Friday, 28 October 2011

Fountains for Youth

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It's quiet now.

 Hibernating.

 It doesn't look like much, but in the summertime this fountain gushes a steady stream of cold water from two gargoyle spigots.

In this forest plaza, tired joggers wearily approach this aqua temple to dunk their heads; fathers hoist their children up so they can lap up the refreshing droplets; once a dog jumped in, much to the chagrin of his flustered minder, but dogs get hot too; in the far basin, a red balloon floated delicately on top of the water's surface for two days, being pushed around by the current of falling water and tiny hands.

It's a meeting point for mothers with strollers and toddlers with trucks.

Leaves now collect in the empty stone reservoirs.

We wait for spring.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

World on Fire

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Before the fog rolled in and the rains came.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pass the Butter!

October is winding down, and most of the autumn colours are dropping from branches and are ending up in sodden piles on sidewalks and road gutters. I can show you some pictures of those if you like, because for reasons that Dan could not understand I was taking pictures of those composting piles on Sunday.

But you probably aren't interested in that.

Instead, how about I discuss corn. That is so much more interesting, don't you think?

Now a few weeks ago when I was in throws of mentally trying to prove that I was not physically ailing, I went on a really ambitious walk through some glorious countryside. You probably would think that I might have enjoyed the walk more if it hadn't hurt to breathe, but that's not really a correct assessment. You see, because it hurt to inhale through my nose that meant I had to take quite a few breaks for obvious reasons: namely, no one wants a mouth-breather creeping up behind them on a walk through quiet country afternoons. 

Talk about Act 1, Scene 1, straight out of a horror movie.

(I was the mouth-breather, in case you're not getting that.)

So as I was stopped on one occasion, waiting for a group of attractive male joggers to get ahead of me, I turned to face the cornfield so I could spare them the horror of looking at me in all my germy splendor. Of course I still looked like a complete nutter. Oh look, that girl is standing meerkat-still in the middle of a long country road, staring at corn.

Freak.

So I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of the corn so I looked semi-normal.

Oh look, that girl is standing meerkat-still in the middle of a long country road, taking pictures of corn.

Freak.

No, there is no way around it. That wasn't a good day. I actually didn't enjoy that walk, I am done pretending. It took too long to get home, I forgot to pack Kleenex, and all I have to show for it are some pictures of corn.

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Hiya! I'm corn!
But not the good kind you can eat.

There's something you need to know about corn in Switzerland: they're doing it wrong. That is probably the rudest thing I have EVER said (yeah, it's not), but it's the truth. All of the corn fields that are around where I live grow crops that are harvested for livestock feed.

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Past their prime.

That means the plants--cobs and all--are left sitting on the field to dry out before a big farm vehicle-tractor-thresher-thing comes along and plows the whole field down in one fell-swoop, while the resulting silage--greens and grains alike--is pumped into the wagon trailing behind.

I mean sure, it is a good thing that all the barnyard creatures get such nutritious food

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Hands off, I am NOT for you.
Plus at this stage of my life I'm as dried out as Joan Rivers' face without the injections.

But what about me? Back home, great big bins start showing up in the grocery stores around September that are loaded with fresh ears of local sweet corn. Then I would fight the crowd of other corn-on-the-cob-enthusiasts to peel back the green husks and check if the kernels hidden beneath were the desired butter yellow; if so, in my basket those ears went and dinner plans were solidified.

Last year I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the big bins of corn to show up in the Migros. They never did. Instead there are only these packages of cellophane wrapped ears of corn available that have all the silk and most of the husk stripped away. In my opinion these are tasteless, and I can't grill with them. How am I supposed to slap flavoured butter all over the cob when I can't cover it all back up with the soaked husk? This means I can't let them hang out on a low grill heat, steaming and marinating and charring until they are a sweet perfection; the husk is mandatory!

Dan's mom told me that when she was growing up here, corn was strictly 'animal food' and it was a laughable notion when other people in the world ate it. Probably like how people in Peru laugh at the idea that everyone else in the world keeps guinea pigs in cages, fattening them up for life, and then never eat the succulent little rodents. Basically, everyone all over the world thinks everyone else has weird diets. Deal with it.

