Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One For The Boys

I’m going to try to do two posts this week because we are going to Bilbao, Spain for the next seven days and I don’t know if we are going to have reliable internet.  Plus, I might just be too busy eating tapas and enjoying the sunshine to write in the blog!  (Is that how you say it?  Write IN the blog?  Or, is it write ON the blog, or FOR the blog?  Which one?  I have no idea.)

Seems like I’m guilty of skewing all of my blog entries towards women and what we find interesting.  That’s only natural I suppose, because, having no penis myself, I tend to write from a feminine perspective.  This time I’m going to try to make it a little more interesting for all of those MALE Trailing Spouses out there, of which there are many.  Hi, Guys!

Also, I have another reason for writing one about the guys.  Lots of my single friends and ALL of Charming Daughter’s friends want to know about Swiss men in general and, specifically, how to find one.  Ahem.

APPEARANCE/ATTIRE:  This one is easier for European and UK men to adapt to than it is for American men.  Guys on this side of the Atlantic are ALREADY skinny, wear bowling shoes and are comfortable with taking public transportation.  You poor saps to the west of Iceland have got a major learning curve to master, however.  Sorry.

North American bodies just do not fit in European clothes.  Mr. Big is not a fat guy, but he has not missed many meal, either, if you get my drift.  He has not purchased one item of casual or dress clothing, or dress shoes, for that matter, over here.  They just don’t fit!  He wears a 36 inch waist.  Now, in the US, that is a very normal size.  Over here, that will be the largest size on the rack, if they have it at all.  Shoes are long enough, but they are all really narrow.  These are PINCHING me, Trailing Spouse!  OK, Mr. Big, there is no need to whine.

Guys, if you normally wear pleated khakis or dress pants, you are out of luck.  It is all flat front, all the time.  Suits have double vents, not single.  And, BTW, Swiss men wear suits a lot.  Here is a handy, dandy list:

1.       Monday through Friday, wear a suit.  No seersucker.  No corduroy.  Linen, OK in summer.
2.       Learn to knot a scarf.
3.       Dress shirts are NEVER button-down, only spread collar permitted.
4.       French cuffs are de rigueur, worn all the time, not only with tuxedos.
5.       Black, grey, taupe, brown, navy—all OK.  Plaid, no.  Madras, no.  Crazy golf pants with ships or lobsters embroidered on them?  No, no, no.
6.       Bowling shoes, yes.  Sneakers, no.
7.       Shorts?  You had better be on a bicycle,  playing tennis or swimming.  Otherwise, no.

MAKING FRIENDS:  This is where I feel really sorry for male Trailing Spouses.  All of the Swiss men are at work in their banks counting their francs.  All of the younger, single guys are at school in the University.  I really don’t know what you can do during the day to meet friends unless you hook up with some female Trailing Spouses and join us on our walks and coffee breaks, (and by this I mean short walks and long coffee breaks).  Speaking for myself, if you are near Lausanne, we’d love to have you join our walking group, if you are willing to discuss recipes and gossip about Swiss idiosyncrasies!   If you have kids that you are taking care of then you can meet some Moms and complain about the Swiss school system that sends your precious charges home every day for one and a half hours at lunch time as well as the 13 weeks of school holidays.  You guys really have to expend some effort to make “daytime” friends.  Much more than women do, because we are all organizers at heart.  I feel for you, truly.

Evening rolls around, however, and you should be good to go.  This is when the University boys and the other men who have been trapped in their homes all day come out to play.  (NOTE:  the Swiss idea of “out to play” means between 19:00 and 22:00 hours!)  Make sure you live in a “big” city and you will find an English-speaking pub.  (By big, I mean anything over 30,000 people).  Learn to love soccer/football and pick a favorite team.  Learn to have a love/hate relationship with Swiss beer, (mostly hate, from what I understand), and learn to call your “friends” your “mates”.  Done.  

