At first, all we saw was fog. Rob was unconcerned as, being a highly skilled unlicensed pilot, he had flown the route of our journey with his ultra-sophisticated flight simulator program weeks before. Suddenly out of the fog, the runway landing lights appeared. Within seconds our wheels hit the ground and we were on the ground in Sweden!
I summoned a Flight Attendant, handed her an envelope, and instructed her to immediately deliver it to the Captain. She at first looked at me as though I was crazy, if you can believe that!
Noting the Swedish Match AB Coat of Arms on the envelope and seeing I was starting to reach for my official can of General Onyx again, she rolled her eyes, and headed towards the cockpit muttering Swedish words of respect which I couldn’t understand. I hoped she would make it in time as the aircraft was turning off the main runway and we were 241 rows away from the front of the airplane.
Years ago, I first wrote and often repeated that should I ever manage to visit my Honorary Homeland of Sweden; creator of the life, taste, and the nicotine giving gift of Snus, I would kiss the ground as my first act on Swedish soil. This was not an idle comment…it was a solemn vow I was determined to fulfill.
Our airplane pulled up to the jet way and glancing out the window, I noted a sudden flurry of activity around the plane. The Swedish Snus National Band began pouring out of their bus and lining up. I smiled. The Captain had received my note.
The front cabin doors were opened…I assumed. The doors were too far away for us to see, but the passengers were grabbing their carry-on’s and moving forward. We waited. Finally, the Economy Steerage section was empty save us and one of the Flight Attendants.
She moved quickly to the rear entry door, pulled the lever and flung it open. The Swedish Blue VIP portable stairs were quickly rolled into place. I scanned the crowd as the band began to play. The Paparazzi were banging on the glass up in the terminal in frustration. They had been waiting for me to exit the plane directly into the terminal. Heart pounding, I slowly walked down each step stopping on the final one.
This was really happening. I was one step away from standing on the soil of my beloved honorary homeland: Sweden! In reality, the soil came later since I would be stepping onto concrete, but it was Swedish concrete under which was Swedish soil. Technicalities were not going to ruin a dream come true.
As my foot came down on the tarmac, I could imagine the awe Neil Armstrong felt when he placed his foot on the surface of the Moon. The Moon???? It is just dust and rocks. The moon did not invent Snus!! Who needs the moon? I was in Sweden!!!
My Staff knew what was coming next and look desperately for somewhere to hide. Unfortunately for them, the Swedish Snus National Band picked that moment to begin playing "Hail to Snus" in his honor. They was trapped! As the song ended, they quickly moved as far away from me as possible.
A hush fell over the crowd. At that moment, I fulfilled my vow of long ago, got down on my knees, and kissed the Swedish concrete. I knelt there for a moment letting the reality sink in....until Rob started yelling "Get off the ground, already!" and broke the mood.
The people on the tarmac began cheering...I think it was cheering. Swedish cheering sounds a lot like American laughter. Well, I had expected cultural differences so I waved and laughed back at them. My Staff dragged me to the stairs leading up to the terminal and we quickly ascended to the cheering/laughter of the Scandinavian Airlines ground crew.
We had an hour and a half until our connecting flight to Gothenburg. Joakim Nilsson, JTI Sweden's Communications Manager-Nordic and I had arranged to meet between flights.
Our official escort must have missed us as we were left to figure out for ourselves where we were supposed to go next. We started to get into a long line queued up to what appeared to be Swedish customs. I approached one of the airport employees, flashed my can of General Onyx, and asked for his assistance. He immediately steered us down another corridor away from customs and, pulling along a few more confused Americans, we quickly arrived at the main terminal.
Joakim Nilsson is a big fan of bow-ties. He promised to wear a red, white, and blue one so we could pick him out of the crowd. In the end, it wasn't the very stylish bow-tie but the roll of CAMEL Portion Snus he was holding which caught my eye.
I was honored that he took the time on a Saturday morning to come down to the airport to meet with us. I was shocked when he apologized for having to leave his wireless phone turned on as his wife was expecting a baby at any time!
We spent a pleasant time discussing Snus, Sweden, JTI, Journalistic Integrity, Big Tobacco, Kennedy/Waxman and SnusCENTRAL. Apparently JTI Sweden has some pull too since Joakim not only walked us to our terminal, but went through security with us as well...without a boarding pass. Impressive!
It was a true pleasure to finally meet Joakim. Unlike some other snus manufacturers who visit SnusCENTRAL.org "in secret", when my phone inquiry to JTI America about the just-released Swedish CAMEL Snus somehow landed on Joakim's desk in Stockholm, he responded immediately. On a personal note, he is a very nice fellow and is obviously very dedicated to JTI Sweden and proud of their products...especially CAMEL Snus.
I had promised him a comparison review between CAMEL White Portion and one of my favorites, Philip Morris 1847 White Portion. I felt guilty about about not having completed it before the trip so I'm conducting it as I write this article. Four or 5 more days and you'll have your review, Joakim! No promises on the outcome, though. Let the snus fall where it may.
Time flew and it was soon time to board the plane to Gothenburg and Swedish Match AB. Markus and Joakim Blom of Swedish Match were in my checked luggage. I hope they are enjoying their flight from Dallas to Gothenburg. I also hope my luggage didn't get lost........
EPILOGE: On Friday, Jun 11 2008, GMT+1, Karl Warren Chistopher Nilsson entered the world. At last report, both Mother and Child were doing fine, thank God. I suggested to Joakim that instead of giving out cigars, perhaps he should give out cans of JTI's CAMEL Snus. He is considering it.
From everyone here at SnusCENTRAL.org, our heartiest congratulations and best wishes! This is the Nilsson's first child. Joakim and his wife have just realized "how little sleep they are able to live on"..... Oh, this is just the beginning! Hope JTI takes my advice and produces a CAMEL Strong Portion Snus. You are going to need the extra nicotine, Joakim!