Saturday, September 15, 2007

Swiss apartments don't have smoke detectors

One of the things you don't realize living in America is how new everything is. A country that is less than 250 years old, and which has been subject to constant rapid growth, necessarily has little in the way of old buildings. As a result, few current buildings have been grandfathered past modern safety regulations. As a case in point, I can't think of a single building I've visited in America which didn't have smoke detectors. In just about any kitchen in the country, were you to leave a two-part screw-together espresso machine on the burner after the coffee had finished sputtering out of the top, the discordant shriek of a smoke alarm would soon alert you to your folly.

In contrast, in Switzerland, were you to start a cup of espresso and retire to your room, the first signal to wake you from your obliviousness would be the scent of something burning slowly diffusing through the crack under the door from the billowing clouds of smoke out in the hallway. You might then rush into the hazy kitchen to find the top of the stove covered with a crust of long-since dried coffee, the knob on the top of the coffee machine melted into a Dali-like parody of itself, and the plastic handle simply gone. You would be forced to conclude that under the influence of extreme and prolonged heat, seemingly durable plastic handles can disintegrate outright.

Switzerland would then place you in an additional bind, as your hankering for coffee might have hit at around 4pm and all of the stores close for the weekend at 5pm, leaving you with 15 minutes to ride your skateboard (your bike having been in the repair shop for the past two weeks; quality work apparently takes a lot of time) to the store to buy a replacement. Mach schnell!!!

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