Platform Pointers

At 7.30 in the morning I pass through the excruciatingly busy Gullmarsplan station just south of Stockholm.

Here people are channelled cattle-like through a very badly designed environment as they emerge from buses, subway and trams.

You would think that the staff might be doing something to alleviate the congestion, or open the barriers to allow people through, or help people with buggies up and down stairs. But no, they have more important things to be getting on with. And that is to stand around and point.

Yes for some reason three or four uniformed personnel stand around on the platform, at the peak of the morning rush hour, and simply point.

When they’re not pointing, they are chatting to each other. But usually they just stand there and they point.

The pointing appears to be a general “this way to the trains” which is interesting as they are standing right beside the trains, and the trains are large and blue and kind of hard to miss.

It might be a “Look, there is space available on this part of the platform” kind of thing except for the fact that they are pointing at the entirety of the platform where some space may always be found.

I was indeed puzzled for a long time. But I now think that the pointing means: “Keep on moving as you were, that’s it, you’re doing fine, everything is just hunky dory.”

It’s nice to see, after four years of advanced pointing in a university, that these people can get some work somewhere. And it’s also nice to know that I am paying 700 Swedish crowns a month so that they can be there and do what it is they love to do. Which is to point.

It just goes to show, you should always follow your dreams.

Wherever they might point.

/ paddy

13 thoughts on “Platform Pointers

  1. Paddy, I just discovered a very interesting visual fenomenon while perusing your blog post. My knees were growing tired, so I stood up, and started scrolling up while standing. Suddenly I realised that the page seemed to be growing progressively smaller on the screen, as it proceeded downwards to a vanishing point some yards below the screeen. It felt a little bit like the pulling effect you get when you look down a precipice. How strange I never had such a scrolling experience before.

    Anyway, it seems a lot of swedes do need those pointers to the track, since we often don’t have a clue where we need to go. Especially since all sign boards are above eye level. Not intuitive. And don’t forget the tourists and the cousins from the country. They would be totally lost without the pointers. So don’t complain – even I, a Swede born and bred, sometimes loose my way at Gullmarsplan.


    • Rolf: I am responsible for content, and not for optical illusions. Anyway these guys are already on the platform, so once you make it that far, the train itself is fairly obvious.

  2. Hahahaha! Have always believed that I had the worst profession as a cleaning woman(städkärring). But this is worse, so pointless…

  3. I don’t suppose you ever considered asking them what they’re doing? Maybe they’re actually doing something vital but invisible… I think maybe I’ll ask next time I pass Gullmarsplan.

    • I would actually ask them, except I am not human that early and don’t trust myself to have a conversation with anybody. Maybe I could slip them a note…

  4. This blog post absolutely cracked me up! One of the funniest ever. And I must admit not ever having given proper thought to what these people are actually doing. I have hardly noticed them, probably because – as you say – I have no particular difficulty in finding the trains myself and usually rest my tired eyes on the more striking examples of female beauty to be found on any platform, just to cheer myself up a bit. If you get my point. Which you probably do without the aid of a uniformed pointer.

    All the best,

  5. I take it this is Sweden’s solution to unemployment, where the terminally useless are paid to point rather than being paid to do nothing like in most western democracies? At least it gives them less time to commit crimes eh?

    • We have a well trained sense for personal service. Many is the time I have found myself in Hötorget station not knowing what exit to choose, although I am an experienced traveler. (Hötorget has four exits (or is it more?) and even I sometimes run around a few times like a guillotined hen before I find my way.) Subway pointers are Gods gift to us Swedes. So there. :-)


      • That one always makes me confused too. I have to always circle that place at least 3 times to find the right exit.

        But the pointers are on the PLATFORM, and when you have found the platform, you don’t need any more pointing!

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