Last Saturday morning was sunshiney and warm, just begging for us to get outside and enjoy it before the Swedish autumn sets in. To my surprise and delight, Dr. Darling, suggested we go to the kallbadhus (literally translated: cold bathhouse) for a sauna and a dip into the Öresund, followed by a leisurely lie-around in the sun. All of this done in the traditional Swedish style of course, i.e. totally naked.
Prior to the New Year’s Eve Kallbadhus Adventure we arranged for my brother last December, the Swede wouldn’t go near the place except to fika in its café. Dr. Darling thinks the Öresund is too cold for swimming in the summertime, let alone the dead of winter. But ever since braving that initial icy plunge, she’s not only been game to do it again, but enthusiastically game to do it again. Who was I to argue?
We arrived about 10:45 to find the place not especially crowded considering the abundant sunshine. After claiming one of the numerous small wooden cubicles lining the outdoor decks (and taking care to choose one that would put a bit of distance between us and other sun worshippers), we stripped off our clothes, grabbed our towels and headed for the sauna.
When we returning from sweating and swimming about 30 minutes later, I was kind of surprised to see that someone had claimed a spot on the deck almost directly in front of our obviously occupied cubicle. But whatever. Maybe she wanted some company? How wrong I was on that count.
She was wearing a shirt but no pants and had her bare backside to us as we spread our towels out next to her, but she turned around immediately and asked me, in Swedish of course, why we had to sunbathe in this particular spot when there was so much space available elsewhere. I responded that all of our belongings were in the cubicle behind her…assuming she’d come to the obvious conclusion that we had been there first. Turns out I was wrong on that count, too.
Instead of recognizing that it was her responsibility to move if she had a problem with our proximity, she told me that I didn’t need to worry about our stuff, that she’d been coming to the kallbadhus for 20 years and she was sure that no one would bother it. She went on to say, in a very aggressive tone…especially for a Swede…that she knew we would be talking and she *needed* the atmosphere to be calm and quiet. WTF? Who goes to a public swimming facility on a warm, sunny day and expects solitude?
I assured her that I wasn’t worried about our stuff (we’d left it there while in the sauna and swimming, for crying out loud, how concerned about theft could we possibly be?), that the two of us were planning to do some dozing in the sun, and if we did talk to each other, we’d do so very quietly. I thought this would satisfy her, but for the third time, I was wrong.
She came back with how she had already moved several times in her quest to find a quiet spot, and unfortunately, I didn’t know the Swedish translation for Tough Noogies. Instead I responded incredulously, “I understand what you’re saying, but we were here first.”
At this stage I turned to Dr.Doesn’t-Do-Conflict Darling, hoping for some back-up. Silly me. Her suggestion was that we could move over a couple of meters…which was SO NOT THE POINT. Plus doing so would put us right next to somebody else. Never mind that there were at least 10 meters of empty deck space on the *other side* of Ms. Rude-vig Entitled-sson.
Suddenly the ridiculousness of the situation hit me. Here I was, buck-naked and dripping wet, trying to reason with a bitter, pantless woman in a 2nd language who was under the delusion that she owned the place, while simultaneously being undercut by my usually reliably supportive Swede, who seemed content to let this idiot go on thinking she was Queen of the Kallbadhus. What planet was I on?!
It certainly wasn’t worth ruining our visit over, so we moved two meters to the left, but made a point of talking loudly enough that she could not miss the fact that we both thought she was a total nutjob.
As a precaution against further hassle, we left our towels on the deck when we went for a 2nd sauna and swim, and when we got back we were thrilled to see that two young women had claimed a spot practically right on top of her and were happily chattering away. So naturally I HAD to wonder aloud in clear-as-a-bell English, “Gee, I wonder if she yelled at them, too?” In any case, it was nice to see that karma, at least, was on MY side.