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