Monday, January 21, 2013

... and back again

(this is a continuation from an earlier post, if you haven't, go read that first)

We take the train to other-Osaka station and Stefan explains to us that our railpass won't be working for the next trip. We were shocked! 
We look down disappointedly on our pretty paper folders. 
'Oh they have 13 different railway companies in Japan. Railpass only works with one of them.'
(that being said though, it was still a good purchase. The railpass works on the Japanese express trains 'Shinkansen' and I would definitely have spent more on Shinkansen-tickets than I did on the railpass)

We travel by train to Stefan-ville aka Hirakata. We purchase a mattress on the way to his apartment and go to bed very quickly. A thing or two about Stefans apartment; it's very japan-sized and very cold at night. It wasn't unbearable though. T-shirt, a pair of sweats and a sleeping bag was perfectly fine. Next morning Stefan had school to attend, so he left us to our own accord during the day (which we mostly used to just sleep).

In the afternoon/evening Stefan had planned to enrich our cultural life a little. we were supposed to meet up at the train station. Stefan told us that we just had to take the bus just outside his flat and go to the end stop. So we got dressed and went to wait for the bus. We wondered between ourselves which direction we should take the bus, but quickly came up with the scientific solution of 'Well when we came here by foot yesterday, we came from there so we take the bus that goes in that direction, right?'

Cut to:

'I'm gonna call him now, I'm sure he was just delayed.'
*picks up phone*

'We're outside the mall. Do you have an ETA?'

'Kuzua Mall, the end stop of the bus, with train station and all, you know'

'Well we took the bus that you told us to and didn't get off until the driver shut off the engine and gave us funny looks'

'Oh... The OTHER direction?'

Eventually Stefan once again had to come pick us up at a different place than he had planned to. He really should plan better. Apparently we were lucky though, because we could have ended up on the Japanese countryside. In one direction all buses go to Hirakatashi, in the other however, they go all over the place. 

We go sightseeing in Kyoto, looking at temples and shrines. We also go out to eat what Stefan describes as japanese drinking-food. It was very much related to western drinking food, I can say. 

The rest of the week was spent either in bed sick or watching japanese sights, such as Hiroshima. We had planned to visit  Nara, but japanese microorganisms put an end to that. On friday me and Stefan visited an Onsen, a japanese bathing house. It was very refreshing and calming. What was not, however was the fact that the largest Kimono they had available to lend me was basically the Kimono-equivalent of a very large glove. This lead to an awkward moment when I passed the reception and the girl behind the counter had some input on my (lack of) modesty. First time I passed she gave me another waistband to tie in a knot with the already existing waistband to make it long enough to reach around my waist. On my way back however there was something else that was wrong and even though she tried to explain to Stefan what the problem was, the matter remained very unclear. This lead the girl to feel that she needed to help me tie the waistband. Problem was, however, that her arms weren't long anough to reach around my waist. So there I stood in the lobby of a respected establishment with a girl hugging my waist, making small grunting noises. If you would claim that this was one of my most awkward moments in my life I wouldn't correct you.

My railpass expired on saturday but my plane left on sunday so the plan was to go to Narita airport and spend the night at the terminal. Luckily I thought the better of that. I've spent enough time on airports in my life. So friday evening I looked up a nice hotel with rooms at a reasonable rate. Hotel bed > even japanese airport benches.

Come saturday afternoon I took my leave of Stefan and started to make my way towards Tokyo and Tokyo airport.

15:20: Step onto bus. (the right direction this time)
15:28: A hoard of japanese schoolgirls wells onto the bus. The noise level increases exponentially.
15:28:30 Gajin discovered.
15:28:34 'Where are you from?'
15:29:00 'Where are you from?'
15:29:30 'Where are you from?'
15:29:45 'I'm from Japan, where are you from?'
15:34:25 'GET ME OUT OF HERE!!'

15:40 Hirakata station. Humm humm... so... purchase ticket, wait for the express train. Stay away from the non express trains.
15:55 Get onto train
16:30 Get off train. Find the 'Loop line' to get to Osaka Central station. Oh My God only three minutes! Hurry hurry!
16:33 Get onto loop line train.
16:38 Realise that you're travelling in the wrong direction. Try to figure out which is faster: remain on this train and travel the entire loop or get off and take a train in the opposite direction.
16:40 Come to a decision and get off.
16:45 Get on Loop line train, going back.
16:58 Get off at Osaka Central station. Find train that goes from Osaka Central station to Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka is the other central station in Osaka
17:10 Get off at Shin-Osaka, find the office of Japan Railways so I can make seat reservations since it's always nice to have your seat, so you don't have to move in case some traveller shows up.

PW: 'Hi I would like to make seat reservations to Narita Airport. (I knew that I had to switch trains in Tokyo anyway, but this way I think it's smaller risk of misunderstandings)
JR: Hai! *frenetically starts typing on his computer*
JR: *writes something on a note and slides it to me* 'Sorry, no seat reservations'
PW: 'No seat reservations? Ok that's no problem, I can travel without seat reservations, right?'
JR: 'Yes!'
PW: (silently in my mind) Well that shouldn't be a problem, this is the first station on the line 

JR: *has that special look as if he wants to tell you something*
PW: *looks down on the note JR passed me* Aha! My train will be arriving at Tokyo Central sstation at 20:40 and the train for Narita leaves at 20:45. It's a terminal the size of a large mall, in five floors... and I have no idea where my trains will be arriving at or departing from. I don't see any problems whatsoever.

17.20-17:35 Idling with my Kindle.

17:35 Get on Shinkansen for Tokyo. Find comfy seat. Hope that the train by some miracle will be arriving early at Tokyo Terminal.

20:35: Last station before Tokyo. Not early. Disappointed.

