I am sitting at a platform in the train station, people watching while the morning sun rising over the buildings. The rays fall upon my legs and warm them from a bit of a chill. On the way to get to this spot, I stopped by a local communal garden and took images of the dew upon all the vegetables and flowers starting to mature in the summer sun. Two Korean tourists with their suitcases going to the airport smiled as I said, “ahn-yah-ha-say-yo.” In broken English, they replied, “herrro!” Another fun part to get to this spot on the train bench was when I went to the neighborhood bakery and picked a small loaf of bread for breakfast. When the baker handed it to me, it was still warm. I smiled and broken German tried to say, “no need for butter.” She smiled.
As a train pulls away from the station and I see my reflection in the window, the reality is that part of my problem in adjusting to Switzerland started in the year 1987. It might have actually been my first time in Las Vegas. The city had a great deal more local color than the bad replica theme park of today where people don’t realize how effective the merchandisers are at separating people form their money and having people think it is fun to pay for everything, comps included.
What I remember most about the trip was that it was the moment I realized if you wanted to, you could have a 24-hour day.
I had just gotten done with all day meetings late at night and I went for a walk and found myself in old town Las Vegas, where I saw a sign advertising “three eggs cooked anyway you wanted, pancakes, sausage links, ham, bacon, hash browns and coffee” all for the price of 99 cents.
I remember staring at the sign for a moment looked inside to the greasy spoon “Elvis” goodness and went in, sat down, and ordered four of the breakfast specials.
They brought four gigantic plates of food late night breakfast fare. I happily ate them.
When I left I went on a promenade digestive walking the strip and found myself people watching, going into various little stores. I would walk further around the strip and the lighting did its best to bring a sense of daylight in the dessert night to help keep people from realizing what time it was. I found the designers of the casinos were brilliant in not putting any clocks or windows inside the gaming floors. I even went into a grocery store and went “wft?” as people were playing slot machines while shopping for milk and bread.
But as I walked, I thought to myself, “this is really cool. You can actually work around the clock here. Everything is open 24/7. To a guy who wanted to make a mark in the world, this was as if someone gave a key to unlock the potential that the normal 9-5 day I grew up around, was not something I needed to keep living in.
Fast forward to Switzerland almost 30 years later. Here I sit in a train station waiting for a grocery store to open so I can get a freaking cup of coffee and a wireless signal because I am guessing the road construction knocked out my signal at home. All so I can get on to this new fangled idea called the internet to a) solve a code issue I have been playing with for a few days b) go to Google translate and punch in the new German words I need to learn and get a fair definition of the words in about 5% of the time that it takes to look up the word in the dictionary and c) allow me the access to a search engine that when I brainstorm, I can quickly move around topics and ideas to seek information about thought, concepts and ideas. And then there are the pesky emails that have to be attended to and d) lay out two large projects in a way that will make sense to anyone for web presence.
I was on the Internet in the early 1990’s. I thought everyone was on it at that time. I didn’t realize less than 5 million people were using it. Today I find it hilarious that the entire planet is not wired.
In Switzerland, there is a joke that people come to this country to retire. If you got to a Catholic Church service, it reminds me of being in Florida in winter. You have a strong elderly population at church. Call it the q-tip congregation. The way life operates here reminds me very much of my childhood. Shops open at a very scheduled time, they take lunch breaks, and then work is over at an early hour. Shops are closed on Sunday and there is no blur between work/personal life. It is like everything is in a giant container box filled with little boxes that all have their place, yet nothing can’t blend with what is inside the box next to it.
Sometimes, it feels like stepping back in time machine when living in Switzerland.
The pace and quality of life is not a bad thing, but when you come from the world of 24/7 and a perpetual pace for working on new things and a blending of time with work and personal, there is a huge clash.
When I got up this morning and found the Internet was down. I did the normal thing, “oh something is probably wrong with the modem or my computer, so I wasted 30 minutes trying to get it to connect before realizing, “duh, it isn’t you – you idiot!” The next logical thought is, “where is the next spot in this semi-wired country (they love the mobiles here, but I can’t do 3d modeling off of a mobile phone with much quality) so I make my way to the town to locate hot spots. They all have you get a code for your mobile and you work with a limited time. The designers probably just did it that way so you could not sit and actually work for extended periods of time and stick out like an American in Europe.
In the USA, most gyms open at 5:30 am. Here, they might open at 8 or 9 am and close early. Weekends are for just a few hours a day in summer. Coffee shops and cafes open at 6am in the states, usually you can always find a diner open 24 hours that has coffee/food and wifi. Here. I am waiting till 8 am to go in and get a coffee, log in and work on the ideas and then go to my German class.
What is even more hilarious is that my German class is like stepping back into 4th grade. A sort of learn by rote and regurgitate class that I simply don’t do well with. There is a wifi signal there that could be effective in allowing one to pull out a laptop or mobile devise and using Google translate, but for whatever reason, this school doesn’t have a live signal. (You think I am making all this up, dontcha)
I guess I realize how much I did take “time” in the day and use it to my advantage. I guess some people stare at facebook pages, or play games on the Internet. I don’t know. While it has not gone the way I thought it would, I am amazed at the free online courses offered. There are two more I signed up for. One is from Stanford University and the other from the Santa Fe institute.
All this boils down that technology isn’t anything to be feared. What is to be feared is how man will choose to program and use it.
It is funny. I can pull out a map and a compass and find my way. I still write real life letters and put stamps on the envelopes. I wake up each day and like doing meditation, prayer and exercise – I know there is a part of me that needs to brainstorm and work and play with ideas and problems.
What amazes me is how structured many of ideas are about what life is about and how we are to live it. It is like the entire purpose of life is to learn to love. It is easier when you are not attached to the world; yet, the world seems to have oodles of ways to keep man attached to it.
The Internet is one such way. But then again, it is simply a choice of how one chooses to use it. to me it is a great tool.
The cafes are opening, time for the morning coffee and a link to get answers to my questions. Have a great morning. I had fun rambling out a delayed brainstorm of whatever.