Jillian Kumagai writes at the Atlantic magazine, “Last week, the Swedish Tourist Association, a volunteer organization, declared Sweden the first country in the world with its own phone number: +46 771 793 336. The number connects callers to a switchboard and then, wherever in the world they are, to ‘a random Swede, somewhere in Sweden.’

“(So says an automated voice before your call is connected, though since Swedes have to sign up via a mobile app to receive these calls, the sample likely skews to the friendly and the cell-phone-owning.)

“Which raises a question: Why? As it happens, the tourist association also bills Sweden as ‘the first country in the world to introduce a constitutional law to abolish censorship,’ in 1766, and the introduction of The Swedish Number commemorates 250 years since that happened.

“But what does censorship have to do with getting a phone number? And what kind of people, in what kind of country, sign up to be called at all hours by total strangers? (The number’s website notes politely that while ‘you are welcome to call at anytime … we might be asleep.’)

“One of them was Jenny Engström, a spokeswoman for the STA, who had already fielded calls from strangers in China, Turkey, and Michigan. She explained that part of the point was to give callers an ‘uncensored’ view of Sweden, by letting Swedes speak for themselves.

“So that explained one mystery. And perhaps unsurprisingly, my experience of ‘Sweden: Uncensored’ was not at all scandalous. Among the things an uncensored Swede might tell you about, if you asked: what his compatriots name their dogs (often appellations that fit Nordic men, like Gunnar and Bosse); typical opinions on the Swedish band ABBA (from mixed to vaguely fond); the words for home-cooked Swedish food (husmanskost) and Swedish candy (lösgodis).” More here.

Erik asked his mother if she had considered signing up to answer calls, but she did what I probably would have done: she demurred.