When I flew to Switzerland, I was seated in the dreaded middle section of the plane, quite near the back (in a smelly toilet-adjacent region), but at least I was on an aisle. My two row companions were Swiss-Germans in matching uniforms sort of evocative of EMTs. Curious. I was busy working through my complicated emotions about the seating arrangements, so I didn't immediately notice that across the far aisle, where there should have been two people contentedly sitting by the window, there was instead a man in a hospital gown lying on a stretcher. There was a curtain rigged to theoretically shield him from view, but it was open so that the attendants sitting next to me could actually see the guy. I have never seen anyone in a plane on a stretcher and I have to tell you--it is incongruous. To accommodate hospital-style transit, they are obliged to fold down three sets of seats (folding them down forward, as you would with the driver's seat of a car, a thing I didn't know was possible.) and elevate the stretcher above them. So this guy was lying on his back approximately a foot below the ceiling for about 11 hours. Since the stretcher was on these spindly pole things, it wasn't all that smooth of a ride. I hope his pain meds were fantastic.
A nice man across the other aisle who kept wanting to chat with me told me that this was an element of Swiss health insurance. That is, if you are hospitalized in some foreign land, they will transport you home. He told me that his mother had once been brought home from Greece. Later, when I got to Jules' house and told him the story he said, "That's this thing with the Swiss insurance." I told him that some man had explained that to me. He said, "I'm not surprised. They are very proud of it. People are constantly telling me about it. Everyone has some relative who was brought home from somewhere." [The man across the aisle also told me I must watch The Intouchables, which was one of the movies available on our flight. (Altogether, round trip, I think I watched 8 movies. I have trouble sleeping on planes.) I watched it on my way home and he was right. It made me laugh in a shoulder-shaking type of way that I worried might wake up the guy in 30A. You should go see it too. Probably near people who are awake. I think it's in theatres now, so you don't even have to fly on Swiss Air to avail yourself of it.]
The Zurich airport is small but confusing. It involves an airtrain that is peculiarly poorly marked so that as you follow signs to your terminal you find yourself suddenly on the platform of a train you didn't know you were obliged to take. Once you do get on, it's a very short ride, but long enough to feature a medley of Swiss sounds played over the loudspeaker. There are some alpine horns, some yodeling, some cowbells, and, my favorite, some mooing. And then--voila--you are at your destination.
While waiting for my short [nevertheless, delayed] flight to Geneva, a pleasant, weirdly self-possessed teenage boy struck up a conversation with me. He was on his way home to Stuttgart after a semester of high school in Illinois, which seemed to work out well since his English was excellent. Then, later, just as I was about to slip into a terrible jetlag coma, a young Greek woman befriended me. She was also headed to Lausanne, so we took the train together and she offered me one of her ear buds, so we could listen to Greek pop music together.
I was in Lausanne to see my friend Jules whom I love very much and who lives, rather inconveniently, in...Switzerland. But he seems happy, so I guess he can stay. We ate a lot of pain au chocolat and watched many Noir films and talked and talked. Or I did, anyway. Jules is a good listener. We had a splendid time. He bought some new sheets just for me and I bought him some storage baskets. No end of excitement. I also discovered that getting copies of two keys costs about 70 bucks. From this you might suspect that A) keys in Switzerland are very complicated and B) Switzerland is very expensive. Both these things are true. It is also true that, in the end, one of the keys didn't work. Grrr. While I was there, Jules was making his way through a French book about Homeric era Greece (I was reading P.G. Wodehouse, because I am not as smart as Jules. Also because I really like P.G. Wodehouse.)
See? Here he is, reading it. He actually used his whole head to contemplate this book, even the part I inadvertently cut off.
here he is pondering it. Homer was our daily companion. As was the balcony garden, which bloomed while I was in town to our great delight.
Oh, there's more; don't you worry. But not today. A bientot.