware of the precise location of the station and also unaware that it had two entrances. Around the stairs leading down are coffee shops and the only indication of a mass transportation system, capable of linking one to the rest of the world lies just metres from where one stands, is a modest LED display indicating two place names. These may indicate a station. They may indicate a bus terminus and since, in this perfectly organised society, there IS a bus terminus here, one might then consider the purpose of the signs explained.

In fact my colleague was waiting 5 minutes down the track where he had decided the station must be located and to be honest there was as much evidence there as there was where I had stood.

In the end we talked by phone and the only way we were able to communicate exactly which set of stairs I stood outside was with reference to the sun. The staircase in the sun or the staircase in the shade. This is my point. The nearest unique landmark was 93 million miles away, or so it seemed to me….I was a little frustrated.

The Victorians knew how to build stations. London St Pancras and Mumbai Central, they were stations. They didn’t just have vast gothic buildings which would be exceedingly difficult to miss they also had the words FUCKING STATION written in ten foot letters across the top or, if they didn’t, you could well imagine that they might.

All this integration makes for a very efficient city machine provided you have been programmed for it. If, on the other hand, you are a simple foreign traveller there is no way for you to meet anyone without giving them a street reference. I suspect that Johnny Swede relies heavily on grid references.

I climbed into the small Japanese car and calmed down as my bum was warmed to perfection by the heated seats.

Rolfs Kök

Rolfs Kök

Actually Stockholm was refreshing. Apart from the freezing tunnels of the central station the people were friendly and polite. The trains were spacious and tasteful and the food good. I stayed at the excellent Tegnerlunden Hotel which, while small, was personal, comfortable and conveniently located downtown near the fantastic Rolfs Kök restaurant.  On Wednesday night I ate at Rolfs. Packed with Swedes and wood and more Swedes and lots and lots of red wine and blond hair. Thick coats hung on walls amidst the steady rumble of conversation. Steel and brass and spotlights and busy white apron staff efficiency. Sitting at the bar amidst masses of bottles and glasses over my head, I sampled the bread & salt then devoured a perfectly cooked steak with a couple of beers.

MMMmmmmm…..Stockholm!

Rolfs Kök

Rolfs Kök

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st malo beach

St Malo Beach

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01
Nov
11

Everything Everywhere?

We are constantly told about how technology allows us to do anything anywhere. In fact T-Mobile and Orange have created a new company called Everything Everywhere. Yet we still insist on transporting tons and tons of metal around the country every morning and evening. We don’t need new road we need Tele-working.

Open Road

Open Road




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  • #bbcaq We used to control alcohol by limiting access to cruddy pubs and off licenses that rarely opened. We could do the same with cannabis. - 6 days ago
  • #bbcaq also wonder if psychological problems can be caused by our over stressed society - 6 days ago
  • #bbcaq Part of the problem with treating mental health in the same way as physical health is the social fall out from the condition. - 6 days ago
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