Driving the Volvo V-60 reminds us of David Hasselhof’s talking car, Kit; alarm bells start ringing when we switch lanes, a red light pops up in the windscreen when we get too close to the car in front of us, light flashes on the sides of the front-window when overtaking a car or in the rare occasion of being overtaken by another car on these winding Swedish roads on which Swedes take it very easy.
We are heading towards Hölick, an old fishermen’s harbour, to discover the peninsula when Kit demands us to stop the car to check the decreasing tyre pressure of the front wheel. A few minutes before, the front tyre violently faced a pothole and my silent prayers for the wheel not to be damaged where not heard. Listening to the familiar sound of air leaking through a hole in the tyre makes us ask for Kit’s help in an emergency state; “find nearest gas station”, is what we demand of the smart navigation system.
A good 15 minutes later, after an unsuccessful attempt at the closed Volvo dealership, we slowly manoeuvre the car into the Statoil gas station in Hudiksvall. It is Saturday, 4:30PM and this is the closest to a garage we could come across only half an hour before closing time. In my best Swedish, I explain the situation to the attendant at the counter. Understanding the problem, he asks his female colleague to look for a garage on the Internet. After a while and lots of frowns and sighs, the woman hands me a piece of paper with a phone number. I dial and try to have a conversation with, I assume, a mechanic, who doesn’t speak English. I can’t seem to explain the situation clearly enough. Desperately, I try to pass on the phone to the very busy attendant, as his uncaring female colleague has left. He is slowly preparing a greasy hotdog that seems like the slowest prepared hot-dog ever. Eventually, I pass on the phone, which is quickly put away after a short conversation; and the hot dog expert starts helping other customers who keep coming in… The more he ignores me, the more I insist for more help, as Claire found out that there is no spare tyre in the boot but only a small compressor to pump up the flat one. He dials a number and hands me the phone: an automatic machine answers and no-one picks up. In the meantime, a flow of customers has come in, keeping him even busier… Clearly seeing that this is going nowhere, we briskly leave the shop, throwing a sarcastic “Thanks for the help!”
Outside, in a flow of anger, I am about to kick the flat tyre really hard when one of the customers exits the gas station with his ice-cream. He looks at me a bit puzzled. I explain the situation. His name is Peter. Not saying a word, he dials a number on his cell phone.
Peter pumps up our flat tyre and instructs us to follow his Dodge pick-up truck. Seven minutes later I find myself holding his half-eaten Magnum ice-cream while he drives our car onto the bridge in a garage. His mechanic friend Magnus takes off the tyre in a second and quickly finds a big hole. As if it were a small bike tyre, Magnus fixes the hole and puts the tyre back on the wheel after swapping front and rear to be on the safe side. He instructs us to go to a garage first thing on Monday morning to have it changed as he doesn’t have a spare tyre of the same size.
Refusing money and drinks, we can only display our deepest appreciation by manythanks and tak-tak. Relieved as we are, we drive the remote peninsula of Hölick to live our first outdoor night near the campfire.
The next morning, we gear up for a nice hike. Each one of us secretly checks on the tyre, finding it tyre a bit flat and convincing oneself that pumping it up will make it hold until Monday morning.
After our hike, again secretly checking on the tyre, we both notice that after all, it doesn’t look that bad. I realise that I need some food as I start thinking that it looks even better than earlier this morning. We dare talking to each other, relieved. When we are about to drive off, we find a handwritten note in Swedish on the windscreen from which I roughly understand that the tyre looked a bit flat. We find a phone number and a name, Magnus, saying that we could call for help if needed. As we are 35 kilometres from the garage, we don’t realise it might be the same Magnus. We call: it suddenly becomes clear; knowing where we were heading, Magnus drove all the way to the peninsula on his motorbike, and noticed that the tyre was too flat to drive safely. He went back to find a fitting replacement tyre, and returned by car to change it on the spot. While talking with him on the phone, we get out of the car to notice that indeed our tyre has been changed while we were hiking in the woods!
Magnus spent his Sunday morning helping us out, without us even knowing about it, telling us to enjoy his beautiful country and not be bothered by going to garages anymore. This is Swedish hospitality, way beyond expectations!
Tack tack Magnus & Peter för hjälpa oss!!
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