20:39 We are one minute early! Getting ready at the door onto the platform. As soon as the doors open I rush out onto the platform, getting a good grasp of the situation.
'All right, we have to get off the platform at least. Oh a stair! I'm heading that way.'
At the back of my brain the analytical part has input such as: 'Are we sure that these are the correct stairs?' I see more stairs over there'

Reptile brain respeonds with: 'No time, find train.' I run down the stairs into the main hall of Tokyo Central.

Analytival brain: 'We should read the signs to get a better scope of where we are heading' 

Reptile brain: 'Seriously what about 'no time'did you find difficult to comprehend?! Just find the little glyph that looks like an airplane and follow that!' 

I run through the terminal following the signs with the airplane symbol. At the other end of the terminal I begin to notice red dots in the floor, with a tiny airplane in it. 'Yes I made it!'

Analytical brain: 'Not so fast Usain... we are on floor 4, the airport express seems to be departing from floor one'

Me and reptile brain together: 'You're seriously no fun at all, you know that?'
Ok let's take the escalator down. But no! Here comes a real slow mover and he's getting into the escalator. There's no way we'll get past him.  Ok, normal stairs here we come. 

Floor 3: No, slowmovers in sight! Win! I unceremoneously make my way down the escalator bumping japanese people out of the way with my huge suitcase.

Floor 2: still no slow-movers.
Reptile brain 'ONAROLL!!'

Floor one: 'ASDFFGHJKKLLKK!!! How can slow people be allowed in the escalator?'

As I'm running down the stairs my analytical mind cuts into the transmission of 'LEFT FOOT RIGHT FOOT!'

'OK now we're gonna look around even as we're mid-stairway to get a scope of the platform downstairs to know what side the train will be departing from'

I'm rewarded by almost stumbling over my feet but also red markings on the pillars on the right side with a tiny airplane on them.

The train is notably crowded so I have to slide in smoothly and elegantly. Not exactly my signature move on a regular day and lo and behold, a suitcase of 40 pounds and a pulse of 190 has neither improved my coordination nor my motorics whatsoever. But what's important is that I'm ON THE DAMN TRAIN! I spend 15 seconds of celebration and highfiving my reptile brain. The jubilations are cut short however by my analytical brain who barges into the celebration like a partycrasher on PCP. 

'Guys... Guys!! GUUUUUYSS!!! This train isn't heading to Narita airport. It says Kobe on that sign.' 

Reptile brain: 'Failure!! Failure!! Defeat!! Warning!! Danger!' 

I make my way onto the platform again Upsetting at least twice as many persons as I did on the way in. Excuse me guys while I go over here and vomit a little.  Not one to be discouraged, I make my way back to Japan Railways ticket office. The girl behind the counter is earthshatteringly cuteiful. Not exactly in condition for romantisicing I instead make my point short and concise.

'Seat reservations for Narita express?'
The cute girl taps away at her computer before she turns to me with pity in her voice.
'Last Narita express left at 8 oclock'
'Did she just say 8 o clock? I thought it sounded a lot like 8 o clock.'
'8 oclock?'
'Not 8.45?'
'No' Right, I have a guy that I'm going to kill next time I get to Osaka. I know what he looks like. He has black hair.

'So are there any other ways to get to Narita Airport?'

The cute girl shines up because she understands what I'm saying. She looked very nervous when I approcached the counter and also she has a supervisor
looking over her shoulder. The change in confidence in her is apparent. Not only is she communicating clearly in english, she is also talking 'above basic level'.
She assures me that there are local trins going to Narita. She prints out a note of directions on an old Matrix printer with that loud but yet somehow comfortingly familiar noise. She explains to me that the first part is run by Japan Railways. But they can only get you to Narita town. Not to Narita Airport. To get there I have to switch trains and switch railway companies. Ok, I smile at ms World-competitor-turned-train-ticket-girl, nodding enthusiastically, to make sure she understands that I understand. But wait... isn't that... THAT look? You know the one that says 'I have something more to say, but not quite sure how to express it. I take a look at the note with directions that the asian Hollywood method-actress studying for her upcoming role as a ticket clerk by day and crime-fighting superheroine by night gave me. Right, first train arrives at Narita town at 22:45 and the train to the airport will be leaving at 22:49. So 4 minutes to get off first train, find the other railway companys station, purchase a ticket, and find where the train for the airport departs from. How hard can it be?

21:45 I make my way to the train and get on. And for the first time in my entire train-riding carreer I'm alone in a carriage. As far as bad signs go this is definitely one of them. Eventually the conductor comes along though, he takes a look at my rail pass, nods and moves on. I breathe a sigh of relief and relax for an hour while reading.

22:45 Narita station. Same procedure as last time. Ready at the train door as soon as we roll into the station. Out onto the platform, looking around, spotting the sign pointing the way to the other station, walk over a small bridge and there it is! Hurry hurry! I run up to the ticket machines purchase a ticket for Narita airport. Make my way onto the platform where the lightboard informs me '22:49 Last train for Narita airport!' I look at the clock on the wall... '22:52'

'No... Noo... Please! Not like this! I'm so close now!'

Right, so I start looking for ways to get a taxi, but for once in my life I decide to be a stupid tourist. I walk up to the station attendant and ask
'No more trains for Narita airport?'

He goes at the task with furious efficiency and starts flipping through pages in a binder, looking around, looking at the clock. Then I see him start jumping up and down with excitement. 'Train! Train!' while pointing at the platform with the lightboard. I make my way over there and with increasing astonishment and satisfaction I realise that for the first time since the late 70s a japanese train is actually late. I throw a quick glance over my shoulder to the station attendant and his face is one big smile, I give him a thumbs up. I get on the train and sit down smiling to myself. 

'We made it! We MADE IT!! Despite everything and against all odds we actually made it!'

Little did I know.

