So somehow I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to take my brother to Malmö’s Kallbadhus for a New Year’s Eve dip. Though not for everyone, I consider the traditional Swedish sauna and cold plunge a MUST DO Scandinavian Experience and I knew he would be game for it since he prides himself on having been in the Öresund on his two previous visits. So what if both of those happened to be in the month of June?
But New Year’s Eve probably wasn’t the best date for this special adventure, because not only was it the last day of the year for bathers to use their 2008 pre-paid clip-cards, it was also the final day of operation before the historic facility was closing for six months of restoration and refurbishment. I’d recruited my Favorite Alpha Geek to show Davy the ropes (the saunas and bathing areas are gender-segregated), and to my amazement, the cold-water-shy Dr. Darling had also agreed to go with, so there was no way I was backing out even though I could feel the inklings of a cold coming on.
The Alpha Geek very kindly volunteered to drive and even retracted the sunroof of his car on the way there to help us acclimatize. It didn’t seem to be too crazy busy when we got there, and I had the good fortune to get in line behind a Swedish regular who heard us speaking English, assumed we were tourists and asked if we’d like to enter on her clip-card that was expiring the next day. I gratefully accepted and then handed the card to the person directly behind our party as there was still a single entry on it after we had all signed in.
It’s all a blur after that. The place was so packed they ran out of lockers for valuables, the changing room was a zoo, and there was actually a queue to get into the saunas. The Swede and I finally secured some seats and managed to work up a good sweat even though the door was constantly opening and closing as the crowds moved in and out. As we made our way out of the bathhouse for the frigid Öresund, I still wasn’t certain that Dr. D would actually take the plunge since our original deal only involved the sauna.
There was ice on the stairs leading down to the water, making me even more certain the Swede would NOT go in, but I forged ahead and actually had to remind myself to breath as I emerged from it. While I had been intentionally torturing myself, another group of bathers had arrived on the dock and I lost track of Dr. Darling in the crowd. I was still gathering my wits as I worked my way back up the stairs toward my towel…the other bathers were passing me on the right (my blind side). In my frozen stupor, I was only slightly surprised to find that the last bather in the queue was my Swede, and without thinking I reached over and patted her bare butt with a resounding “Lycka till!” (Good luck in Swedish.)
But the person who looked back at me with a puzzled look on her face and said “Tack?” (thank you) was NOT Dr. Darling, but rather a very surprised blonde who happened to share my Swede’s build and a pony-tail. I was of course MORTIFIED…but only for a split-second because in the very same moment that I realized my MAJOR faux pas, I saw that the real Dr. Darling was actually IN THE WATER! It was a friggin’ miracle!
Once we had regained some feeling in our extremities, I tried to find the bather I’d violated so that I could apologize, but I suspect she spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding me like the plague. Though in addition to apologizing, I should probably also thank her for all the mileage I got out of the story in the following few days…though I’m guessing she got a pretty good story out of it, too.