Striking and speeding: so very unSwiss.

January 9, 2010, No comments

Law-abiding, sensible, honest, responsible. That’s pretty much how most of the world sees the Swiss, and how many Swiss see themselves. They are the Vulcans of Europe, all logic and little emotion. So it’s a bit of shock to discover that the Swiss are in fact as human as the rest of us. It doesn’t happen often, or maybe it does but is hidden, so to have two public incidents of normality in one week is verging on revolutionary.

Last week the baggage handlers at Geneva airport went on strike, and it wasn’t a one-off; the action is set to continue just as the airport’s busiest time starts. Thousands of skiers, with all their outsized items, arriving to play in the snow only to have to wait a couple of hours for their numerous bags. My return from Christmas in England coincided with the start of the strike, but luckily for me the real impact took time to take effect. I only had to wait 30 minutes, an eternity in Swiss terms but rather speedy if you’re used to Gatwick.

Speaking of speed, two days ago a man was fined for doing just that in his Ferrari Testarossa. You might think that no-one speeds in Switzerland, but where there are drivers, there are speeders. The remarkable thing was not the crime  but the fine: 300,000 Swiss francs, or about £180,000. Not bad going for a jaunt through the countryside. And in Ferrari terms, he hadn’t even been going that fast – 137kph, though it was in an 80kph zone. The thing to remember is that in Switzerland, speeding fines are based on your income as much as your speed. This guy was a multimillionaire driving a manhood-enhancing car, so he got slapped with a big fine. Hurrah!

But if it seems like the world as the Swiss know it is collapsing, fear not. There is a silver lining in these two clouds. Some reports say the driver was German, and one who clearly hadn’t realised he’d crossed the border into a speed-abiding country. As for the strikers, they’re in Geneva, which is as good as French when it comes to working practices.  Since the French strike more often than a Swan Vesta match, it’s bound to infect the French-speaking Swiss.

So the Swiss can blame these aberrations on their neighbours and relax back into their normalcy.

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