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“On this one occasion outside of Gränna the bus was passing a white Volvo PV that was driving really slow by the verge of the road. The man who was driving the car sat with a roar of laughter – the kind of laughter you otherwise only can find on rubber masks from Butterick's (The party and joke stuff store) – throwing out shoes from the side window of the car. And it was first-rate goods he was throwing out, strong shoes with the upper part of the shoe stitched together with the sole (and not just glued) and a handful of boots.
“Sehr schön!” said an elderly German couple who were sitting on the seat just behind me, looking kind and positive.
Of course they were talking about the beautiful surroundings and I was really hoping that they wouldn't catch a glimpse of the fool who was driving around laughing and throwing out shoes through the window of his car. He was a real swede in a genuine Swedish car and surely they would be wondering if this was frequently occurring along the highways of Sweden. It isn't and how would I explain that? How could one give an explanation to that phenomenon? It's easier to explain the taxes, the general pension system, the employer's taxes, the change of government and the exile of Ingmar Bergman, than to explain why a man drives around in a white Volvo PV throwing out first-rate shoes along the E4.
The German couple never saw the man in the car and I was happy for that. I was relieved, because deep down I was embarrassed of him. But that happiness and relief didn't last long, soon I started to think about why I should feel embarrassed for him, why I should feel responsible for what people are doing along the roads. Did I feel that much pride for this country and this people that I would stand up and explain why one slightly embarrassing human being drives around spreading shoes?
No, actually I didn't give a damn about it and soon I was regretting that I didn't tell the Germans:
“Look over there! A swede!”
Actually they should have been looking at him instead of at the old castle ruin, since he was really saying more about this country than the old castle ruin. There are old castle ruins everywhere and they look just the same and the castles they are ruins from are built on the same pattern, the same boring set of principles no matter where they are standing. But swedes spreading fine shoes along the roads is something bigger, an attraction, something we should really be proud of since they expose more of this madness, this rising, bubbling, hissing, sputtering Jante-Sweden than the northern lights, the Dalecarians, the Royal Castle and the Old Town, the aqueduct in Håverud and the life-time prison cell of Lasse-Maja at Carlsten's fortress ever will do.”
Klas Östergren, Fantomerna 1978