There are some days when you’re blessed with one little good fortune after another.
The day I rented a car in Stockholm was one of those days. I had a brand spanking new Saab 9-3 brought to my hotel. This wasn’t you ordinary Opel Astra type car. It was a perfectly clear May morning, and the sky was the color of Scandinavian blue. We planned to take the highway south, stopping for a few days at some perfect little hotel in the countryside, and then ride the ferry along with our car over to Denmark. (Now there’s a bridge you can drive across but in those days you’d kick back on the ferry instead.) Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Having wrapped up all the the work I had to do in Sweden we were ready to relax and enjoy the freedom of the open road.
We checked out of the hotel early that morning, turned on the ignition (vroooom!) and booked it out of the city and onto the highway. Shifting gears felt like a hot knife through butter. That morning was most likely one of the dozen best mornings in my life.
We stopped at a restaurant near a gorgeous lake for a salad and some fish before continuing down south. The leaves on the trees lining the road were a vibrant green, and the purr of the engine gently sang along with Mozart’s “Posthorn Serenade” that was playing on the car stereo. What a beautiful day. However, my companion seated beside me planted a terrible seed of doubt, like pulling dirty tennis socks that you forgot about two weeks ago from your gym bag.
“Hey, by the way, you remembered your passport, traveler’s checks, and return ticket, right?”
My passport, traveler’s check, and return ticket?
I had placed all my valuables in a bag and secured them in the hotel safe, where I had forgotten them when we left that morning. Glancing at our mileage, we’d already gone 250 kilometers south of Stockholm. That’s the distance from Tokyo to Lake Hamana, and it was already three in the afternoon. I took a deep breath. It started to rain as I pulled over to the side of the road as if the bad weather had been waiting for this to happen.
I headed back. I had to. It was completely dark by the time we arrive back in Stockholm (and we got lost in the city). Exhausted and drained, the two of us didn’t speak to each other. Things always come back around after a lucky streak. That’s life. That’s reality.
To this day I think about the events of the day when I look at a map of Sweden. It reminds me of the expression “the light is followed by the shadow.” I wish that wasn’t how I remembered Sweden.