The train ride to the airport takes about 20 minutes so any taxi fare would  surely not have been very cheap. I get off at terminal 2 despite my plane leaving from terminal 1 because I recall the hotel being closer to terminal 2. There is actually only one path to take from the platform, every other way is closed and I'm actaully relieved, because that means I can't go the wrong way. My relief is suddenly turned into a sense of utter panic. The path that I'm walking is taking me to the security check, which means that I'm heading to the gates to the airplanes. Anyone who's ever flown knows that if you go through the security check to the gates, it's basically impossible to go back. I suppose you could go back with a little pleading with the security personnel but it's generally frowned upon. Then it dawns on me. Not only am I heading towards the security check to the gates to the air planes, I'm doing it at the wrong terminal. Images of me in interrogation cells with airport security and the local police, in which communication is scarce at best starts flashing by before my mind. So right there and then I decide 'Fuck it! I'm going back!' It may look a little suspicious to turn back at this specific point right in front of the security check but I'm thinking that the troubles will be nothing compared to what would happen if I went through the security check. I have room reservations and I intend to use them goddammit! I'm not spending the night outside an airport gate at the wrong terminal. (or god knows where else). I make it as far as the exit gates from the train platform before two guards sternly but kindly with gestures makes sure that I know that under no circumstances will I be passing this way. They make me turn around and head back to the security check, this time following closely behind so I don't wander off in some other random direction. 

So... Bull... Horn... grab. The classic british way of communication seems to be the only recourse left to me, ie slowly and loudly. 

'I... want... to... go... to hotel... not... airplanes'
'Of course, sir, which hotel are you staying at?'
The relief is only rivalled by my confusion.
'The Tokoyo inn' I stutter
'Yes, sir, of course. Let me just look through your luggage quickly.' the security officer with impeccable english quickly feels through my belongings and for a short second I'm afraid that I had packed somthing stupid, but he quickly closes mmy suitcase and then takes out a laminated piece of paper.
'The shuttle for Tokoyo inn is leaving from stop 39, sir. It's just up the stairs and to the right.'
'Thank you and have a nice evening!'

I make my way around a corner and up the stairs and out onto the large bus terminal. Stop 39 isn't hard to find. What is, however, is the shuttle. A quick glance at the time table informs me that the last shuttle left an hour ago, There is only so many disappointments a man can take in one day before his spirit breaks totally. Surely I could walk the distance to the hotel. If only I knew what direction I should be walking because I couldn't see my hotel name anywhere, in any direction.
23:50 I slump down on my red suicase, which lets out an omnious creak, indicating that it might have been designed with purposes other than sitting on
in mind. As I get up onto my feet again I see a taxi, slowing down just in front of me.
'Where are you going?'
'Tokoyo inn?'
'Come come. I take you. Free of charge.'
'Yes! Yes! Shift ends now.'

23:55 So after the unlikeliest series of events since Sarah Palin got nominated to the McCain-ticket I find myself in front of Tokoyo inn. It's not without a significant grin I enter the hotel lobby of Tokoyo Inn as I think back on my journey so far. The front desk has only one person but he seems to be working through the guests at a quick pace. That is until he gets to the brit standing in front of me. The only recorded individual in human history to acheve the feat of becoming as wide as he stands tall. And he wasn't very short. The brit couldn't understand that he doesn't have reservations. 

00:15 After nearly twenty minutes of debating, it becomes evident that the company that he works for has made a booking with the hotel, and then cancelled it without telling our sphere-shaped stiff upperlip. After another five minutes, it seems everything is sorted though. The brit gets a new room and
merrily hops along. I approach the counter and in clear voice I say 

'Good evening, I have reservations in the name of Peter Wallin'. 
Furious typing ensues. 
'Sorry sir, no vacancies'. 
Right... I didn't want to go here but you're twisting my arm here. Slow and loud it is, then. 
'Reservations in the name of Peter Wallin'. 
More typing. 
'Sorry no vacancies.' A dreadful thought strikes me. 
'What if the brit was given my room?'. So I make one last desperate attempt, I reach down into my pouch and fish out my passport. 
'RESERVATIONS!' Again more typing. 
'Oh yes! Welcome mr Wallin!'

I go through the check in process and fork over my last Yen-notes and recieve an old-fashioned key with a large white stick attached. 

'Key cards?'
'Not in Japan buddy, here we roll with hardware.' 

I get in the elevator and go up to my room situated on the 4th floor just in front of me as I step out. The key slides in with a slight resistance and i fidget around a little before successfully unlocking. 
I'll be sleeping sleep of angels in a matter of seconds. Not so fast buddy.

The room is dark. I fondle the walls for light switches. I only find a small console with a red light and some kind of switch. I caress every nook and cranny of the console but it doesn't give up the secrets to electrical light umm well lightly. Then I freeze. Did my sweet caresses just set off the fire alarm? It's not impossible. No loud noice though. I think I'm safe. So back to the original problem at hand. No light. I look up and see a lamp, with a string attached. DING! It feels like I'm in one of those point-and-click computer adventure games. 

Pull on string.
The light from the hall lamp reveals an ordinary hotel room with two comfortable beds. There are four light switches around the room
and a console.


Walk to first lightswitch. As you release the string the room goes dark again. You stub your toe on your suitcase and curse a little.

Pull on string The light from hall lamp reveals the same ordinary hotel room as seconds before.

Take directions to first light switch.
Walk to first lightswitch
You navigate past your suitcase and find the first lightswitch in the dark.

Flip switch Nothing happens

Walk to hall lamp You navigate past your suitcase and find yourself under the hall lamp.

Pull on string The light from hall lamp reveals the same ordinary hotel room as seconds before

Take directions to second light switch
Walk to second lightswitch You navigate past your suitcase and find the second lightswitch in the dark.

Flip switch Nothing happens

Walk to hall lamp You navigate past your suitcase and find yourself under the hall lamp.

Pull on string The light from hall lamp reveals the same ordinary hotel room as seconds before

Take directions to third light switch
Walk to third lightswitch You navigate past your suitcase and find the third lightswitch in the dark.

Flip switch Nothing happens

Walk to hall lamp You navigate past your suitcase and find yourself under the hall lamp.