But slowly the concept of corn as human food has crept into the Swiss diet, and here's where they're doing it wrong: they eat it in salad. And not like a corn salad, it's a regular green salad that has corn on it. Weird! And once I ate a vegetable baguette, and corn was mixed into the fresh cheese. Weird! And another time, I ordered a pizza and there was corn on it. Weird! But never, ever, ever has freshly picked ears of corn--still bundled like babies in their silky husks--shown up in my Migros or Coop.

I miss it so.

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I taunt you with my perfection.

I mean, how else are we supposed to justify eating an entire pound of melted butter if we don't have our barbequed ear of fresh corn to act as our sponge?

How else, I ask you?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Am I Too Late For the Party?!

So there's been this little video blog (or vlog, as the cool kids say--which explains why I didn't use that abbreviation) challenge going around some different blogs wherein you record a video of yourself pronouncing some words, answering questions, and getting your voice--your accent--out there!

I've been wondering for about a week if I should participate.

Hearing my voice might shatter the grand illusions of how magnificent sounding you imagine me to be, and then you'll never come back again. All six of you. Though to be fair, four of you are related to me so you have to keep coming back, otherwise I'm not mailing you your Christmas presents.

Shazam!!

I am not above blackmail.

But back to my original point of shattered illusions. I mean, what if hearing my voice makes you, the other two, want to stab your eardrums with the shards of those shattered illusions? I can't be held responsible for that, if you do. Just know there are people out there who have far worse sounding voices than I do. Like Karen, off Will & Grace. (And just shut up about it! I know she was a character and the actress was faking that voice. What-ever.)

But I wrestled with my demons, ate some chocolate, read some Paulo Coelho and felt all spiritually enlightened, and decided to go for it. Also, I was really bored this weekend and had nothing else to do. Oh the agony of honesty!

But now for some other disclaimers:

(1) My skin colouring appears lily white instead of freckletastic. No, I do not know how to airbrush myself and no such tricks have been employed. If you too want to achieve this look, you just need a really shitty webcam.

(2) Could I not have done something about my damn hair? It's all scraggly, and there's that one bang that just flops around trying to get in the shot. And I keep firmly brushing it out of my eye, but that bang is basically that one camera hog friend that everyone knows who just wants all the attention. Irritating.

(3) I say 'um' a lot. Clearly I have never taken any sort of public speaking or self-promotion classes. I really am an appalling public speaker. When I gave the maid of honour toast at my cousin B's wedding last year, I thought I was going to do a face plant into the podium I was so GD nervous. There was a giant ballroom of people listening to me esteem the virtues of my dearest friend, and I'm pretty sure they had no clue what I was actually saying. Was I speaking English? Or Farsi? Or French? Or that Hobbit language that all the nerds know? When I get nervous, my voice shakes, I struggle to remember how to speak, and I tongue-twist my words. This happens.

(4) The length. Oh, the (double) horror. I have no idea what I managed to ramble on about for this long. Just stay tuned, there's a prize at the end.

(6) The fact I have no accent. I am wasting your time! For an extravagantly long period of time!

(7) I have put my own Canadian spin on the exercise by adding two of my own words. If I'm going to be a follower at least I'm going to be a unique one, right?

(8) There's no prize.



So that's it. If you want to participate here's my modified list of words, and the phrases.

Words:
Aunt, route, wash, oil, theatre, iron, salmon, caramel, fire, water, sure, data, ruin, crayon, toilet, New Orleans, pecan, both, again, probably, spitting, image, about, lawyer, house, coupon, mayonnaise, syrup, pajamas, caught.

Questions:
What is the bug that curls into a ball when you touch it?
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you use to change the TV channel?

And um, if um, you, um, also, um, want, um, to, um, include, um, the word 'um', um, I'd, um, like, um, to hear, um, how, um, other, um, people, um, pronounce, um, that.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dizzy Dogs

There is a very old carousel that operates in our village for a couple of weeks, every few months. It was set up again last week, and as I was walking by one evening I could have sworn that I saw a dog spinning around with the wooden ponies, pigs, and stagecoaches. But then my bus pulled up and I had to run to catch it, and I forgot all about what I might have seen.

