A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…
It was 9am sharp and I was facing a middle-aged blonde, going-on-grey, lady. Her last name ended with the letters ‘…sson’ and her first name contains the letter ‘å’ – a letter not found in the Civilised Alphabet; she could not have been any more Swedish if she had crayfish dribbling down her chin and was dunking a herring-shaped biscuit in her fifth cup of coffee of the morning.
I was standing at the reception in the Swedish Embassy in London’s Montagu Place and about to hear the words which will come to echo my Swedish Assessment Experience:
“Take a number and we’ll call you.”
I am, of course, familiar with the concept of ‘taking a number’ from a ticket machine; I recall the reputable British cobblers Clarks had such a queuing mechanism in the junior section at its stores. I also note they’re increasingly used in various delicatessen counters throughout the UK’s supermarket food halls, in Sweden, however, they are epidemic.
I have, to date, been asked to take a ticket in a café, a bookmakers, a tobacconist, a post office, a railway station, a butchers, a bakers and an…Ikea. I have been asked to ‘take a ticket’ in an electronic shop so small if could only fit three customers in at any one time. I fear that if ever the long winters were to become too much for me, I’d have to take a ticket in the ‘Throw Yourself off the Oresund Bridge Suicide Queue’.
Swedish society is, in the modern era, a very bureaucratic one; indeed they make no secret of the fact that the word ‘ombudsman’ has Swedish origins. But what WAS Swedish ‘society’ better known for? The answer is of course, savagery. Can you imagine, for example, a horned-helmeted Viking lining up in single file in the Pillage Queue? Of course not, and this is why the Swedes have introduced the ‘take a ticket’ system. Unless the Swedes are kept in a highly-administered society, constantly distracted and bamboozled by endless form filling they will descend into utter mayhem and be sailing to The Americas, axes held aloft, before you can say “I am sorry, did you say RAW herring’?
Let’s take a bus queue as a prime example.
Instinctively, and left to their own devices, this is how the average Brit waits for a bus:
In contrast, this is what happens at a Swedish bus stop:
So from henceforth, if gratuitously asked to take a ticket, I will not think ‘what a hassle’, but rather consider the alternative – having my head lopped off by a man wearing a bear skin in a desperate bid to buy postage stamps.