DRIVING:  I cannot speak for any other European countries, but if you drive a car in Switzerland, you will accrue many speeding tickets from the ubiquitous speed cameras and you will wreck your car while parking.  Just get over it right now.  Mr. Big has amassed 7 speeding tickets and 3 major wrecks and 2 minor wrecks in 13 months.  At first, he was apopleptic.  Now, he is resigned.  Still, it is his number one topic of conversation with ANYONE, natives or visitors alike.  How can a man who managed to drive for 30 years without one single wreck and a handful of speeding tickets fall to such depths?  I don’t know.  I take the bus, fellas.

SPORTS:  If you are moving to Switzerland, learn to ski.  Learn to ride a bike, the kind where you wear a pointy helmet, a lycra outfit and hunch over your handlebars at a 90 degree angle.  Learn to hike up a mountain without having a stroke.  Learn to love soccer and sailing; UNlearn your love for American football and golf.  Mr. Big has even taken up roller-blading.  You heard me.  If you have ever seen anything more ridiculous than a 50 year-old man on roller blades, let me know.  Because I think he is winning that particular title.  Honey, do you want me to buy you some roller blades?  Um, no thanks, Mr. Big.  You look ridiculous.  What?!  I do not!  Um, yes.  You do.  Enough said.


1.        Learn to say “Gruetzi”, (gruuut-zee, emphasis on the gruuut).
2.       Be blonde.  Be skinny.  Have smallish or medium-sized boobs and white teeth.
3.       Do not shout.  Europeans whisper or don’t say anything at all.
4.       Wear big sunglasses.
5.       Finance is sexy.  Whisper sweet nothings in his ear like “I hear the franc and the euro might be in parity by 2012”.
6.       Wear black.
7.       Ski black diamonds.
8.       Learn to live on 1.5 meals a day; one of which will be yogurt and one of which will be salad and fondue.
9.       Eat only meat that originated in Switzerland.
10.   Opt for a skinny wedding band but a fabulous Swiss watch.

Ciao, ciao.  I’m off to Espagne and a week of cheap shopping and great food!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Short Takes

First of all, thanks to the many of you Future Trailing Spouses who have been contacting me in Switzerland.  (When you post a comment on the blog, I get a personal email at my house.  How cool is that!  Who knew!)  I’m glad I can be of help in saving your sanity.  It is very scary, yes, but it is imminently do-able.  Just keep persevering.  Soon you will be like me and find yourself looking for “For Sale”, (A Vendre), signs on your little weekend junkets or bike rides because you suspect you may never be going home—full-time, at any rate.  Plus, it is practically impossible to buy any property here unless you have at least a “B” permit.  Strike while the iron is hot is what I say!  You can’t go home later and THEN decide that you were an idiot to not buy that chalet while you had the Golden Ticket.

Bleach has become my new brown sugar.  I used to own a restaurant so I am a complete and total bleach freak.  By bleach, I mean Clorox, full-strength, full-bore, make-your-nostrils-stick-together-when-you-sniff-it bleach.  Well, you cannot buy it here.  I have looked in the restaurant supply store here in Lausanne.  I have looked in grocery stores and hardware stores and automotive stores and garden stores.  I’ll bet I have about 6 bottles of “Quasi-Swiss-Bleach” in my cupboard right now that I thought might be right, but, no.  None of them are right.  They are all some completely watered-down, funky-ass version of “Green” bleach.  They don’t even smell like bleach.   When you take off the little foil cap, the smell is so benign, I think you could probably drink straight from the bottle and not suffer any side effects.  Ouzo is stronger than the bleach available here.  Gerber Peas are stronger than the bleach here.  Anyway, I tried to smuggle a gallon of Clorox in my suitcase two days ago from the US.  That shit never even made it out of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Some TSA wench brought that Clorox home and is doing her laundry with it as we speak.  When I finally arrived in Lausanne and unpacked, there was a charming little note from the US Transportation Authority advising me that they had “relieved” me of my bleach.  Because it is a hazardous material.  I’m like, PEOPLE, how can it be a hazardous material when they sell it at Walgreen’s and Piggly Wiggly?   The No-Bleach thing is driving me crazy.  I have yet to find a solution, no pun intended.

