Are They Obtuse or Obstinate
Copyright Vladimir Kagan February 21, 2015
This Blog is written to entertain you and keep me from going stir-crazy…
When groping for something to write, I go to the dictionary; the word OBTUSE had become a favorite word in my lexicon.
[uh b-toos, -tyoos] adjective
1. not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect; not sensitive or observant; dull.
2. Not sharp, or pointed: blunt in form
Reflecting on the definition of ‘obtuse’ I thought the word OBSTINATE was missing in the description. So, like a good scholar, I went back to my Webster’s Dictionary and found OBSTINATE
1. stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.
I had thought that the Swiss were OBTUSE…. and so was my Slavica “Gloria”…(just the name Slavica sounded obtuse). However, I must beg forgiveness of both: I have maligned them –The proper adjective might be more appropriatly : OBSTINATE.
Having enjoyed Swiss hospitality for the past two months, it is very ungrateful of me to criticize my hosts, but here are some examples of Swiss Obtuseness and Obstinacy:
• Obsessed with security: The Swiss imprison themselves at night, secured behind impenetrable shutters. In doing so, they keep out one of the reasons for loving Switzerland, the fresh scrubbed mountain air. Dare to leave them open and you are immediately identified as a foreigner. Swiss obsessions with security and punctuality go hand in hand, both go to the absurd.
• I remember some years ago being invited to a Fondue fest on a ski mountain. The lift stops operating at 7 PM… Erica and I arrived one-minute late. The attendant gleefully announced “Fertig” - Closed! So we sadly watched as our friends in the gondola ahead departed cheerfully up the mountain and we were left behind in the cold.
• The Genovese have a propensity for destroying their beautifully groomed farms and vineyards, replacing them with apartment houses. This is ostensibly to provide housing for an overcrowded city. But the housing they built is so expensive, locals seeking shelter move to France… 60% of Geneva’s Policemen live in France!
These luxury condos are often occupied by foreigners on lush expense accounts. In typical Swiss fashion, the buildings are beautiful with many balconies and amenities, security being one of the featured amenities. These beautiful buildings are clad with rich marble, burnished concrete or subtle glass facades. They are clustered in manicured gardens. However, should you want to visit anyone living there, access requires a hike, sometimes a city block or more. That is fine for hardy Swiss mountaineers but almost impossible for impaired old folks like me.
The exit from the garage spill out into the middle of the plaza - the ominous retractable cylinders block any vehicular traffic from entering the compound.
A very attractive central plaza connects all the buildings of the complex - you can't even park a bicycle there without being reported to the police. You must park it in the proper enclosure
They do recycle in Geneva and these are the attractive bins provided for careful separation of the trash
The bicycle prison
Try to approach any of these buildings by car and you must drive into their subterranean parking lot. There you find a neatly designated handicap parking space and grab it while available and hobble to the security gate. Naturally the gate is locked; accessible only by a coded electronic device. There is no intercom to find the correct tenant, that would impinge on their privacy… So you climb the stairs to the street level, which expels you into the middle of the “garden.” On rainy days, (not infrequent in Geneva) you must scurry to the front door, which is again locked with a secret code – no names. The elevator is designated as “0” or sometimes RC. But try to get into the building and you are stymied.
•Every street intersection is monitored by a security camera. Go through a yellow light and you are tagged for speeding as you obviously were trying to beat the stop signal. Whammo - a double penalty.
• Weekends are the time to go out with family and friends – perhaps even to a museum, have a nice dinner in a restaurant. Not in Geneva, the Calvinist spirit prevails. Restaurants are closed on weekends, only the museums are open.
Geneva's latest cultural addition, the new Ethnological Museum
The mysterious entrance to the museum - find it if you can!
Approach the mirror and it magically swings open
• Geneva’s latest cultural attraction is the M.E.G. The Ethnological Museum. It is an architectural masterpiece, a perfect aggrandizement for the team that designed it. Practical? Who needs it? There is an entrance ramp to ease access, but should you by chance stray to its unguarded edge and you are in danger of falling off and losing your life. Get to the front door – it appears that there is none - only a huge mirror reflecting your approach. As you near this barrier, the mirror opens magically and you walk into a pleasant cafeteria. No museum in sight: the museum is subterranean! The Swiss have an inclination to build things underground. (must come from their long experience of building masterful tunnels.) I love this museum, it was my second visit and I happily will go a third time. If the M.E.G’s architecture deserves the title of obtuse, the exhibit is a gem. Arranged in beautiful display cases, exquisitely curated, the displays are also identified in that other language; English.
• A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a dear friend in the Maternity Ward of the Cantonal Hospital. This was her fourth baby, so she was no amateur in producing these bundles of joys. Still with Swiss obstinance, the little boy decided to take 7 hours to materialize in spite of induced labor.
After nine months and seven hours, a beautiful baby boy - just minutes old
• To further illustrate the obtuseness of Swiss architecture, join me in walking down the corridors of this immaculate hospital. The walls are decorated with mock-graffiti, enough to make anyone dizzy – certainly not befitting a maternity floor.
• Finally: Slavica aka Gloria: She is the sweetest thing that has happened to me since Swiss chocolate. She responds to my every whim. But asked to do one thing out of her routine and her face darkens, the charm evaporates. She gets morose and stubborn. Right or wrong, she is always right! She tidies to perfection. I am somewhat messy, perhaps more than somewhat! Still I like to be tidy, perhaps not as tidy as she would like me be. I like everything in its place – but if it’s not HER place, beware! Some women waddle, others mince, but Slavica parades like a soldier. Hers is a distinct thumping with a rhythmic beat that is audible throughout the apartment.
Sadly, Slavica and I will soon be parting company as I return home and she to her family in Serbia…
I miss her already!
P.S. This Blog is a farewell and thank-you gift to “Gloria” as she and I had conceptualized it over a month ago when I first referred to her as Obtuse. The image stuck. Over the following weeks, the Blog fell into place - hope you were amused.