One of the first things my husband told me drove him crazy about Americans was our fascination with small talk. To him, small talk is fake. And pointless. I disagree. I miss small talk. I miss walking into a store and knowing you could speak to the guy next to you if you wanted to. Small talk allows you to connect with a real person and I rate it higher than Facebook, which is more like a mask for our lives than anything else. But I can understand how some people would think it’s fake. Who hasn’t taken part in a conversation that just drips with insincere phrases like, ‘Let’s do lunch!’, ‘You’re right! We should set up the largest snow-cone machine Colorado has ever seen!’, or, my favorite, ‘Call me anytime.’ (Although most of my friends actually do mean that last one. I have heard first-time acquaintances utter those words and wondered why. Do they have a shed full of axes? Are they trying to unload all their Kikkoman sauce on me? Oh God, they’re trying to sell me blocks for the Great Pyramids, aren’t they? Maybe I have a sinister mind, though).
But for all their talk about fake small talk, most Swedes LOVE the concept of passive-aggressiveness, which is practically oozing fake cheeriness. Expats have warned me for years about the infamous passive-aggressive notes. Some Swedes think notes are too risqué and opt for an even more passive-passive-aggressive approach, like stating complaints through their WiFi name. Which is too funny. We would get together and laugh about the notes we saw. Share the funniest ones all over social media. And yet I had never had one directed at me before.
Until now. So here’s what happened. Around 1:00 pm yesterday, I got a phone call from the school. My son fell. Could I come right away? They have the school nurse with him, but I need to come right away.
Is he okay?
We think you need to come right away.
I’ll be right there.
I rushed out the door, leaving the poor dog here. The dog doesn’t like to be left alone. I know that. But at the moment, my son was more important and I didn’t know if I’d be going to the doctor after I picked him up, so the dog had to stay. Thankfully, my son looked like he was going to pull through, albeit with a golf-ball sized lump on his head. He fell off a raised sandbox (a distance of about 3 feet) and slammed the back of his head on the concrete. After a while he didn’t show any of the dangerous head injury signs, so we left. We arrived home a little over an hour later, and that’s when I saw the note on the wall. It wasn’t on my door. Whoever left it couldn’t even do that. She (or he) taped it to the wall about 18 inches to the side of the door. Here’s the general gist of what it says:
“Hey! Don’t know if you’re aware that your dog barks / whines for hours during the days but thought anyway to inform you so you can fix it. =)”
I thought it was funny. So funny it deserved a response.
“Everyone told me about the passive-aggressive notes here, but I didn’t believe them. Until now. I finally have my very own! I’m so excited. I especially love the fake little smiley! It’s. So. Friggin. Cute! This is so going on Twitter.
Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for writing me about my dog. You must have REALLY wanted to let me know that he barked. I sure hope you’re not angry enough to carry that stress inside of you, because studies show it’s not a good thing.
Do you want to know what happened? Today, the school called me for a medical emergency regarding my 5yo. I rushed out and yes, I left the dog. For a little over an hour. I guess the dog didn’t like that because it was lunch time and I normally take him for his mid-day walk, but the medical emergency trumped that today. I would apologize, but I tend to say what I mean and I’m not sorry. My son had an emergency. I left the dog. I don’t see the problem. You may lose sleep over it, I will not (have I told you how happy I am to have a passive-aggressive note? I thought people made them up!).
The one thing that worries me is how you say you hear him barking for hours during the day. I’m a writer who works from home, so imagine my surprise when I read that. Now, I can only think of three reasons why you might say that. 1) Perhaps you hear another dog? In which case, if you need paper and a pen, I can let you borrow both to write more of these fun notes to all your neighbors, or 2) Perhaps you’re hearing voices, specifically of the canine variety. In which case, I’ve heard Sweden has fantastic healthcare, so you’re in the right spot. I’d go ahead and make an appointment, or 3) You have a tendency to exaggerate. I’ll stick with saying what I think and go with 3), even in your passive-aggressive anonymous note, you have a difficult time being honest, which is a character issue and I’m afraid I can’t help you with that.
Anyway, this was so much fun! Anytime you want to leave me a note, please do. Or you could actually stop hiding and come speak to me like an adult.”
I guess I should also provide full disclosure and admit I’ve been battling a case of strep throat this week, I’m stretched thin, and I was only thinking about my son yesterday. I’m not angry at the person and I’m not trying to be mean.
Do I understand a barking dog could be a pain for anyone to hear?
Absolutely. I remember the early days of parenthood and silently begging whatever kid was banging on the pipes in the building to fall into a deep sleep every time I tried to put my children down for a nap. I even tried to go speak to the kid’s parents (They didn’t open the door. Swedes don’t answer the door unless they know you). I also understand even if you don’t have a little one at home, the extra noise can play havoc on senses, headaches, nerves, and basically drive some people batty. I get it. Don’t write me a note and lie about it to make me see your point. If you have to lie to make a point, your point loses all value.
Did the person, who obviously knows where I live, bother to try and speak with us about it?
Why did the person exaggerate on their note?
No idea. Since we’ve had the dog I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left him alone and still have fingers left over.
Do I react well to anyone commanding me to ‘fix something’, especially if the thing I’m supposed to fix was over-inflated, even if it was written in purple ink and the complainer signed off with a fake smiley?
2 thoughts on “My First Passive-Aggressive Note”
Thanks Andrew! It is interesting how many differences crop up in such a short time. When I first moved here, I had this idea that Sweden was just like America, but colder. Boy was I wrong.
Thanks for stopping by and hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!
I love your blog. Being an American who travelled to Sweden for 3 weeks, I was so surprised at the cultural differences that popped up, and here’s another one! Anyway, your response was hilarious and good reading. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!
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