Baltic crossing

   The Swedish train dropped me in Ystad about 7:30 . That’s 19:30 Euro time . My ferry was leaving at 22:30 . The ferry terminal is a short walk from the train station . The center of old town Ystad , as I discovered , is a short walk from the station , too . It’s convenient  to have everything a short walk from everything else .

   Most of the shops had closed in this part of Ystad by then . There was a cappuchino place that I had my eyes on as I explored the streets . I passed a couple of elegant bars . I became very aware of being so close , again , to Poland and inexpensive Polish beer . I had no need to sip an arm-and-a-leg-priced beer in one of these Swedish joints just to pass time . I decided to head for the cappuchino place , but it closed before I got there .

   The ferry terminal has a large waiting room and the restroom doesn’t have one of those money boxes that seem to be all over Sweden that keep the restroom locked until you put five crowns in the slot . Even in the restaurants in Sweden they had these locked restrooms. Five crowns is about eighty cents , I guess . I’m not moving to any country that charges five crowns to use a public restroom . Is it just me ? In the ferry terminal one can pee for free . In Sweden . A little bit of Sweden gone freaky !

   The waiting room began filling with students . Some school trip , I think . There were three or four adults with the group of twittering teens . We were all ready after an hour or so waiting and finally the gate opened . The teens swarmed and hurried and crowded in  and I took my place behind them. Everyone was thrilled to be finally boarding .

  When I reached the official at the entry gate  she shook her head and said  ” Denmark ” . I straightened out my boarding pass and looked at it . ”  This goes to Denmark ,” she said .

” I don’t want to go to Denmark ,” I said .

” You must go outside , ” she said , ” and follow the bicycle path “. 

  So I went outside and followed the bike path as it curved around the terminal , crossed the train tracks , wove between stone walls and chain link fences . I was suddenly aware of the time . It would be a shame now to miss the ferry by minutes , to watch it steam out of port without me . But I made it aboard . I was one of the last to board. The Polish truck drivers had already had enough time aboard to get unimpeachably drunk . There was a security guy , a large muscular man with a  boxer’s face , who was already barking commands and breaking up potential fights .

   I went looking for the seats to sleep the night . The Swedish ferry on the trip over had airline seats to sleep on . I had two of them to stretch out over . Some people had four of them to lie on . I had been warned by the clerk in Szczecin who had sold me the tickets that the trip back would be a Polish ferry and that I should pay for a cabin . I thought that I would take my chances , ” You can buy a cabin after you board ,” she said . I was surprised , now , to find that there were no seats to sleep on for the night . None .  Oh , there were plush , comfortable chairs in the bars and in the disco lounge ; but those places closed at 2:00 . There was the cafeteria left , with its hard plastic chairs .

  So I went to Reception and asked for a cabin . I was told to sign the waiting list and come back in an hour . There was a half-page of names ahead of me . So I waited an hour . I hadn’t seen the two or three other pages of waiting list ahead of mine  . The girls at Reception called names . Like lottery winners men walked up from the gathered crowd . I waited , amazed that so many cabins were free .

  ” Hennessy , Daniel ” finally came around . There were only a handful of us left waiting . ” I’m sorry ,” she said ,” the only available is one bed in a four bed cabin . You share cabin with three others . ”

  I had already reviewed scenarios as I waited . To share a two bed cabin I may have accepted . To share with three others was out . ” I will have to pass ,” I told her . 

   Well , you would have had to have seen  the situation . Groups of gypsies had already staked out areas of floor , on the cafeteria floor and  in the hallways . They had spread out thick colorful blankets and the women had gone to sleep . No one bothered them . The weaving drunken Poles avoided them on the way to the toilets . The disco lounge was full until closing time . Steel grates were then pulled closed .

  There was a large  cafeteria . Men had already passed out in there , their heads slumped on the tables ,  exhausted beer bottles in clumps watching like so many silent green witnesses . A few men had stretched out under tables . The gypsy men had already commandeered the floor area near the door to the toilets and were snoring next to their women .

    I saw the Polish guy who I had met earlier . I asked him in Polish how he was doing . He was a walking dead-drunk by this time , after the bars had closed , and barely conscious . ” Dobra “, he said . Good . And you ? Fine , too . I had been sitting in a chair hours before when he had approached and grunted something agressive at me in Polish , looking for a fight .  I got up out of the chair . ” No problem ,” I said .

  ” Polish ? ” I asked him , pointing at his chest .

” Tak.” Yes .

” Dobre Wietur ! ” I said .

 He shook my hand . ” Dobre Wietur !”

” Sweden ? ” he said , pointing at me .

” American .”  He stood up , insisted I take the chair . I refused . He insisted some more .  We were instant friends . ” No , no , bengie tam , bengie tam “, I said .   I was going to the disco bar for a comfortable chair . I pointed .  I saw him again hours later and we parted with  mutual thumbs ups .

  And I picked a particular place under a table in the cafeteria to sleep . It was under a tv that was still on . The volume was low but a couple of drinkers at one of the tables were still watching whatever was on screen . They smiled at me as if to say how silly to sleep under the tv. I guess that they were a couple of beers away from sleep . I smiled back as if to agree . It was an absurd situation all round . I should have listened to that ticket clerk in Szczecin and sprung for a cabin when I paid for the ticket.  

 Four hours of sleep . No one stole my wallet or took my camera . I was good to go . Could have been worse . Could have been a lot worse . ” But you’re a sixty year old man ,” Ada said later . ” You should have had a cabin.”   Next time .

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