Mr. Big and I are in a war.  We are “Mountain-Stupid”.  That is not something that you admit here in Heidi Land unless you are among close friends, (of which ex-pats have none).  Anyway ,there is a giant mountain located somewhere on the other side of our lake.  Perhaps you have heard of it.  It is called MONT BLANC.  Ha.  Mr. Big thinks it is the mountain that you can only see once you are in the Geneva vicinity.  I swear it is the biggest mountain located directly right off our deck in our straight line of vision out of Lausanne.  We have poured over Google Earth.  We have looked at Michelin maps.  We fight constantly about this.  Please.  Please.  If anyone out there can direct us to a website that shows the view off of the Port d’Ouchy in Lausanne and the names of every individual mountain peak, you might, possibly, save a marriage.  I’m just sayin’. 

We need a little map WITH ARROWS pointing down to the mountain peaks so we know what the hell we are talking about.  Because, obviously, we don’t.  And Mr. Big is an engineer.  But still.  This topography thing is hard.  YOU try it and then we’ll talk.

I would like to coin a new term, right here, right now.  XP-PS.  Ex-Pat Postal Service.  No kidding, I am going to copyright this XP-PS.  Formerly known as Checked Baggage.  Well.  They are going to charge us anyway for all of our checked baggage on airplanes.  Why not call it what it is?  There was a precious post on an ex-pat forum from a frantic Mom in Switzerland the other day who couldn’t find Star Wars stuff for her 5-year-old’s birthday party.   Bless her heart, she must be very new to Switzerland .  She actually thought she could go in a random party store in Basel and find Anakin Skywalker balloons and plates just lurking there on Aisle 3.   Um, no.  Cows, possibly.  Alphorns, definitely.  Darth Vader?  No.  So, I emailed her and told her that I was in the US for 19 days and would be happy to bring back her Star Wars party supplies VIA the XP-PS.   I think the Customs Authority people in every single country must crack up every, single day looking at what ex-pats put in their luggage.    I will be trademarking the name shortly.  Remember it, people.  XP-PS.  Overloading Baggage With Contraband Items One Suitcase At A Time.

Something else I love besides XP-PS:  Friends Who Don’t Forget You.  This was my real topic when I started today’s blog entry.   One of the things Mr. Big’s company required us to do before we moved, was to have a “consultation” with a trainer/psychologist who specialized in ex-pat acclimatization.  (That is a very hard word to spell.)    This was the BIGGEST WASTE OF TIME  AND MONEY EVER.  Seriously.  The numb-nuts guy who was assigned to us had never spent a moment outside of Cleveland, Ohio and, maybe, if I’m being generous, Detroit   Ever.  And he was supposed to make me feel OK about moving to Switzerland.  Puhleez.  American Corporate Waste Of Money.  Par for the course.  OK, whatever, I have learned to go with the flow.   I was really craving some good, solid, specific, information (about procuring bleach and brown sugar and how to throw away a broken lawn chair!) and what I got was a bunch of drivel on acclimating and my FEELINGS and whatnot.  DUDE!  STOP!  Have you ever been to Switzerland?  And if the answer is no, then go “help” someone else!  Because you don’t have a flippin’ clue!  Go curl up in your Lazy-Boy, click on your ESPN, buy your chips and beer at Walmart and try not to think about me here in the land where THERE IS HORSE MEAT ON THE SHELF IN THE GROCERY STORE!  Anyway, I’ll never forget one thing he said to us.

“Mr. and Mrs. Big”.


“If I cannot stress one thing enough, it is this.  You need to make new friends in Switzerland because your old friends will eventually forget you.”

Huh?  My friends better not forget me because I will come back and beat them with a cow bell on a handtooled leather strap!  What was he talking about?  Apparently, surveys show, that “old” friends move on with their lives and forget about us because we are not there on a day-to-day basis.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Do not listen to the so-called experts.  Our friends are just as wonderful as they always were and we still get invited to every little cocktail party and BBQ, even though they know we are not coming.  They go out of their way to plan future get-togethers for the times they know we are going to be home. 

