Monday: Started with a massive Swedish cold and headache, tired from
lack of sleep because of coughing half the night. But I’m determined not
to miss a Swedish language session. I might not be learning much, but
never miss a class, and always there at least five minutes early. What
was it Woody Allen said, “90% of success is just showing up.”
I’m out the door by 7:30, time enough to make the fifteen minute drive
to school. I pull into the parking lot ten minutes early, kill the
engine, then can’t get the key out of the ignition. This is impossible. I
pull and push and twist and curse, but nothing works. I have, of
course, forgotten to bring my cell phone. I consider leaving the key in
the car. I could throw my coat over the steering wheel so passersby
would not notice, but that would mean leaving the doors unlocked.
Leaving the key in the ignition might also keep part of the Volvo’s
electronic brain working which might, in the four hours of class time,
run down the battery. When the battery dies the car goes brain dead and
forgets things, codes that have to be put in when it comes back to life.
I gave it up and drive back home.
I explain the problem to my somewhat surprised wife who decides to see
for herself. She removes the key easily, no problem as I watch. Amazing.
“Great,” I tell her. There’s no time to think about what’s happened. I
jump back into the driver’s seat and wave goodbye. I haven’t missed all
that much class time, but once on my way again I start to think, and
worry. What if . . . ? After driving a few blocks I pull the car off
road and kill the engine to see if I can remove the key. All the tricks
that failed to remove it the first time fail me again. I can’t believe
this as I start the engine, turn the car around and drive back home . . .
My wife seems less surprised to see me this time. “What?” she asks.
“I cannot get the fucking key out!”
“Let me try again,” she says. Once more the key slides smoothly out into
her hand. This is insane! Or maybe I am . . . frustrated, pissed off.
“I’ll drive you,” she suggests, “come back and pick you up at twelve.”
“Okay.” What can I say? We ride in silence as I ponder whether or not I am losing my mind - first stages of dementia?
I make it to class an hour late, not bad considering. But I feel guilty,
and embarrassed. Teacher frequently mentions the importance of being on
time, a new concept for some of my classmates. “Min bil är dod,” I tell
her. (My car is dead.) It’s the best I could do. I want to add, “I may
be next,” don’t know the words. She seems okay with my excuse. Head
aching, tired and stressed I slide into my seat . . . three hours to go.
This class makes me feel younger sometimes, simply by being part of this
youthful group. Turns out most are not as young as I thought. New words
for the day are, oldest (åldst), older (äldre), and youngest, (yngst)
plus other age words. I try to focus as teacher asks students how old
they are. They respond without reservation, even the girls which is a
pleasant surprise. I’ll be glad when I’m eighty. Only Swedes and people
suffering from emphysema can pronounce the Swedish seven properly– sju.
The six is easy – sex. I’m sjuttiosex.
She writes my number on the whiteboard and when finished with
statistics asks, in Swedish, “Who is youngest? Who is oldest? Oldest is
no problem. I am forty years beyond the yngst. There is laughter. Some
guy makes a humorous comment about my age in Swedish. Teacher tells him
it is impolite to say that. I have no idea what his remark was, and
don’t ask, smile instead. The moment makes me feel uneasy. How do I seem
to my classmates? That crazy guy who came here from America. Why? They
must ask themselves. Sweet bird of youth has taken flight. I’m feeling
older. Head is throbbing. One more hour to go.