Case study #3: Teen or barely out of that bracket young dude on empty main road running through the Swiss National Park, April 2007
I had completed a solitary hike on one of the smaller circuits in the Swiss National Park and was feeling fantastic. The weather was fine and the sky was a very pale blue with light filtering through in thousands and thousands of pinpoint streams. It wasn’t just the weather that was making me feel good, I was proud that I had convinced myself to continue on with the hike after I had encountered an information board 10 minutes in helpfully teaching me about bears, wolves and mountain cats. The first two were extremely unlikely to appear, the third was apparently a reality but also a reality more shy than ferocious. So……. in actuality there was no big threat, it’s more that on the off chance something did happen I knew I wouldn’t know what to do. My physical presence is scary to neither humans nor animals. Therefore it was an achievement that I had plucked on through despite my insecurity about accidentally getting myself into a throwdown with an annoyed animal.
See another reason why I was so happy about my hike was because I had gotten sooooooo close to the murmeli (see the picture above or scroll down to near the bottom of this page here) 🙂 x a million! However um…. murmeli usually make warning calls and run away when they feel/hear the rumbling of the feet of approaching intruders. I was crouching on the ground talking to them (mostly along the lines of “Oh I’m so happy you’re letting me be here with you! Thank you! Ooi! Oh I’m so happy, thank you!” Ahem. Ergo, even the murmeli didn’t consider me a threat. I’m so much bigger than them… sigh.
One stretch of road runs through the Swiss National Park. Bus stops line it on either side at regular and well-spaced intervals, in many cases though the entry and exit for a track will not sit right beside a bus stop, you may have to walk for 20 minutes along the road to get to one. Also interspersed with these roadside landmarks are some carpark areas.
I walked 20 minutes from the end of my track to my chosen bus stop and stood there, happily waiting not knowing what time it was or what time the bus would be coming. I think I had already checked the bus runnings before I left and knew that it was something like every half hour so I wasn’t worried if I had to wait half an hour at most.
Cars whizzed by as I stood there chuckling to myself about the lame jokes and observations I was making in my head, probably broke out into song at a few points. Then I watched as far down the road a car started to pass the one in front of it, which hadn’t been travelling particularly slowly in the first place. Interesting, I thought. I continued to watch as the passing continued to take place over a surprisingly lengthy period of time – the car being passed was still travelling at speed and had chosen not to slow down to facilitate the process. My eyebrows started to lift themselves when I saw that there were two other cars trailing closely behind the first passing car, and then lo and behold off in the distance but definitely visible was a large truck steaming forward from the opposite direction.
Hooo, this person better get in there quick otherwise they’re all completely screwed, I thought. At that moment they had just reached the area where I was standing and I realised that my entertainment was in fact watching me back. Yes, the young guy leading the cavalcade of passing cars was crooking his neck to ogle at me through the front windows of both his car and the car that he was passing. In Switzerland you drive on the right side of the road, so passing is on the left, and I was standing on the right side of the road. Everyone else in the situation was concentrating on getting through the manouevre, but him, even faced with danger from three sides he was taking the opportunity to stare at a girl on the side of the road. And… he wasn’t just glancing or quickly moving his head to check, he was staring with his head turned 90 degrees to the windshield.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what a fuckwit this guy was, I mean there is the girl-scoping instinct and then there’s putting yourself and other people in danger through wilfully moronic behaviour. I shook my head and made some noisy expirations of disbelief as the cars slipped into their correct lane in just enough time to miss being plowed into by the truck.
A few minutes later and my mind had gotten bored of that near-dramatic incident. Hmm…. a car coming….. it has the same colour as that idiot guy’s car…… and the same shape…. um…… Hmmmmmmmmmm. Sure enough, he zoomed on by back towards where he had been coming from. I tried to think up other possibilities for why he was doing this…. Maybe he was engaging in some personal best streetracing on this long, generally empty stretch of road? Maybe he had forgotten something at home? Stop worrying Susan, it doesn’t have to have something to do with you. It seems suspicious but there are other ways to explain this.
Some more minutes passed, enough to reassure myself that he hadn’t been coming back for me… And that’s when his dark blue car reappeared on the horizon, only slowly this time. It leisurely pulled over a fair distance down the road me, continuing its crawl up along the side of the road until the front passenger’s door was directly opposite me.
He rolled down his window a little bit. “………………………………?”
I couldn’t hear what he was saying so I replied to him in Swiss German with “Sorry, I didn’t understand?”
He rolled his window down further, before deciding that our communication would be aided greatly by opening the passenger door. “……………………………………..?” he asked in Swiss German.
I smiled (because I was laughing at myself) and shook my head, intelligently choosing to reply yet again in Swiss German that I couldn’t really speak Swiss German. He then offered Romansch or Italiano. I counter-offered with French or English. Nope, we were screwed for being able to talk to each other. But he was not to be desisted from his mission by a mere language barrier.
“Where you go??”
“Um…….. Val Müstair” I replied, telling the truth in terms of the general direction but not giving away my exact location.
“Ah, I take you.”
“No, thank you but no, I’m going to take the bus.”
“No, no! I take you. Val Müstair? I take you.”
“No, it’s okay. I’m taking the bus.”
“Because I want to. I like the bus.”
“But …….”, he rubbed his right forefinger and thumb together.
“Ah! But that’s not a problem because………..,” I declared with some satisfaction as I drew out my right hand that had been at my side clutching onto my Swiss Youth Pass, “I have this pass so it’s free! I don’t have to worry!”
“But I be your taxi. I taxi you.”
“No, it’s okay. I am happy to take the bus. I WANT to take the bus.”
“I taxi you! Come on!”
“No. I am taking the bus.”
“Come on, come……… come…………..”
“No. I’m taking the bus.”
“No. I already said no.”
“Because I don’t want to. I want to catch the bus.”
And so it continued for at least 3 minutes. For some reason he felt he had to repeat pleading “Why????” in other languages. Disbelief hit me for the second time that day. Was this really happening? There was obviously nothing I could say to him, literally and figuratively, so what was his game? After that long pointless interrogation he decided to up the ante a little bit. He drew the car up closer to me and pushed the door open wider. He patted the jumper-draped seat beside him.
“Okay, come in. I take you.”
“No??! I don’t want to. I AM TAKING THE BUS. I WANT THE BUS.”
He tried pulling up closer yet but I backed away to keep a distance acceptable to me between us.
“Come. You come,” he ordered, gesturing with his head as well for me to get into the car.
I had been scanning the surroundings out of the corner of my eyes for a while when I got a real break and spotted something moving way down the road to my left. It was a woman and a man who were coming out of a track into a small parking area. I inched towards the left, turned my upper body to be slightly more angled towards the couple than towards the guy in the car, and turned my head very conspicuously a number of times to look at them and to see if they had caught sight of me. The woman had (the man was about to wander off to their car) and started staring in my direction. Very soon I saw her call the man back over to her, still watching me.
I’m not sure what alerted him to my collusion with the bystanders, I suspect he caught sight of them in his rearview mirror, but in a few short seconds he settled with an “Okay.” and sped off, never to return.
The bus came some amount of time later. I was satisfied with my escape but a bit shaken at the thought that I was heading in the direction in which he had been going as well. What if he actually did live in the village I was staying in? What if he went looking for me? I knew the chances weren’t great but then again there was obviously something screwed about this guy. It didn’t seem like that was something beyond him. The plan had always been to leave that day but I have to admit that I took the first bus out of there after I had packed my things at the hostel, rather than hang around relaxing in the village for a few hours before catching one.