On Time in Swizerland – Europe
I landed in Zurich one fine September evening. It was warm, but the people were not. They were cold, efficient and clean. Everywhere clocks leered out, telling time correctly. Immaculate chocolates beckoned coldly.
I took the shuttle (spotlessly clean) to my accommodation, which in turn, was spotlessly clean. Before I knew what had happened, I was checked in and deposited in my room, which sparkled. The walls seemed resentful that I had landed and made the room messy by my presence. I looked out. The rain rained down from geometrically-correct clouds in a disciplined and no-nonsense manner.
The currency notes of Switzerland are surprisingly colourful, unlike the people and the place, but I digress. At exactly 8:06, as promised, a colleague picked me up from the lobby, manned as it was by efficient clerks with expressionless eyes. We walked in goose-step to the train station, where we purchased tickets to Winterthur, or some such place. The train arrived on the dot and whisked us away.
The forests and meadows were perfectly green, with no idle leaf or even a branch out of place. Cows walked about with a purpose, their cowbells tinkling to a beat at exactly the right frequency. We slunk into my friend's apartment. He whispered to me not to make noise as the Swiss neighbours hated noise and useless conversation. We had breakfast correctly, with no wasted words; already I was turning Swiss. I had a quick bite of cheese and the transformation was complete.
Birds flew in formation, singing politically correct and entirely neutral songs. I went to Bern the next day, which happened to be Sunday. Not a soul was on the spotless streets. I walked across the bridge to the Einstein Museum and was visitor Number One. I learned about Einstein. His clock was on display (but of course).
I took the train to Interlachen, a touristy place which is the base camp for Jungfrauhoch, a lovely glacier. The trip to the glacier was picturesque. The meadows were obviously tended carefully every single day. I learned that in villages in Switzerland, ladies washed the rail lines every Sunday. I was impressed. I changed multiple trains, all of which were synchronized perfectly – by Swiss clocks.
The glacier was warmer than the people and quite a sight. It took years and years to build the rail line according to a plan, and, naturally, it was completed on time. I visited downtown Zurich and the Hauptbahnhof. Everywhere I saw groups of Swiss psychiatrists and engineers, diplomats and chocolate manufacturers, bankers and time keepers walking about neatly and cleanly, minding their own business.
I strolled into a bookstore and asked the gentleman if there were any books on Swiss Dogs. "Swiss dogs?" he asked, appalled. Yes, I said, like the St. Bernard and the Bernaise and so on. "No books on Swiss dogs. We have no Swiss dogs. Only European dogs." Already his attention was elsewhere; I had successfully wasted 3.6 seconds of his time, unacceptable.
I went to take a leak, but I had to pay a Swiss franc for the privilege. An elderly American gentleman was angry about it, but the Swiss attendant smiled a neutral neutered smile. The fountains worked perfectly, just outside. I bought a Swiss Army Knife, some Swiss chocolates and cheese. I walked across the gleaming bridge with perfectly placed cobblestones, none out of place. The water beneath looked clean and sparkling. One would have thought one could drink it straight, which was the case; people downstream were drinking quietly and quickly, not wasting a single drop.
I went to a restaurant with a couple of friends and had a good time, silently. We wished to leave a tip. The waiter returned with a receipt for the tip. I went back to my room, chastened. I slipped in between the sheets, trying to mimic the Swiss who obviously sleep in a disciplined and correct way, with no sheet out of place, their heads on the pillow, just so, dreaming correct on-time dreams in black and white. I caught myself about to snore and I jumped up, shamefaced. Had I disturbed my neighbour?
I went back to the airport to catch a plane to London, where I had an appointment with the Queen. It was a British Airways plane. As I walked to my seat, I adjusted many out-of-place seat belts and improperly placed magazines. I sat in my seat in a correct way, staring dead ahead as the plane flew like a straight arrow into the sky – right on time.