Then on Saturday as I was going by, I saw a border collie eagerly running up to greet all patrons who were approaching the colourfully striped top of the musical merry-go-round.

"I wonder..."

It's a very handy thing to carry your camera with you 90% of the time, because look at what I say yesterday.

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Don't mind me.

When I saw his royal highness waiting for his ride to begin, a huge grin split my face as I took his picture. I don't know why, but there's something about this scene that is so innocently pure it is almost therapeutic.

A dog on a carousel.

What could be more natural?

Of course, I wasn't the only one who was delighted by this.


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Look!

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How 'bout them apples?

I ran my errand and was back outside about two minutes later. And when I walked by the carousel, those two little girls were sharing his highness's stage coach, giggling like mad as they patted his head, because I bet when they woke up that morning they never expected to share a carousel ride with a border collie.

Life is full of surprises.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Solothurn: Church Life

Solothurn, like Bern, is both a city and a canton. I was in the city of Solothurn a few weeks ago and snapped some pictures of town and church life.

Today I will show you--per the fairly obvious title--church life.

The old city of Solothurn is really storybook picturesque; it is guarded on all sides by fortress walls and there is a river that, once upon a time, acted as a further defense. The bridge that you must cross over the river to reach the city maybe used to be guarded by fearsome trolls or helmeted soldiers, but now there's just a couple of hippies with flowing skirts and dirty hair asking you to sign petitions. If you make it past them, the town is your oyster. 

When you first leave the train station and are making your way towards the old city of Solothurn it would be impossible to get lost because this is the view that raises itself on the horizon, guiding you to the centre.

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In case the architecture isn't giving it away, Solothurn is a Catholic canton.

That means that get more statutory holidays every year than the more moderate Protestant Bern.

Unjust! 

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For some reason though, I did not go into the churches. I'm only realizing this now, and I can't figure out why I didn't go inside? Why did the thought never occur to me? Was it the heat, frying my brain? Was it because I was so hungry, I only cared to sit on the stone steps and chow down on my chicken sandwich? Or was it because, in the sage words of my sister Meg, "You've seen one church you've seen them all. Now, where's an H&M?"

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I suppose I'll never know.

(Though I can recommend on good authority that the Solothurn H&M doesn't have nearly as many change room dusty bunnies snacking on your toes as the one in Bern does.)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Silver Linings

Caitie:  "You know what Dan? At first I thought my abs hurt today from all those stairs I ran, but then I realized it's because of all the coughing I did last night. By the time I get over this cold, I'm going to have washboard abs! Who needs the gym when you've got germs, eh?!"

Dan:  "I guess that's one way to look at it."

[a few seconds of elapsed silence]

Dan:  "Wait. You're sick, and you were running stairs?"

Caitie: "Yes..."

Dan:  "Agh, woman! You are so frustrating sometimes."

Caitie: "Maybe. But imagine my abs. Rock on cold. Rock. On."

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

All You Need is Rest, Rest, and Cows

Internet, I am sick.

Ugh, I have a sinus headache that's been going on for two days now that drugs haven't even touched. My next resort is chugging back gallons and gallons of (spiked, saywa?) o.j. and hoping that the tropical soothing hands of vitamin C will finally kill all those little bastard germs that have their hammers out, pounding away at that spot right between and behind my eyes.

Oh, let's also not discuss the terrible cough and raspy voice I have. And it's not even the sexy sort of Demi Moore raspy voice that Ashton Kutcher hears calling after him to keep it in his pants on his way home from douche-bag rehab. It's the worst kind of raspy; the kind of voice where someone introduces themselves as Tammy, but all the listener can think is, "Are they sure this is a Tammy? Because it sounds like a tranny to me."

That is currently my voice.

And a good patient I do not make, because I am stubborn. Whenever I am sick I have this asinine urge to prove to myself just how not sick I am, which usually takes the form of gallant spurts of energy directed at some form of physical exercise I rarely tackle when I'm feeling 100%.

When I was diagnosed with mono as a tender teenager, I remember sitting in the chair at my doctor's office feeling flooded with hot embarrassment. The kissing disease? Ack! Then I straightened out my spine and tried to look quite innocent.

