Thursday, January 22, 2009

Catching up

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
Fuck yeah. Watching the Inauguration made me happier than I have been in quite a while, and I'm not even an American. How lovely to be given a reason for optimism again, after eight years of being shat on.

Will he disappoint us? Well, yes, he probably will. He is human after all, and the problems are immense and complicated, and he is President not Czar: he cannot simply issue instructions to the serfs. But as Zhoen rightly said, "If Obama just doesn't keep us going at top speed down the mountain to the cliff, I'm calling it better."

The inauguration address was a model of grace and decorum, as all of Obama's speeches have been. One thing that strikes me on reading it, is how seldom he used the first person singular. If my count is correct, there were only three "I"s in the entire speech, all in the first five paragraphs. It was all "we", "us", "our". Good.

I spent a day in Zürich last week, giving an introduction/training to some new database customers. Oddly enough, one of them turned out to be a very old nearly-customer, who had been in the audience when I gave a demonstration at A Very Large Bank Indeed five years ago. They didn't buy, but she remembered me and proposed us when her new company needed a database.

Zürich is a lovely city, big enough to be interesting but small enough still to be pretty and comfortable. And they make very good chocolates. I'll have to go back sometime with a few hours of daylight to wander around in.

The trip home, however, was a … well, I nearly said "disaster" but that is not how it felt. What should have happened, is that I boarded the last ICE of the day at 19:10 and was comfortably home with tea and slippers at about 22:15. What did happen, is that a half-dozen of us stood at the entry to platform 11, whence the train should have departed, looking at a blank indicator board. The main signboard (in the station hall) said "Wait for announcement" so like the good little Germans we are, we waited. And waited and waited and waited.

And then, quite suddenly, without any announcement or explanation, our train disappeared from the signboard.

We looked at each other in wild surmise, then stormed the Information kiosk. The woman behind the counter said that the train had been cancelled, and stated that it was our own fault that we had missed it. "Why did we not ask her for advice before it was cancelled?" Well, really. We explained, politely I thought under the circumstances, that her statement was unacceptable, and after a few minutes of "Yes it is" "No it isn't" she directed us to the Customer Service Desk hidden away at the other end of the building. They, bless them, immediately apologised and sprang into action, finding connections and rebooking our tickets. So we (by now a highly integrated team) went out to platform 16 and boarded the express train to Basel.

Arriving there, we found another messup. We were supposed to change to a train from platform 5, but there too the indicator board was blank. An SBB employee was standing in front of it, talking on his cellphone and gesticulating. When he hung up, he turned to us and said that he didn't know where the train was or when it would leave — and with that, tried to walk away. It was explained to him, politely I thought under the circumstances, that his statement was unacceptable, and after some grumbling he tried again, discovering as though by magic that the train was on platform 9 and on time, i.e. about to leave during the next 50 seconds. So we ran.

The train in question was a sleeper to Prague via Berlin, which we were going to take up the Rhine as far as Karlsruhe, for the second connection to Stuttgart at 23:18. We settled ourselves in one of the seating carriages (not beds) and went to the bar, which was actually quite nice. Comfy chairs, a true bar with a footrail and music, tiny LED lights in a Milky Way sprinkling along the ceiling, fine food and very good beer. The catering in the SBB is miles ahead of the Deutsche Bahn's attempts.

We arrived in Karlsruhe at 23:25, seven minutes after the connection left, and found the station deserted but for the McDonalds and the cleaning ladies. There was one more train to Stuttgart, at 00:30 the next morning, arriving at 02:45. Since we should already have been at home for over an hour, little enthusiasm was expressed for the idea of waiting an hour for a slow train. Six of us hired a minibus taxi to take us all home for a flat rate of 200 Euros. The bus took half an hour to arrive at the station, and an hour and a half to get from Karlsruhe to my doorstep (I was second off the bus).

The trip had taken six and a half hours.

What interested me in this whole mess was to observe our reactions to it. I have been more affected by the meditation and discussion I've been doing in Second Life than I had realized, because I was able to "step back" from myself as we were arguing with the moron in the Info-kiosk in Zürich, and see that the situation did not determine our response. We had a choice of how to react to what was happening. I chose to see it as an adventure, and relaxed into whatever was going to come.

The group dynamics changed as we sat in our compartment on the way to Basel and then in the bar, without my arguing or trying to pursuade anyone. I simply acted on my decision that I was going to enjoy this unexpected adventure, and over time this quiet acceptance came to be the common attitude.

Fascinating.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Dale said...

:-) Bravo!

January 22, 2009 at 2:55:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Nice attitude, to accept what happens as an adventure. But so much better to act and change the direction as well, instead of just sitting and taking it.

January 22, 2009 at 5:48:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Zhoen said...

We touch those around us, if wise, we stick to influencing for good... not evil.

The world just seems less ugly than it did last week.

January 23, 2009 at 2:44:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Shari said...

Very interesting, but from what I know of you by reading your blog for a couple of years, it doesn't surprise me that you can have a positive impact on your fellows-in-journey that way.
However, I don't really know what SL is, have never looked at it, don't understand it. So please do explain how it had such an effect on you...

January 23, 2009 at 11:45:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Pacian said...

We had the inauguration on in the background at work, and funnily enough we did occasionally break into "America, Fuck Yeah!" from Team America.

January 25, 2009 at 6:33:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous liquicat said...

that really is fascinating. human behavior is an amazing thing. :)

January 31, 2009 at 8:21:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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