Pull on string The light from hall lamp reveals the same ordinary hotel room as seconds before

Take directions to fourth light switch.
Walk to fourth lightswitch You navigate past your suitcase and find the fourth lightswitch in the dark.

Flip switch Nothing happens
Then I remember: the console!

Walk to console You stub your toe on your suitcase and curse a little.
Push buttons on console. You hear the quiet whirr of the air condition unit as it sputters to life.

Give up and walk to reception to ask for advice.
You pick up the key and once again notice the odd shape of the key ring ornament.

Use oddly shaped keyring ornament with red-light-console. The ornament slides into hole just below the red light and the room lights up!


00:55 Deciding that I've earned myself some relaxation after this trial, I undress and step into the bathroom. I notice that there are 3 dispensers at showering height. One for rinse, one for shampoo and for shower cream.
'So you mean that I don't even have to open my suitcase and dig out my own soap and shampoo? Why yes I can work with that.' 

So I slide down into the bath tub and feel the water rising up over my body. So relaxing. In fact relaxing enough that I don't want to get out of the water to get soap. Not one to be outdone by this slight inconvenience I slide as far down into the tub as possible while simultaneously letting my feet reach further and further up the wall on the footend where the soap dispensers are situated Soon I've figured out how to operate the soap dispenser with my foot and I'm rewarded with a cool stream of soap running into the arch of my left foot.


It is in that exact moment I realise that despite my ingenious solution to fetch soap without getting out of the water, the water has stopped rising at about the height of my nipples because of the overflow safety. So in my finest moment I'm still defeated. My head hangs lowly as I resign to just taking a shower.

When I'm done, I walk out and sit down on one of the beds. I turn on the TV and flip through the channels.

'Oh, pay-per-view! Double-OH! They even have an adult section!' 

Don't get me wrong here I would never order a shabby porno on pay per view in a hotel room anywhere, but I couldn't _not_ flip through the selection. After going through the numerous categories and movies I decide to just call it a night. Just as I place my head on my pillow the room phone rings. You know how it is. NOONE ever calls you on your hotel room unless it's from the front desk and the front desk calling me just after I've flipped through the adult section couldn't be a coincidence. I was convinced. I somehow had ordered
some adult movie so explicit that even the front desk was upset and was now calling me up to ask me to leave. It was a with a quivering voice I answered
'Hello mr Wallin... *pause*'
'Sorry for calling so late in the evening but I need to ask you...'
I had already mentally packed what few belongings I had unpacked.
'... how did you pay? By credit card or cash?'
'Thank you, sorry for disturbing you so late'
Somehow I felt like I had dodged a bullet. But seriously. Who calls their guests to ask how they paid?

I slept the sleep of angels.

06:30 Wake up from the alarm. Turn over.
07:30 Get out of bed, shower, go down and eat breakfast.
08:30 Gather my stuff, check in on my flight online and check out from the hotel.
09:00 Take the shuttle to terminal 1
09:15 Realise that the check-in desk/baggage drop still hasn't opened. Proceed to read some more.
09:30 Check-in desk/bagage drop opens but the girl at the bagage drop station puts up a sign that one should use the ordinary check-in counters.
09:35 Still in line with all the common people that _HASN'T_ checked in online.
09:40 Reach the check-in counter. Drop off my suitcase. The girl at the bagage drop counter removes her sign. Of course.
09:55 Goes through security and immigration.
10:20 Browses the tax free stores. Finds 18 year old japanese whiskey for my colleague.
10:21 Not allowed to purchase Whiskey because I will go through security in Copenhagen again.Disappointed.
10:30 Read more.
11:00 Interrupted by a girl from the Japanese tourism agency. Asks me questions about my stay. I tell her that I've been to Hirakata. She has never
heard of it. I reach the conclusion that NOONE in Japan believes in Hirakata.
11:05 Finish the interview with the girl. Get a moderatly ugly postcard for my troubles.Go back to reading.
11:50 Boarding

My seat is 24 E. Which is in the middle of the middle row. Far from ideal, but that's what you get for checking in at midnight the day before leaving. It's just for 10 hours or so. (I swear to god I never figured out how long the flight time actually is because of the time zones). As I make my way towards seat 24 E I notice the japanese guy that will be sitting to my left. He's young, early 20's perhaps, looking full of life.  I let my imagination wonder as I squeeze down the aisle. 'He's probably off to Europe for his first visit and is really excited about it. Happy to meet new cultures and widen his horizons'. 

As people are in the way for a while I take the time to shut off my cell phone as it's currently at 26% and I'm gonna need the phone in Copenhagen. Also you're not allowed to have your cell phone turned on during flights ( in case you didn't know) After the current glut of people has found their seats, I make eye contact with my dear neighbour. As he realises that I'm seated next to him in his previously comfortably vacant seat, I don't have to imagine any longer. His eyes are like two tunnels straight into his mind and there are no language barriers anymore as I can read his thoughts word for word. Currently he is thinking 'What... the... hell...' I realise that I'm quite possibly the largest person he has ever seen in real life. He keeps his face though as I slide down into the seat next to him.

13:00 We are currently 10 000 meters above the ground and the crew has  started the inflight entertainment. My japanese neighbour however thinks that
the small screens in the seats in front of us are touch screens. However I know that the remote controls are tucked into the armrests dividing the seats. For four minutes I watch him helplessly trying to get the screen to react to his pushes and fondlings before he disappointedly gives up. I  throw a glance at him sideways and I can still read his mind. 

'Worst.trip.ever. First I have to sit next to the marshmallowman from Ghostbusters and THEN I get faulty inflight entertainment equipment.'