"How did that happen?"

"From swapping saliva."

OMFG kill me now.

So I slunk out of the office feeling like I had a scarlet 'M' branded to my adolescent forehead. But then I decided what does that doctor know? I'm fine! I will prove to everyone that I am a respectable girl who does not get stricken with such juvenile and mortifying ailments as the kissing disease. So I went on about fifty power walks in the span of forty-eight hours just to prove, "Look at me! I'm fine!" Then on the fifty-first power walk, it hurt to drink my water what with the two golf balls growing in my throat, and when I opened the front door to the house I barley managed to crawl into the t.v. room before I passed out cold for roughly a month.

(Oh yeah, I also contracted pink eye during that month. And when I went to the pharmacist to get my prescription drops, I was wearing a pink sweater. You know, just to compliment the oozy pinkness of my bleeding eyeballs. I could tell he was appalled to have to deal with such a walking infection. I was ashamed.)

So with my history of being an idiot, that obviously means I don't learn my lessons. Of course when one is ill, one should retire to the couch and sip herbal teas and chant for healing. But yesterday, I did not do this. I laced up my shoes and decided I was going to RUN up the Gurten. To clarify, I have never ever run up the Gurten before. But this sinus pounding has knocked all the sense right out of me, and in my bent brain I decided that running up a (seemingly) ninety degree incline would make me all better.

Yes, thank-you for noticing, I really am the biggest twit of all the twits.

So I had my backpack, my water, my camera, and off I went. I was about fifteen minutes into my run when I literally couldn't breath, what with all that spastic hacking and coughing set to the rhythmic drumming of my sinuses.

I was a symphony of illness!

Except in my head I was thinking: holy F-CK! I am going to die here, for what? FOR WHAT? Because I needed to prove I'm not sick. I am going to be the only person in the history of the obituaries who suffered from acute stupidity as the cause of death.

I chugged back some water, spluttered and coughed it back all down my shirt, and felt like crying because I was such a god damn mess who still had to walk home.

But then I heard them!

Heard who? You ask with breathless anticipation.

The cows!

Oh. You respond, with abject disappointment.

A little bit further up the trail was a tiny herd of cattle doing some end-of-season grazing while the sun still shines. So I stood by the fence (hacking and coughing and being generally infectious) taking some pictures until I felt clear headed. And since my bovine friends haven't been represented that often on the blog this year, here they are!

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Aren't they gorgeous? And such timely distractions, because with my mind otherwise occupied it only took about two minutes for me to stop hacking up a lung before I continued on my way.

Up the Gurten.

(walking, though)

Because as proven, I'm a special little twit who doesn't learn my lesson.

Today I'm lying on the couch drinking herbal tea and chanting for healing. Though I am considering going for a brisk walk through the forest.

Do you think that will help?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Giving Thanks

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For him.

Because there's no one better.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dewy

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Fact: to and including yesterday it was still hot enough to wear only shorts and a tank top. However, since September always gives me the urge to sharpen pencils, stack notebooks, and wear all my new Fall clothes, I have not been wearing weather appropriate attire and have suffered for it.

You don't understand how awesome my new sweater is and I need to wear it!

But this morning our weather took a decisive seasonal turn, and in case you can't read between the lines I am hoping that this means I can now wear all my Fall gear without becoming so...dewy, mid-way through my day.

Pip, pip.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Great Big Melting Pot

On the train this morning I scooped somebody's discarded 20 Minuten, which is the morning commuter newspaper that is chocka block full of hard hitting journalistic pieces. Articles that cover a range of topics from: "What the F-ck is Happening to the Economy?" to: "Can you Identify these Two Lusty Individuals Who Had a Quickie in the Parking Lot Beside their Car, Oblivious to the Surveillance Cameras Snapping Pics of Them."

It's a very cultivating experience for the mind, that daily review.

As I was skimming the paper I came to an article that advertised a restaurant in Zurich that is going to go Tex-Mex. Yummy, yummy, Tex-Mex. I do love me some good old fashioned bastardized Mexican cuisine. It really can't be beat, and now I'm craving a burrito bowl, some nachos, and loads of sour cream. Too bad I'm nowhere near the Rio Grande at the moment, so I guess it's lucky that I am only an hour train ride away from Zurich.

