4 Amazing Stories Behind the Most WTF Photos from History

#2. The Day Everyone in Sweden Switched Car Lanes

Jan Collsioo

The next time you hear your friends go on and on about how Sweden is so smart and Sweden is so sexy and Sweden always gives multiple orgasms every time, remind them of two things: Stupid Liondog Borgpup up there and "Hogertrafikomlaggningen." Give yourself about a week to work on the pronunciation: herg-er-trahf-fic-coom-un-leg-ee-un, or something Swedishly close to that. If your friend is still standing there when you make it through that marathon of a word, you can take a few minutes to explain Dagen H, or the day everyone in Sweden switched to Hogertrafikomlaggningen, right-hand traffic.

Until September 2, 1967, everyone in Sweden drove on the left side of the road, despite the fact that almost everyone else in Europe were righties, which made for some dumbass driving at Sweden's borders. At least England was surrounded by enough water that drivers would have time to wrap their heads around switching lanes before they crossed the border. Sweden didn't have that luxury. So legislators spent a good part of the 20th century trying to convince drivers to switch sides, but they wouldn't budge. In fact, in 1955, 83 percent of the population voted to keep to the left. Eventually Parliament gave up on asking anyone their opinion and decided to mandate right-side driving anyway.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
"Notice how our hands represent cars in traffic."

Even though the government decided to railroad this monumental switch through without the people's consent, they did have the good sense to give everyone half a decade to get ready for the move. In the meantime, they put together a PR campaign rivaled only by the one that convinced America that meth is what you smoke to get ugly. First, they created this ultra-modern sign as a reminder:

Anthony Ivanoff

Then they spent the next five years plastering this emblem on everything from milk cartons to panties in the hopes that no one would forget that September 3, 1967, was the big day.

This was also the first PR campaign helmed by Benny Hill.

There were songs, ads, and 12 million reminder notes distributed among the population. And when the morning of the switch came, the Swedes treated it like the world's most mundane Mardi Gras. In Stockholm, alarms were set to ring at 4:00 a.m. so everyone could head down to the main street with their cars. A countdown ticked off the seconds before someone on the loudspeaker announced "Now is the time to change over." You look at the picture above and you see complete chaos, but a closer glance reveals that this was the most exciting thing to happen to Sweden since someone turned a lion into an entry in a cryptozoology book.


Other than the bafflingly buoyant atmosphere, Dagen H was actually about as organized and smooth a transition as you can get for a major paradigm shift. Within minutes the party was over and Sweden went back to being as orderly as a frightfully white calendar.


#1. Everyone Who Ever Got the "Johnson Treatment"


Say what you want about LBJ, but don't think he won't pop up out of his 40-year-old grave and throttle you like a rag doll if you disrespect his legacy. By the time Lyndon hit the vice presidency, he had mastered a power stance/intimidation technique known as the "Johnson treatment," using all 6 feet 3 inches of his Freddy Krueger looking face and body to manipulate the listener into obedience. The picture above isn't just some stunt photograph captured for drama and Life magazine readers. That's then Senator Johnson remorselessly terrorizing a 90-year-old man to the point where the man is bending over backward in submission. Oh, and that's not just any old guy -- that's the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democrat to boot. He was on Johnson's side. So was this guy:

Yoichi R. Okamoto/White House Photo Office/LBJ Library and Museum

That's Abe Fortas, Johnson's own Supreme Court appointment and a man described as a lifelong Johnson crony. Most of us have enough sense of personal space to not get this close to anyone without giving them a smooch, but Johnson wasn't like us. This was a man who had more ambition in his nose cartilage than today's average person has in his whole body, and that's counting the fact that today's average person is huge. So when you see the look on Abe Fortas' face -- the overeager grin, the back bending supported by a foot long accustomed to taking this awkward stance, the half-amused, half-too-scared-to-enter-the-room expressions on the guys in the doorway -- just know that LBJ wasn't some Texas rube who stumbled into the White House. This was the guy who shaped the entire decade of the 1960s himself, first by bullying the Civil Rights Act through Congress, then by Vietnamming it up immediately afterward. LBJ wasn't a friend -- he was a force. Even his own boss wasn't immune to the Johnson treatment.

University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division

Look at JFK's face! Kennedy and Johnson were just about the same height, so LBJ couldn't do his towering gig that he enjoyed with others, but Kennedy also wasn't prepared to meet the eyes of a man clearly intent on eating his face off. So instead he focused his Rodney Dangerfield eyes on Johnson's waddle and girded his arms for the long haul. Only his lame ass back prevented him from bending backward, but maybe Johnson didn't know that. Maybe Johnson thought this was the first man to ever stand up to him, and maybe Johnson repaid him with loyalty so strong that this happened:



Just kidding, we totally know.

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