13:04 My insides are in turmoil. I'm torn between assisting my neighbour and have him believe that I'm fondling him inappropriately and having to watch him or watch him desperatly trying to push his screen for 9 hours while turning more and more disheartened.
13:05 Deep breath. Right, we're heading into inapporopriate fondling-ville. I reach over and quickly push the button to release the remote from the armrest. Of course the remote is stuck. The temperature between my asian neighbour and me is rapidly heading into 'Frosty with a chance of snowstorm'-territory. After a few seconds of struggling, he realises what I'm trying to do and shines up! With our forces combined we both manage to free the remote. Success!
13:06 Apparently the invertebrae in the seat in front of me seized the opportunity to lean his backrest backwards while I was busy helping with the
remote, thus making sure that my flight will be the distilled very essence of torment. Flight travellers of the world can we please come to an understanding? 'NOONE EVER LEANS THEIR BACKRESTS BACK, EVER? Thank you /Everyone taller than 6ft'.
13:07-18:20 (local Copenhagen time) Pain and discomfort
18:40 Disembarking. My entire body hurts.
18:45 Go through security. Turn on my Iphone to call my father to come pick me up. My Iphone is dead. Dear Apple, how have you managed to develop a
smart phone that uses battery power while shut off? Inquiring minds are FUCKING INQUIRESOME
18:50 - 19:15 Trying to find a power outlet to charge my phone. Unsuccessful. Disappointed. Resort to charging my phone from the battery of my laptop
19:15 Laptop doesn't detect my phone. ADSGFKJADBHGKJLBASDKJLG!!!!
19:30 Boarding for Gothenburg begins. My Laptop detects my phone.
19:35 Gate personnel looks at me strangely as if to say 'We suspect that you're on our flight but for some reason unbeknownst to man you are refusing to board, but of course we can't be sure.'
19:45 Charged up to 10%. Make the worlds quickest phone call to my father. Pack up my laptop and phone.
19:48 Boarding the plane. Make sure to dodge the axe that the flight attendant is attempting to lodge deeply between my shoulderblades.
20:00 Takeoff!
20:15 Notice that the seat row in front of me is vacant. Subsequently move from my seat neighbour to that row instead
20:30 Finish my book. Put my Kindle in the seat pocket in front of me.
21:00 Touchdown in Gothenburg! I'M HOME BITCHES!
21:10 Finally on actual Swedish ground.
21:12 Through the security check. Pondering kissing the floor of the airport terminal. Decide against it for numerous reasons. Realise I left my kindle on the plane.
21:17 Grab my suitcase of the belt. Head to the information desk and ask them if they can help out. Look at my boarding card to find my seat number.
21:25 'No kindle... sorry'
21:26 Realise that I asked them to look in the wrong seat pocket. Ask them to look in 19F instead of 20F. SUCCESS!!
21:40 On my way home.
22:10 Collapse into bed.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Part 2 of my Japan trip was supposed to go here, but then I discovered that Steam has a sale on various computer games. Among others Civ 5 for half price and the bestest game series ever Broken Sword 1-3 for only 1 Euro.
So... err... This might take a while. I knew you'd understand.

Seriously though. The second part is on its way.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I left for Japan at the end of last month to visit my friend Stefan. I'll try to recount some of what happened there and on the way there. I left Sweden on the morning of November 17th. I had a carefully laid out plan of wearing a jacket over a cardigan over a shirt. That way I'd be prepared for any climate both in Sweden and along the way and even when arriving in Japan. I liked my plan. Was quite proud.

I had a 5 hour overlay in Copenhagen. I spent it on writing articles and wrestling with the free wifi at the airport. IT'S NOT FREE WIFI IF IT DISCONNECTS EVERY 8 MINUTES! There, I feel much better now. Really. What are you doing with those long-armed sweaters?

I find my seat without any problems and it's one of those seats in front of the toilets, which means more legspace (YAY!) but no screen for inflight entertainment. (or so I initially thought. Also... Boo!). I was fed some kind of meat and gratinated potatoes. It was better than expected. '4/5, would eat again'. I was also handed an immigration form. Not technically an immigration form maybe. But it's a form, detailing where you'll be staying, if you're carrying any valuables, weapons or drugs and you leave it to the immigrations officer. I didn't have a pen. So I ignored the form for now. Instead I read a book on my Kindle.

Slight aside:
My Kindle is one of my better purchases this year. It's a reading plate. You can read any amazon book on there. Currently Amazon does not have  a swedish section, but there are third-party programs that can transfer your borrowed library e-book (or any other e-book) onto the kindle without any fuss. Be sure to delete the book after your loan period expires though (as the thrid party software removes the DRM-protection). Remember that swedish libraries are currently paying 3$ per borrowed ebook to the publishers.

I read 'Dreamsongs volume 1' by George RR Martin. That's the same guy that writes the Game of thrones-books. Dreamsongs is a collection of short stories and some anecdotes from Georges life, narrated by himself and I had previously read volume 2 (it was a gift from a co-worker) so when I found it on sale in the kindle store I couldn't really resist. Volume 2 is definitely the better of the two, but Volume 1 is well worth a read. 

Back on track:
As we approached the eastern parts of Russia I'd finished my book and was looking around to see that the fellow to the left of me had found his inflight-entertainment-monitor. It was somehow hidden under our chair, I could feel my own with my hand, but never figure out how to swing it into any position where I could view it. Or swing it anywhere at all, as a matter of fact. Well well, I missed 'Total Recall 2012', I guess I'll have to learn how to live with it. As we approached the Sea of Japan a friendly danish stewardess came over to me and asked 
'Did you choose this seat or were you assigned it at random?' with a shocked and horrified look.
'Yeah umm well... ehh I was assigned it?' Which was more or less true since it was the only seat left when I checked in.
'Ah because you see, these are the worst seat on the airplane, it's common that we put families travelling with small children here'
'Yeah um, I kinda liked the extra legspace'
The stewardess looked funnily at me and repeated in an odd voice like she was talking to a child '...WORST SEATS ON THE PLANE!'
'Umm can I borrow a pencil to stab you in the eye, Joker-style? Err I mean to fill out the immigration forms'
'Of course!'
Never try to understand danes. Denmark is like one big school for children with special needs. Just kidding of course. I know a lot of danes, I work with danes and I love them. If only you guys, once in a while, would try this whole consonant thing out. Come on throw us a bone here. It's not like it hurts. 

