Take your mind back to Friday 27th March,
the news breaks that the schools and businesses are closing we are all about to enter lockdown; this is big stuff it is the end of the world as we know it. However unlike the song I do not feel fine. The reason is the news has sent SBB into trauma and the train system appears to have decided to do away with the timetable and the urge to take people home. As a British expat living and working in Switzerland it takes me back to the golden days of British Rail. A system so flawed you really couldn’t make it up. You would often find yourself eyeballing a cow in some far off field with all hope of reaching your destination on time long ago lost. To see the chaos ensue was a thing to behold so un-Swiss. Still we had a fair few weeks to remove the memory while sitting on the sofa pretending to work from home.
Now we are all back on the train gang. The first shock is that someone has stolen my spot on the platform, the person in question gives me an up and down glance and the expression hints at a couldn’t care less attitude. Who is this interloper and when did this platform space shifting begin? There is an urge to seek an answer however there are two things holding me back. First the man on the spot may be some sort of hero who has bravely risked life and limb to serve us in some way during the lockdown. Second and sadly the more relevant is that my German is rubbish. So I have to suffer a shuffle down the platform pecking order.
The clock ticks to 7.07 and the Zurich train draws in due to my recent loss of prominence on the platform means I am only seventh in line to board the train where a whole new world awaits which has a blue tint to it. Not as many masks as you would expect or hope hum! In normal times all forms of polite interaction are dismissed and you just look for somewhere to park your bum. However in this new dawn there is a passenger dance in progress. Some glide some stomp but none seem to want to sit. Some passengers are enjoying the holy grail of three spare seats to their one and no one is sitting next to each other. Eventually a few brave souls sit opposite those in masks while the rest either stand by a door or disappear without track or trace.
The train trundles out then a stifled cough breaks the sound of silence.
A few heads turn to look for the culprit a beetroot red faced man has his face pressed into arm doing his best not to cough again. Panic over until the sound of a sneeze reverberates around the carriage as the kids say (OMG) in my vernacular Oh my God! We are all going to die. They say the female of the species is more deadly than the male an in this case the women responsible sneezes three more times in succession like the rat a tat of a machine gun. No one speaks but everyone seems to be thinking the same thing so the poor lady in question mumbles an apology and exits stage left. Happy day for me as I beat the platform pincher to her vacant seat a victory of sorts, still better put a mask on just in case and douse myself with hand sanitiser. Those without masks have taken a sharp intake of breath and are counting the minutes till are arrival at ZHB. Mouths are closed eyes are bulging and time seems to stand still till the blessed relief of the train announcer telling us our arrival is imminent. The air is thick with anticipation mixed with fear until the train draws to a halt. The doors are flung open and the outtake of breath nearly knocks over the people waiting to board. Never in the field of human commuting have you seen people leave a train so fast. Never mind fifteen minutes of fame we have all endured fifteen minutes of fear, still we made it. Mind you there are only nine hours till we get to go through the whole performance again.
I may work late. Happy travels everyone.