Who cares? You're thinking. So what, a restaurant going Tex-Mex style. Are you starting to write for the 20 Minuten? Is that why this blog post is so boring?

Bear with me, bear with me, I have a point (this time).

The name of the restaurant that is going Tex-Mex is called...The Iroquois.

THE IROQUOIS.

Is anyone else besides me having a flash back to Grade 11 history? Anyone besides myself recalling that the Iroquois League was a nation of five North American indigenous tribes located along the North Eastern/Canadian border of the United States? A league of nations that banned together because strength in numbers meant they could control more land and be victorious in wars against their other indigenous rivals, which in the end we all know how that turns out for everyone involved once the dang Europeans arrived with their guns and smallpox diseased trading blankets.

But seriously, my present location is nowhere close to the Rio Grande and I can assure you that the Iroquois' territory definitely wasn't anywhere close to there, either. Which begs the question, what was The Iroquois serving up before they decided to go all Tex-Mex? Was there ever authenticity in the name? Well, they do have cream of corn soup on the menu, so I guess there's that...

But the California Chicken Salad doesn't really inspire confidence that the proprietors know the origins of their restaurant's name; nor does the Teriyaki Chicken Burger. However, the Iroquois bratwurst stand does boast a curry flavoured wiener, and I seem to recall in one of my history lessons learning that members of the Iroquois Nation were one of the first to sprinkle curry on their popcorn.

It's totally true. That's where the pilgrims who dreamed up Kernels got the idea from.

But maybe I'm being entirely unfair to be criticizing the literal application of the name 'Iroquois' to a restaurant that serves Tex-Mex and Teriyaki.

Maybe 'Iroqouis' is really a German word too, and it's a word that translates to meaning: "Menu of Many Conflicting Cuisines".

Monday, 3 October 2011

Apparitions of Importance

I was out prowling around on Saturday morning, and came across this relic to a night ended.

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Left perched on the side of a fountain, its thorny stem was submerged below the chilly waters.

The thin petals were starting to rust; too delicate to have been left out in the evening autumnal chill.

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As I snapped these pictures, I wondered if the receiver couldn't bring it home but also couldn't bear to toss it, so she placed the stem in water so she could see it in the morning.

She could walk by it.

Remember.

Or maybe the flower was forgotten.

It was left trailing in the water as two people trailed upstairs...

Or maybe it's just a rose.

And how it ended up in a fountain, down a side alley, means nothing at all.

Because sometimes, these things just happen.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mind Screwed Shut

As my parents perceptively noted in the comments section of my last post, my encounter with the Rolex watch masker who wished me a beez-u-tea-fil day was indeed as enlightening an acquaintance as the hot cup of coffee I shared last summer with a few village farmers.

When they reminded me of this, I felt lucky to have had two such note-worthy encounters. But also it bears remarking that I very rarely share such illuminating encounters with strangers; that is why I have only written about two experiences.

Those two might be it.

I have to write them down because it's the only proof I've got that sometimes, some days, against all odds, I can be oddly approachable, and likewise capable of being friendly in return. If I don't record these experiences, how else will I otherwise convince people that I really am not always a thirty-year old curmudgeon who gets expressively irritated with people who don't have their money in-hand when they reach the register?

How else, I ask you?

But for posterity's sake, I will show you the flip side of my enlightening experiences, and will document an experience that happens far, far too often to lil 'ol me here in Switzerland.

Passive aggressive behaviour is not something that's a revolutionary new observation in society, and we have all been on the receiving end of passive aggression.

Example:

Short-lived Highschool Acquaintance Who Had a Stripper Name: "People who can eat whatever they want are so lucky. Because really, most people can't eat whatever they want. Don't you think? After awhile, every donut just shows."

Me (who's mid-chew on a Tim Horton's honey dip donut): "????? Are you trying to tell me something????"

SLHAWHASN: "No! Totally not! Why? Do you think you can eat anything you want?"

