I flunked geography, not to mention language and cultural issues.
John needed a clean T-shirt (we travel lightly, and sometimes we get caught up short).

Outdoor vendors lined the pedestrian street between the Oslo, Norway, train station and our hotel, and one of the vendors had a big sign that offered “Good T-shirts,” for the equivalent of $4 U.S. What a bargain!

Even though we were anxious to settle in to a room before the gathering clouds dropped their heavy loads of rain, I paused long enough to pull one of the cheap shirts out of its plastic wrap and determine that it was made of quality cotton. Extra-large. One-hundred percent cotton. Colorful logo, some sort of map, no cuss words. Sold.

Late in the balmy afternoon, after the rain, we took a stroll. People glanced at his new T-shirt and some of them gave him odd looks. Others grinned at each other, shrugged, whispered. Something was off.

Back at the hotel, we asked the clerk what the logo was all about. “It’s a map of Scandinavia,” he said.

Okay, no problem. How about the lettering?

“Scandinavia Without Sweden.”

Oops. Sure enough, closer inspection showed the map to have omitted the entire country of Sweden and we hadn’t even noticed.

“Some Norwegians would be happy if this were true,” the clerk continued. “There is quite a rivalry between the two countries.”

Well, the T-shirt did become a conversation opener.

On the train to Bergen, a huge young man came up to us and said, “I am Swedish. I am wondering, why are you wearing that shirt?”

“My wife bought it for me,” John explained, passing the buck to me.

“I didn’t understand the words,” I said apologetically.

“And you don’t read maps,” the huge young man said. “You Americans are lousy at geography.”

We nodded in agreement, smiling sheepishly.

“But it was only four dollars,” John said. “I’m an old guy on a fixed income.”

The huge young man backed off. In a minute he returned, smiling this time. “May I take your picture?” he asked.

I keep wondering if his photo will end up on U-Tube. So much for bargains. Happily, the day turned cool, and John put on his sweatshirt.