Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Swiss Police say, "Hi!"

This is Wednesday, 2:50 p.m., Lucerne time; 8:50 a.m. CDT. I had intended to have a lot more posts by this time. Yesterday, I finally had time and spent an hour hunting and pecking on this European keyboard, which is almost like an English keyboard, but has changed some keys, like the z and y around, and has put some symbols in different places. As the timer on my terminal was ticking down the time, I had two minutes left to go, and was going to type for another minute and then save and post my entry. About then a young Asian woman, 20 something, entered the booth next to mine carrying a violin. I stopped typing just for a minute to ask, "Do you play violin?" (I shouldn`t have wasted precious time with such an obvious question, but there it is.) She said "Yes," hesitantly, as if she was wandering why this old geezer was trying to strike up a conversation. "Are you in Lucerne for the Festival Academy?" "Yesss" still hesitantly. "Do you know Christopher Otto?" "Yesss," still wondering about the old masher. "I`m his father." "Ohhh! Wow!!!" Then big smiles from her and her friend. "He`s the concertmaster!" and they start talking about how much he has helped them (play the orchestra pieces, I presume.) About then I turn back to the keyboard to save and exit and am faced with a blank screen. Somehow the two minutes had disappeared and I lost everything I had typed. I was too frustrated with fighting the keyboard to start all over at that point, and besides I was supposed to meet Rosalee for dinner, so I left. Today, I will reconstruct as much of the prior post as I can.

At the end of my last post, it was 4:40 p.m. EDT, and we were about 20 minutes northeast of Detroit. I was about to say that as we were waiting for our turn to board the plane, Rosalee and I were commenting on the number of passengers in wheelchairs getting on the plane ahead of everyone else. There were at least 8 to 10 people on wheelchairs. Rosalee said, apropos of nothing, "Don`t they have euthanasia in the Netherlands?" "Yes they do; so we`ll probably have a lot fewer people in wheelchairs coming back," I said. She thought that comment was in bad taste for some reason. Well, when you have no class. . . .

Amsterdam, of course, allows people to buy and smoke marijuana, along with dying with dignity. And then they have their famous red light district. Rosalee wanted to make a chart of the people in the waiting area, categorizing them by who was going for the sex and who was going for the drugs. One stoop-shouldered old guy, decked out in loose blue jeans, with a wide belt and an almost matching blue shirt, and sporting a jaunty cell phone on his belt, looked to me like someone going for both the sex and the drugs. Of course, there are probably a few people, who, like Rosalee and me, are only going for the connecting flights.

The stewardess has issued to us our earphones. We have an entertainment center built into the arm rests with little LED televisions on the back of the seats in front of us. (This is an Airbus, A300.) I can`t get mz entertainment center to entertain. All it does is show our flight in progress. There`s a little slot in the hand controller in which to slide a credit card. Maybe you have to pay to see a movie or hear music. The airlines are pretty hard up these days.

Now the captain has announced that they`re having trouble with video system and are shutting it down to reboot. Probably the guy from Manpower never learned how to set his VCR either. Oh, well, better the entertainment system than the navigation system. Let`s just hope the same guy isn`t in charge of both of them.

8:05 a.m. Amsterdam time; 2:05 a.m. CDT

We had just enough time on the ground to do a quick update on mz blog and now we`re on a KLM flight to Zurich. It should take about an hour. What we saw of Amsterdam looked just like Detroit. Same architect must do all the airports. No red tile roofs. No canals. No narrow houses. No bicyclists. No red light district. (I looked for the red lights as our plane came in but saw nothing but dreary industrial lights, lighting up dreary steel buildings. I did see the nerdy looking guy in blue jeans making a bee-line for the exit with a gleam in his eye. There`ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.

We landed in Zurich ahead of schedule, zipped through customs with nary a question and picked up our luggage, which miraculously got there the same time we did. We put our luggage on one of the free luggage carts and then went to the currency exchange to change our money. We carefully divided up our Swiss francs and put the bulk of our money, along with our passports in our neck packs. Being experienced travelers, we are not about to get pick-pocketed like other naive travelers from the United States. Next stop, the kiosk to buy a phone card so we can call the friends of our friends, Jorg and Raqula, whom we have never met before, but who spent four months in Champaign, along with their son, Lorenz, several years ago. They have offered to show us around Zurich and feed us lunch before we head to Lucerne.

As I am trying to figure out the phone card and phone, suddenly, out of nowhere, a scruffy-looking young man wearing an earring and two weeks growth of beard, materializes next to Rosalee, flashes a badge and announces that he is from the Swiss State Police. My heart sinks. We`ve been here less than 30 minutes and already violated some little known Swiss law. It turns out that we`re being warned, this time, for carelessness. He says we need to watch our luggage better. We had our big suit cases on the bottom and my briefcase and another carry on bag in the tray on top. He said that he could have picked up the briefcase and walked away while we were fooling with the telephone. He said it looked like it had a laptop in it. The longer we talked the more suspicious I became. I didn`t really get a good look at his badge. I really thought that we were probably getting set up for some scam, and kept my wallet firmly in the grip of my left hand. I half expected him to tell us we had to pay him a fine on the spot for our carelessness, but after lecturing us, he walked away. Well, excuuuse me! Next time I`ll be more careful.

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