As weird as it gets in Switzerland

It’s been the slightly odd day to top off an entirely blasé week. To summarise the going ons, I’ve been for the most part confined to my home base due to sickness. I’ve been mindlessly surfing the internet, mindlessly reading a Grisham novel, mindlessly listening to music on the radio but actually, listening with a mind to the BBC World Service. The first day I was sick it was some work though man. I felt so stupid. Ten minutes of listening to the BBC and my brain felt thoroughly wringed out, as if I’d been through a tough 3 hour exam.

Now for today. Walked to the train station instead of biking because I thought a relaxed stroll through the smell of rain would do me good. And it did, I felt lighter and happier.

How many of you knew that slugs were omnivores? I had always assumed that snails and slugs were herbivores… I try to make an effort in general to watch where I walk on the sidewalk after it has rained. I’m not a fan of squashing something living if I can avoid it, even if it is a much-hated slimy creature. This has actually extended to my taking an interest in the sidewalk strugglers however, and I sometimes watch if something interesting is going on. I also like to save earthworms because as I was well-taught as a kid, earthworms are our friends. And I just feel for them when I see them freshly started out in a direction involving long worm miles of squirming across concrete tread by bikes and shoes.

I first saw one slug apparently trying to roll over a smaller, deader slug. Hmmm… I wondered. I can’t see what it’s trying to achieve with this.. Hmmm…

Two steps later I saw what looked like two medium-sized slugs having a conference. Buoyed by my recent forays into observing animal behaviour (more on this later) I squatted down to take a closer look at this congregation.

!!!!! The slugs, at angles forming a V shape, were greedily, vigorously gorging on a dying earthworm. Ewwwwww. Ewwwwwww!

I’d never seen this before!! I’d always felt a little sorry for slugs and snails that they can’t help but have existence in this life but as “pests”, but whooa. This was too much for my mind.

I jumped away and kept walking on quickly, repeatedly exclaiming “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.” to myself. I walked, and walked, still exclaiming my Ohs… and suddenly realised my skirt was loosening down my hips and would soon be on the ground to soak up the rain and gather my footprints. Luckily I was wearing longjohns so no worry of a full-scale scandal of ass baring in Switzerland if I had not caught the problem in time. I zipped the zipper all the way back up and continued. Bizarre timing but thankfully stopped my traumatised noise-making.

That little sequence was the actual weirdness of my day. This next part is the “It can’t be so in Switzerland?!” weirdness.

I arrived at the train station, still happy if not shaken just a little bit somewhere in my earthworm-loving portion of brain. [And actually… it’s not just that… there is… something slightly bizarre to me about slimy eating slimy. I don’t know why, there is no sense or logic there. Just a human reaction of disgust I guess.] I walked in, started addressing the lady at the counter with my question. I had a booked a ticket on a train to France for Sunday, and wanted to know if it was possible to change that to Tuesday?

She nodded her head engagingly, with a look of interest on her face, and then politely repeated my question back to me. “Yes,” I said, “that’s right.” “Oh well, then you actually have to go to the counter in the next room over there.”

I apologised, mildly confused because I follow instructions well and rarely go to the wrong counter for things. Just before in fact, the man at the bureau de change counter in the room before this one had called out to me repeatedly to try to get me to state my business there. I looked at the sign above his counter… money… no, that’s not what I want. He kept calling out to me though. I wonder if my sickness has made me look like a particularly hapless foreigner today.

Anyway, went into the next room and posed my question again to a young woman. She was polite but somewhat reluctant from the start to deal with this problem. Eventually she made a phone call to find out what she could do. I meanwhile was quite puzzled that this was such a difficult task. If it was too late to be possible I could handle that. If there was a fee for the change I could handle that. Why were they making it seem like there has never been any precedent for someone wanting to change the date of a reserved ticket?

When she got off the phone I was informed that because I had booked and paid online, I could only attempt to change the ticket date by dealing with “them” online. The two systems, booking face to face and booking through the internet, apparently have no common final storage bank. They are separate and that’s that Joe. There was nothing she could do, and the advice I was given was to reply back to the confirmation email for my reservation, asking if I could change my ticket and what’s more… explaining the reason for wanting to change my ticket.

Susan’s pride kicks in something big here. I’m a client. I don’t think I should have to explain my circumstances like a student trying to get a special pass for a class. As I said, if it’s too late to change that’s fine. If they require an extra fee because they want to discourage last minute changes or because of extra processing or something, fine. I mean… on my booking confirmation email it simply stated that there might be a fee for changes or cancellations. Nothing about “Reply only to this email, we are a special secret branch of the rail service”, and certainly nothing about having to work to convince them I deserve it.

I not actually angry. I’m very very surprised, and feeling somewhat resigned. The reason why I wanted to change my ticket was because I am still sick and didn’t think it so smart to start making my way to France to look for a job when I’m snorting back copious amounts of mucus and feeling the need to curl up somewhere after 15 minutes of activity. I don’t blame them entirely because it is fairly last minute, but honestly I did have that much faith in the Swiss rail system. Even if it wasn’t possible to change it, I thought the answer would be clear, but it wasn’t.

Okay, okay, okay. I’ve checked the email again and it says “please do not reply” because it was of course automatically generated. Sigh. Garh garh garh garh! I have just called up the number in the email, something I didn’t do in the first place because I think it’s a pay number and it’s a short walk to the station so I thought just walk… don’t call the pay number. She was a very helpful woman however in the process of trying to change my booking, asked me if I was at the station at that moment… Curious indeed. I explained that I was at home but that I had been there 20 minutes ago, where they couldn’t help me. Despite not being able to help me, for some reason my file is still open on the computer at the station making it not possible for the woman on the phone to change my booking right at this moment.

W. T. F.

This is the definition of weirdness in Switzerland. This strange clueless incompetence which I would readily accept but still be pissed at in New Zealand is like an awful skeleton coming out of the closet for Switzerland.

So. The conclusion for now. The woman on the phone said that she would effect the change as soon as she could find out that the woman at the station had closed my file. She said I should consider my booking changed and pick up my ticket at the ticket window, where I would have to pay for it. My credit card charge for the original booking they are going to refund………..

I have faith in this woman. But… sigh. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

All this has strengthened my resolve to stay indoors, drink milky rooibus tea and catch up on my backlog of posts. The world outside and me are not clicking right now.


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