Stockholm Syndrome

The Stockholm Syndrome is famous among pyschologists and sociologists. It refers to the intruiging concept, based on a prolonged bank robbery during which the hostages protected their captors when the police attempted a raid. Psychologists say that hostages often form sympathetic bonds with their captors as a survival mechanism. Survivors of an extended ordeal sometimes need to be deprogrammed back to the reality that they have been abused.

International air passengers at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport may well need some shrink-service. Oh, the terminal, at least what I’ve seen of it, is quite handsome. The interior construction shows off the justly-famous Scandinavian wood-working skills. It makes for a warm and personal environment. Too bad the decor clashes with the cold culture and indifferent policies.

The first time I took this route – out and back – with Stockholm as a refueling stop that reads on paper as about an hour and a half of layover, all pax were required to leave the aircraft, taking our carryon baggage. I had no problem with deplaning. A leg-stretch was welcome after the 7 and a half hour flight from Newark.

As we exited the plane we were promptly formed into a line. We were required to go through Swedish customs and immigration.

After that slow, one–person-at-a-time ordeal, we had to decend a flight of stairs with baggage in hand, to an area containing a “convenience” store and a rolling cart. Only after getting to the bottom of the stairs and turning 90 degrees, did the unused elevator become visible. There was no person to tell us it exist, not even a sign. There was absolutely no need to force us to walk down those stairs.

Off in the corner was a glassed in area that had the general appearance of an over-sized phone both. It’s a “smoking station.” Five or six people were in there, puffing away.

At the convenience store, an interesting rip-off was going on, aside from the usual exorbitant airport prices. Dollars are accepted but change is given only in Swedish currency. What do you do with a few kroner and change when you are going to get back on the plane out of the country in a few minutes?

We milled about in the area. After some 40 minutes of this pointless loitering, I noticed that on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, a plane was loading; *our* plane.

I walked along the glass wall and turned a corner. There I found a doorway open to this busy area. There were the usual x-ray machines and electromagnetic gates. I asked one of the idle security people if this was the way to reboard our plane. “Well of course.”

Of course, indeed. Another completely ridiculous failure to inform the passengers.

I went through and went to the gate check-in counter where a woman was collecting tickets and validating boarding passes. I asked her if we she knew that all the people who had deboarded the plane were standing and sitting in another room, unaware that we were supposed to be here, boarding the flight.

She gave me a flat stare. Although I had overheard her, moments before, speaking excellent English, she suddenly became mute. My question was embarrassing. It was obvious she realized that we had all simply been forgotten. She was unable – or unwilling – to do anything to fix the problem. It was if she had decided that doing anything to fix the problem would be an admission of failed responsibility.

So, I did what the ugly, pushy, confrontational American does.

“Relax honey. Don’t trouble your self. I’ll fix your problem.”

I put my hands to my mouth, made a megaphone and shouted towards the other rooms, “OK people. All of you who have been abandoned and neglected can now come forward and reboard the aircraft.”

They did. We did.

As I was in the boarding tube an airline employee came up to me and said, “You know that was not necessary.”

I responded, “Yes it was. Next time do your job and it won’t have to happen again.”

I’m not a big fan of sympathetic bonding with my captors.

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