We land at Narita airport in Tokyo and as I look out the window I see that it's sunny and the thermometer says that it's 'not that much of a Swedish winter jacket'-weather. I keep my cardigan on though but when we get off it becomes apparent that it's not really 'cardigan-'weather either. First however: Japanese immigration. Since I had no idea on what street Stefan lived I just gave his name and 'Hirakata'. Can't imagine there being that many Stefan Bengtsson in Hirakata. The japanese didn't object and let me into their country. 'Suckers!' However there was a moment of tension between me and the Customs officer. He asks me where I'm going and I answer 'Hirakata'. He looks at me as if I'm trying to communicate with him in Martian. 'Hirakata' I repeat. 'Hirakata?' he repeats by mimicking my sounds. I give up and go 'Osaka' which is the nearest prefecture. I draw the conclusion that the customs in Japan does not believe in Hirakata.

So first thing to do was to turn my exchange order into a rail pass. I can see you all out there going 'turn what into a who?'. Yes, yes, perhaps I should have mentioned the rail pass earlier, but I'm too lazy to go back and rewrite everything now. The idea is that there's a train pass that lets you travel all the railways for free. Great deal! It is however only available to tourists and not to Japanese themselves. So you have to buy an exchange order in your own country that you exchange to a real railpass in Japan. You also have to show your passport. Me and my other friend Andreas had decided to get ourselves railpasses, because the trainride back and forth from Narita Airport to Stefans home in Hirakata was comparable to the price of the rail pass so it was an easy decision. There's a slight twist to the story though. While me and Andreas were arriving at the same time, we weren't arriving at the same place. He was flying with Finnair and I was flying SAS. SAS and Finnair arrive at different terminals. As soon as we got on the ground we get in touch via text. This is a fairly accurate reconstruction of the conversation (with surrounding events):
PW: Touchdown
AD: I suggest you get working on your railpass, it takes forever.

PW: OK, I thought we were gonna do this together, though?

AD: I need to take the train to get to your terminal. I have to fix it here.
So I go fix my rail pass. It does not take forever. Unless the defenition of forever is 10 minutes. I have to stop the nice japanese girl helping me from making seat reservations for a specific train on my rail pass though, since I'm waiting for Andreas so we can you know go together.
PW: Got it.
AD: Really? Still waiting in line.
So I go to the bathroom to change out of my cardigan, put my jacket in my luggage and switch shirts. Since the one I'm wearing is drenched in sweat. Large westerner meats japanese toilet. Let's just say that me trying to change clothes in a japanese bathroom stall could have doubled as a script for mr Bean. I wasn't as much in the bathroom stall as I was wearing it. When I get back out again I recieve another text.

AD: Got it! I'm on the 11:43 train to Tokyo.
I look at the clock on the wall '11:33'. I check the information light board. 'Hmm, no trains leaving at 11:43 from here if I understand this correctly, but I need to get a move on. I'll ask the girl at the seat reservation desk' 
I start heading towards said desk. 
PW: Thanks for the headsup, pal! I need to make seat reservations. Might not make it in time. 
AD: Oh just realised, the train leaves from your terminal earlier... comes to me at 11:43.
PW: !!!!!
So I turn and make a run for the trains, while explaining to anyone who would listen why I hate people. I make it to the right train just in time. Next stop is Narita Airport terminal 2 and I meet with Andreas. 
'You do realize that if I get thrown off because I don't have seat reservations, I'll punch you in the nuts right?'
The conductor rolls by and asks us for tickets. There's a moment of suspense as he eyes my rail pass and asks 'Tokyo?' 'Hai!' He looks as if he's thinking 'Stupid tourist. How do you manage to not get this right? They make seat reservation for you at the desk where they give you the rail pass.' and then lets me go on. 

Me and Andreas get off in Tokyo and enjoy some roastbeef sandwhich and pasta bolognese. Ain't nothing like tasting the local cuisine. Also enjoyed our first 14$ bottle of water ever in our lives. We drank in reverence. After being fed and watered we get on the train from Tokyo to Osaka. The journey takes almost exactly three hours and upon arriving in Osaka we wait for Stefan. And we wait. And wait. After another hour we call him asking him where he is. He of course asks the same. It takes a couple of minutes to determine that me and Andreas had gone to the wrong Osaka. Not as in 'the wrong Osaka town' but 'the wrong Osaka station'. Stefan offers to come pick us up. 'Yes please we would like that very much' and 25 minutes later we meet up!

And so ends part one of my travelogue of my trip to Japan. Hope you're enjoying it sofar and hope you didn't feel it was too longwinded.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

That magical moment

I just got home from watching 'The Intouchables' and while I was travelling home through the rain I started thinking. I was checking my blog, this therapy project that I sometimes dedicate myself to. Re-reading what once passed for comedy. Smiling at friendly comments, carefully stroking my own ego be sure to not touch that one sore spot. Am I isolated? Has this joking self-glorifying facade that I sometimes put on turned into what I am? 

I looked up and realized that this was my stop. I stood up and noticed that the girl that had been glancing over in my direction the way you you would a celebrity most part of the trip was now staring right at me. 

Needless to say it wasn't my stop at all. Needless to say I got off not to look like a fool. Needless to say she didn't.

Not to dwell on what could have been I made the best of it and took a walk. Even having time to make a snide remark about the rain to anyone who would listen on Facebook. During the walk the rain almost subsided, there was that slightly humid but still rainy and somehow warm feeling to the air. And I decided 'No that's not who I am'. I am humbled in front of girls and weather. I make silly mistakes and decide to joke about them. I am not my facade... the facade is a small small part of the mosaic that is me.

For those of you wondering if the title is referring to my moment of realization; it is not. It could be, but it's not. 

