On the way to San Francisco, I had a stop in Frankfurt. My first flight got in late, and so I missed my connection, and had to go back and forth through security and passport control to get rebooked, checked in, and so on, and consequently had my luggage and my person scanned and checked several times, including full-body pat-downs with metal detecting wands and everything. On my final trip through security, the security person stopped me and said that I had a fork in my carry-on, and that it would have to be confiscated. I had no objection to this, although I was surprised that it had gone through 3 or 4 times without comment. When they took the fork out, it was a child’s fork with rounded tines, and I pointed out that you could probably stab yourself harder with a pencil than with this fork, and also that I would receive a grown-up fork upon getting dinner in the plane. The security person sputtered and stammered, and finally said in an authoritative voice, “Well, this is Germany.” Apparently, they frown upon forks in Germany. Obviously, once I got on the plane, I had dinner, whereupon I received not one, but two very pointy forks of the stabbing variety. And a plastic knife.
Before going on my little trip, I was out for dinner at a sort of pan-Asian type restaurant here in Zurich. The menu offered such redundant dishes as “tuna sashimi tartare.” Is there any non-tartare sashimi? In any case, over dinner, my friend was saying that he wanted to take a vacation somewhere, and was trying to come up with somewhere to go. He elaborated, saying he wanted to go somewhere weird, with strange rules and customs that he could laugh at. Um, look around you? No need to spend your hard-earned money looking for a society based on weird rules. You’re here!!
One thing that is great about Switzerland is that the mail here is very fast. If you post a first-class letter to anywhere within Switzerland, it arrives by noon the next day. Granted, it’s a small country with only about 7 million people (fewer people than New York spread over the area of two New Jerseys), but that’s still pretty damn fast. In any case, I was expecting something in the mail right before I left on holiday, and it wasn’t coming. It turns out that the person had posted it second-class, instead of first-class, but my Swiss friend was completely sure that mail can never get lost, and that if something is sent, it will arrive. How charmingly naïve, to think that the mail never gets lost. Although maybe it never gets lost in Switzerland.
And in exciting events, I was at work the other week, and there were crazy sirens outside. As we watched from the office, about a dozen police cars and ambulances gathered in the main road, and started cordoning off bigger and bigger areas. As it turns out, there was a double homicide in a bar about 100 meters from my office building. A man shot two other people in a bar at 4:30 in the afternoon, then ran away before he could be caught. This being Switzerland, the story made the news big-time, and everyone was so shocked that someone would use a gun to kill people. This being Switzerland, the closing line of the big story on the newspaper’s website was that the incident caused traffic jams and delayed and re-routed trams.
Finally, speaking of trams, since coming here, I have only had my tram pass checked three times in almost seven months. I ride the tram about 15 times a week. So the odds are pretty low that your ticket will be checked on any given ride. Last week, however, I was going to the airport at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, and the tram guy came on and asked for everyone’s tickets. Doesn’t he have better things to do at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, like sleep? Sometimes they gang up and make a sort of blitzkrieg ticket-check. The second time I had my ticket checked, four regular guys got on the tram, joking and bantering as if they were everyday citizens. Two got on in front, and two in the back. Once the doors closed, the two pairs barked out in Swiss German, “Tickets!” They then swept inwards, leaving no ticket unchecked, then got off at the next stop, resuming their mild-mannered guise of four friends waiting for the next tram of unassuming victims. It seems sort of silly. Everyone here obeys the rules whether or not you check, so I’d say they should either just have automatic checkpoints where you can swipe your ticket, or not bother checking at all, since these random assaults don’t seem to turn up many offenders.