Ah yes, passive aggressive behaviour is delightful, but it wasn't until moving to Switzerland that I truly began to appreciate what an art form it can be. For example, if you are in the grocery store and someone is blocking your path, one should never "ahem, ahem" speak up and ask the individual to move. Instead, it is much more practical to simply put on your laser-beam glare and burrow a hole in the back of this person's neck and will them to take notice and move out of your way.

It might take longer, but damn it's so much more satisfying when that person finally feels your creepy stare and they turn around and see your squinted eyes and scrunched-up angry face; they are very aware how much you hate their very aisle-blocking existence, and scurry to move their shopping cart.

You win.

Also, rather than coming right out and telling the new neighbour that she's been incorrectly following laundry-room procedures, it's more effective to sip the coffee that's been offered and innocently mention that the building manager is very disappointed that blah,blah,blah has been happening instead of yay,yay,yay and if it doesn't stop soon he'll have to confront the offending individual.

[INSERT MEANINGFUL LOOK OVER RIM OF COFFEE CUP.]

I'll be damned if passive aggression doesn't at times appear to be a sport, and if it is indeed a passive past time then I met the woman who's got the gold medal absolutely locked up for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

We were sitting on the train, and in order to get a better idea of our seating arrangement you need to understand that four-seater seats on the train are arranged like restaurant booths: two people sitting across from two other people. This means that in these seats, two people are facing backwards, which gets difficult if one person has motion sickness and doesn't like looking at a landscape zipping by in reverse order.

When the train started out I happened to be sitting in the backwards facing direction, and my seatmate was forwards-facing. At one point our train pulled into a station, switched tracks, and then set out in an opposite direction which meant I was now forward facing without ever having had to switch seats.

As I was reading, I heard my seatmate start to huff and sigh in displeasure. Since we had already established when I first sat down that I could understand German better than Swiss-German, she began lamenting aloud in German:

[Please understand I have made modifications to her dialogue in order for you to better understand how pissed off I was with her].

"Oh goodness. Now I'm facing backwards. Sigh. Sigh. Heavy sigh. Holy shit. Crappy. Sigh. Sigh. African babies don't have it as rough as I do. Sigh. Sigh."

I ignored her and kept on reading.

"Now I have to get up and find a new seat so I don't get sick. Oh no. This is awful, I've never had such a terrible thing happen in all my million years on earth. Sigh."

Again, I'm pointedly trying to ignore her because it should be noted she's never directly engaged me in this moaning. She's just started sighing and talking out loud.

"Sigh. A new seat. I have to find a NEW seat."

At this point, it was impossible to ignore her because when people speak in bold and caps lock, it becomes very difficult to continue to live in your own little bubble.

"Well, okay." I said. "Have a nice day."

(I'm a total bitch! Just go ahead and think it because I already know it! Of course I know she wanted to switch positions with me, but I'll be damned if I was going to offer up something that is very easy to ask for!)

"Have a nice day? Oh ha, ha, ha. Silly foreigner. No, no, I'm not leaving now. I just SIGH have to find a new seat," she says craning her neck wildly in a mock attempt to find a new seat, "because sitting facing backwards makes me sick."

I narrowed my gaze and tried to look this woman right in the eye as she cheerfully looked here there and everywhere, quite comfortable that she'd finally gotten my attention.

"Do you want to switch seats with me?" I seethed.

"Oh, really? Reeeaaallllyyyyy? Do you mind? Reeeeallllyyyyy? Oh, how wonderful."

And in defeat I flounced over to her side of the booth while she nestled herself into my seat and watched the landscape zip by.

How hard is it to directly ask someone if they wouldn't mind switching seats with you?

How hard, I ask?

How hard?!

I was still so irritated by this terrible show of passive aggression that when I got to the Bahnhoff Migros, and had to pick up a few supplies, I could do nothing but expressively roll my eyes and huff in annoyance at the woman in front of me who seemed to have absolutely no clue that counting out 95 cents in change was absolutely ridiculous and sloooooow.

Huff. Huff. Sigh. Sigh. Afranccouldsolvethiswholedamnproblem. Huff. Huff. Sigh. Sigh.

What?

Did I fail to mention that I'm in training for the silver medal?