In a time now long since buried, I experienced my one magical moment. It was one afternoon in, maybe february, 1999 but I'm not giving any guarantees as to the specific timing. I was still a University student. We had finished a lecture in, I believe it was, Physical Chemistry part B. That would put the specific time at almost precisely fifteen minutes past three. I can still remember exactly how uncomfortable the chairs in the lecture hall were. I was gathering my compendiums, stood up and there it was. My one magical moment.

Fairy tales will have you believe that if you share your special magical moment, it will lose its qualities. Let's find out shall we. 

It wasn't a vague sensation. It was something I could actually see. A south american girl in my class, which I had never been infatuated with, never been attracted to, also stood up. Her seat was a couple of rows down from me so she was facing away from me and as she stood up something happened. There was a bright shining light about her head. It shimmered in the brightest silver and gold and black. I looked away and tried to see whether anyone else noticed, I even actually shook my head in disbelief. Then I looked back and it was still there. No one else could see it. By then people were waiting for me to get out of the way. I hesitantly turned away and made my way outside. The moment was over, but not lost. Forever with me. It took me weeks to figure out what really had happened. 

*SPOILER* (if you want to believe in magic don't read this part)
The sun was so low, being a winter afternoon in Sweden, that it had shone in through one of the thin side windows, reflected off her jet black hair in a cascade of silver and gold making the sun reflection hit me and only me in the eyes. It is still my magical moment. 

Good night Cyberspace, wherever you are.

Oh... and pro tip: Watch 'The Intouchables'

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No good deed goes unpunished

This blog post will have a completely different tone from the one I had imagined. I know, you might be tired of hearing me rant about yeah... you know... _that_ company. I actually was going to commend them for how well they had managed during the latest weather conditions. Despite the latest snows I still haven't been more than a minute late because of them. (I've been late for a number of other reasons like 'chronological optimism bordering on naiveté on my behalf' and 'talking too long with old friends'). So in a fit of uncomparable fairness I decided to write a blog post about how well they did. I mean if i reserve the right to moan and whine about them when they do wrong, I feel, at least a little, like I owe them a nice word when they exceed my expectations. 

I started writing it yesterday with the intent of publishing it some time during the weekend or so. Then today happened. In the post where I described my latest enounter with the collection of navel-lint formerly known as Cave-mongo Inc, formerly known as Västtrafik I told you about how they managed to fuck up my auto-renewal. Last week I got a text from Aardvark Ltd telling me that my buspass was about to expire but it will autorenew on thursday (today). 

'Neat, so it's working properly again then! Even with the auto-renewal.' I was a bit worried since the first renewal was most likely done manually that there might still be something wrong with the real auto-renewal process.

Then I got another text from them telling me that my buspass was about to expire but it will autorenew on thursday (today).  And then another.

'Lol, they can't even do this right. They must have messed up the notifications somehow so I'm getting three notifications each time my buspass is about to expire.'

Today I got a text telling me that 75$ had been withdrawn from my account to renew my buspass. Then I got another. And then another. 

'Lol they still haven't fixed the notification bug'

Yes, my dear reader I really am _that_ gullible. Or maybe it's that I'm so cheerful and loving that I always think the best of people. Or maybe, just maybe I expected that someone would do their job, properly. Obviously that was too much to ask from Invertebrates'RUs. Of course my imaginary world came crashing down around me. Of course they had triple-billed me. Not double-billed me. Triple-billed me.

I contacted customer support and of course I was greeted by a girl with a nice voice. I swear they do that just to throw me off track when I'm ready to tantrum. I'm such a newbie-rager, I let my rage subside if I'm confronted with things like kindness, professional treatment and understanding for my situation.

Unfortunately she was as about as competent as a door knob and had to go fetch another girl. They both reached the conclusion that something wasn't as it should be. I audibly slammed my fist into the sofa, it was all that I could do not to scream out:

'YOU THINK?!?!?!?!' out loud

'We have to pass this on to the economics department. They'll look into this tomorrow...


'... or within three days. Definitely within three days.'

I'm not making this up to make this sound like a bad movie dialogue. That is literally word for word what she said to me. Last time I got the 'Definitely within three days' I had to contact them after four and a half day. Let's just say that I'm restraining myself from optimism. At least she told me that she had all my details there so that the economics department doesn't have to ask me all that stuff again.

Pro tip: If you're buying food to have for dinner and decide on bratwurst because you're certain that you have one pack of instant mashed potatoes in the cupboard at home because you can picture that exact pack in your mind, make sure that that pack that you're picturing really really is mashed potatoes and not, say, a pack of bread crumbs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines day, Whine-Horny and Sell-out

Yes, I have 'Every rose has its thorn' on repeat this Valentine's day as well. Starting to become bit of a tradition. Still I wish everyone a happy valentines day.

I read something this morning that made me all warm on the inside. Someone commented on a news article I read, writing something like 'That woman is really whine-horny'.I decided to pick up the term right there and then. Unfortunately I almost immediatly realised that my blog posts some of the time come across like I too might have an erotic fascination for complaining. Well my only excuse is that I don't do it for the sex.

Now a confession, if you look around this blog post you might notice that I've gone 'sell-out' on you all, my dear readers. Yup I let google in and let them display their fillthy capitalistic ads here. Apparently the ads will be based on your surfing habits and what I write about on the blog. That mix sure will be interesting to see. I'm guessing that you'll be seeing ads displaying Bitter-lemon, naked ladies and the latest Neanderthal exhibit, featuring life-size cave-men with bus driver uniforms. I'll let you draw your conclusion which of the ads are connected to my blog posts and which of them are related to your surfing. Actually, who am I kidding, they're all mine.

I don't have many reasons for taking on the ads. It's not like I'm going expecting to get rich from this. (better not, with my posting frequency). It was just one of those 'why not' things. If I'm met with violent protests and molotov cocktails through my living room window, I will remove them again, I promise. I can also be swayed with flatter and hugs. I actually prefer that to the violent approach, god knows my living room is cold enough as it is even with intact window panes.

I just have to point out that now I'm listening to a Lullabye version of 'Every rose has its thorn'. I suppose you really can find anything on the internet.

