Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Town Drunk...Swiss Style.

On the way to my German conversation class shortly after noon (12:11 to be exact), as I boarded the tram, I noticed what could be the politest and most orderely town drunk I've ever seen. Public displays of drunkeness are fairly rare here, and I made sure I chose a seat with a clear view so that I could enjoy the show.
I noticed the 60+ year old man holding a bottle of Coop Lager (the cheap store brand beer) the instant I got on the tram. He was unshaven, but other than that he looked fairly well kempt. He had on neatly pressed clothes, he didn't smell, and he happily greeted every person (including me) who stepped onto the tram. My first reaction was to avoid the guy, but as I said before, I wanted to be able to see what was going to take place on my eight minute tram ride.
As the tram began moving, the man began a soliloquy in slurred Swiss German which - while being very interesting to listen to - was completely incomprehensible to me. This gibberish continued for a minute, and then the tram slowed down at the next stop where an unsuspecting woman boarded the tram and sat right next to the man. This was going to be interesting...
The moment the tram began moving, the soliloquy began again. Now, if this had been in America, the lady would probably have made a noise of disgust and then moved to another seat. Afterall, who wants to sit next to a drunk? But not in Switzerland. The lady politely sat next to the man, and she pretty much ignored him. At one point, the man reached into his pocket, pulled out a bottle opener, and carefully popped the bottle cap off of his beer - of course he carefully put the cap in his pocket so that he could put it in the proper recycling container at some point in his bleary-eyed future. While he was putting the bottle cap into his pocket, he accidentally nudged the lady sitting next to him. He slurred out some form of apology, and the lady told him it was not a problem. At this point, I would definitely have moved to another seat because I knew what was coming next.
Because the lady talked to him, the man considered it an open invitation to begin telling her his life story. He began gesturing with his arms. Then, he pulled a little piece of paper out of his pocket and began reading and laughing out loud. A few seconds later, he began whistling what were apparently bird calls for some long extinct bird. All this time, the lady just politlely sat next to him and did not move.
Unfortunately, we arrived at my stop and I had to get off the tram. As I stepped off the tram, I looked back and saw the man offering the lady a sip of his beer. She answered him with a simple, "Danke, nein". Although she was beginning to look a little uneasy... she still did NOT move to a new seat.
As the tram began moving toward the next stop, I saw the man's arms begin gesturing again. The lady just sat there looking straight ahead.

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