Pro tip: If someone that you interact with on a regular basis, say a good friend, boss or co-worker sends you a picture of their relatively newborn girl, keep in mind that not everyone automatically equates newborn baby with 'cute and beautiful', hence taking the following glib remark directed at the father 'I see she has her mothers looks and your intellect' to an entirely different level of disrespect.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sofas and Thingies

It's been a while since last. Sorry about that. I'm sure you've all missed me like a tooth ache. Because I'm so sweet! No that didn't make sense, I know.

Let's get the usual stuff out of the way so we can focus on more important stuff later. My rant about CaveMongo Inc. They've implemented a new business plan. It's called 'Take Peters money and still don't let him ride our vehicles'. It started with a beep too many. When I show my buspass to the thingy on the bus/tram it goes 'beep' and shows a friendly green light. A couple of weeks ago the thingy instead it went 'beepbeep' accompanied with an angry red light instead. I didn't think anything of it and figured that it just hadn't scanned my pass properly. (because that's the most common cause for getting ze old 'double-beep-red-light'). As time progressed I started noticing a trend. Every time I showed my pass I got the red light. After a day and a half I actually bothered to read the display:


'AHA!' You all think, 'this will be a story about that fat retard not renewing his buspass in time.'

But no. I actually have my buspass on auto-renew, connected to my credit card. So I logged into my online-bank to check if any payments have failed. To my utter astonishment it had not. I'm as surprised as you dear reader, all signs point to the unlikely theory that CaveMongo Inc had fucked up. Me being a strong admirer of the worlds first private detective and his axiom 'When you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth' so I called customer service. The girl who answered had a friendly voice and asked me a lot of questions just like customer support usually do.

'Hi, my buspass isn't working, when I show it to the thingy on the bus it says 'expired'.

'Have you logged onto our webpage and checked the status of your card there?'

'Yes, it says expired'

'What's your card number?'

'123456789' (no not really)

'Ah yes I see here that your last renewal was in december. So everything is in order, you just haven't paid us. The auto-renewal must have failed somehow, sorry about that. I'll set up a new one'

'Hold it hold it hold it! We are going to hold it here. Here is where we will be holding. Holding is what we are going to do and 'it' is going to be what we are holding. You've taken money from my account on Jan 4th.'

'Uhhmm, well... I see'


'But then the renewal should be on its way, you just need to show your buspass to a reader and everything will be fixed, nothing to worry about.' (apparently 'reader' is the technical term for 'thingy'. I will continue to use the term 'thingy' not to confuse the blue and yellow gizmos with you guys. Now I have a mental image of people reading my blog while attached to the fixtures of a public transport vehicle)

'Do you remember the beginning of this conversation when I said that it said 'expired' when I showed my buspass to the thingy? One could say that it actually was one of the motivational forces for me to actually enter this conversation with you.'

'Yes... I'll have to transfer you to the economy department to see what went wrong, but they've already went home for the day. They'll be back on monday. What was that sound?'

'Nothing, just me carving a chunk of flesh from my thigh, have a nice weekend!'

'I've written down everything about your case here so you don't have to answer any questions.'

Come monday, I had a long electronical conversation with another customer support-person (not the economy department as promised), having to explain pretty much everything above again. Two days pass and nothing happens, not a word about anything. On wednesday evening I write an addendum to the conversation I've been having with 'other customer-support person':

'I realise that it's not very fun or motivational to listen to peoples complaints all day so I'll remain civilised. In exchange, can you please walk over to the economy department and pretend that I just called you and chewed your ass off'

After an hour a reply came back:

'We will be sending you a replacement card'

See? It pays off to be nice.

I've also bought a new sofa! It's very comfy, and large. I'd found a nice sofa on the internet for just about 1300$ and went to the furniture store to take a look at it in person and, you know, get acquainted with it, perhaps take it out to dinner and a movie if we hit it off. These kind of relationships you don't just rush into. After a couple of minutes we were interrupted by a sales-girl. She asked me if I had found something I liked and I asked her if this sofa was available in any other colours. A little away from the sofa of course not to hurt the sofas feelings. She had some samples for me to look at and I picked a colour I liked. We went downstairs to her desk and she started doing the paperwork and calculations then turned to me with a friendly smile.

'There, then it'll be 2500$'

I squinted my eyes suspiciously. 'Did you by chance perhaps sell used cars before you landed this job? Or maybe suspicious underwear subscriptions over the phone'

She then explained to me that the colour that I had found on the internet was on sale and it normally costed 2000$ and that the fabric I chose was a more expensive one.

'Oh ok. Well 2500$ is a bit steep for me. I'll get back to you.'

She gave me her phone number if I had a change of heart, but looked very disappointed. I got back home and pondered, gave the walls a good look. Picturing the sofa with the original colours, trying to make a mental image of what it would all look like together and decided that it probably would look pretty well together. The next day I went back and told the girl

'Yup the guy you never thought you'd see again is back.'

I've never seen anyone _that_ happy to see me. I suppose she really needed the sale or something. Or she thought I was handsome. Toss-up in my mind.

(here there would be a picture of the sofa if blogger hadn't gone all sofa-nazi on me and refused to upload it)

Pro tip of the day:
If you're sitting on a bus and have decided to shave your beard because it's starting to look 'above average sleazy' and is pondering what to say to the cute cashier at the store where you're buying your razor-blades to charm her and have finally settled on 'I've gotta get rid of this whole taliban-thing I've got going'. Then it's extremely crucial to make sure that you're just thinking it inside your head and not just blurting it out for everyone else on the bus to hear.

P.S. Today the thingy 'double-beeped' again stating 'Balance too low' as a reason. 'I don't need to have a balance! I've paid to ride for free the entire month!'. I swear I'm considering getting a car again, happily paying gas, insurance and taxes just to spite the motherfuckers. Fuck you, environment! If these retards are your ambassadors you should be shopping for new ones. I hear George W Bush is looking for a new job.