Mr. Big has installed a telephone that sits here in our living room in Switzerland BUT has is a local South Carolina phone number!  I think it is probably illegal but I don’t care.  (It’s made by a company called Vonage, for those of you who want to be illegal with me).  Anyway, what a marvelous electronic item!  I get so excited when it rings!  (Except at 2 a.m.).  That’s the only drawback—if people are dialing a Swiss number with the plus sign and country code and a long list of digits, this triggers them to remember that we are six hours ahead.  When they are just dialing a local number—no mental trigger.  Hence, more phone calls in the wee hours.  A small price to pay for keeping in touch.  So, here’s to good friends, Facebook and an illegal US phone.  Long may they live!

BTW, if you want to link directly from this blog to Facebook, my tech-savvy sister has installed the “like” button up on the top left of this screen.  It will take you directly to the Trailing Spouse Blog page on Facebook.  Bonne weekend!  Trailing Spouse

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tap Water Do’s and Dont's

I ate lunch by myself in a chain restaurant in the US yesterday and suffered jarring reverse-culture shock.  I had heard this happens to ex-pats upon returning home for a visit or when their overseas assignments are finished, but it was disconcerting, nonetheless.  Yes, ex-pats complain about things in their new country, but even as they are complaining, they are subconsciously getting used to their “new normal”, in spite of themselves.

America has an abundance of chain restaurants.  The one I stopped in yesterday was called Ruby Tuesday’s.  These types of restaurants are virtually interchangeable with one another, i.e. lots of leather booths, a big bar with a few overhead TVs tuned to ESPN or CNN, a chirpy hostess who walks you to your seat and menus that are as thick as a Sunday New York Times.  They have silly names like Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s, Bennigan’s, etc.  Whatever the name, it’s a safe bet that a diner will be a) expected to graze out of a salad bar at some point and b)served a portion of food that could feed a Swiss family for a week.

So, I walk in to the restaurant by myself with my USA Today under my arm to read while I am eating so I don’t look like a total dweeb who has zero friends, and the aforementioned chirpy hostess leads me to the table she has chosen for me for my subsequent dining pleasure.   I have no problem with that, I am, in fact, expecting it.  This is not Europe where you pick your own table, it is America where you are seated according to a complex rotation system devised by the management to ensure that each waiter/waitress gets an equal number of diners.  Amazing to think that American young people can’t do math in school to save their life, yet can easily understand and execute intricate matrices when it comes to their tip allocation!

Here is where I started feeling all out of whack.  There was a waiter at my table before I had even finished sitting down.  I’m talking my knees were still bent and my butt was still hovering over the chair.  Hi!  My name is Mark!  Can I get you something to drink to start you off?  Well, Mark.  Do you think I could possibly finish sitting, let alone open my menu, before ordering?

But then, I remembered the cadence of dining in America.  You order a drink first without even looking at the menu.  This is only possible because the restaurant will have WHATEVER you desire.  Raspberry lemonade?  Sure.  J & B Scotch with a splash of club soda?  Of course and would you like a twist of lemon with that or a kumquat wedge?  Sprite Zero?  Frozen Cherry Margarita?  Diet Yoo-Hoo?  Yes, yes, yes.  Whatever you want, they’ve got it.  They have to have it because if they don’t, it might be reflected later in their tip and that would be a very, very bad thing.

Well, I’m conditioned to dining in Europe, so I want wine with my meal, of course.  I catch myself just before I make the mistake of asking for the (nonexistent) wine list and just say “what kind of red wine do you have?”  Cabernet or Merlot.  That’s how you order wine in America.  By the grape.  The restaurant will have only one or two kinds of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and if they’ve really gone crazy, perhaps a bottle of Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio.  Don’t even ask for Rose because you will be served a ghastly pink substance called White Zinfandel that is so sweet it makes your cavities ache.   Also, you have only two choices in quantity.  A glass or a bottle.  If you order 2 decis or a carafe or a demi-pichet, they won’t understand you.  To review, just order a “glass/bottle” of “type of grape”.

While Mark scurries off to get my Merlot, I open the menu and begin to browse.  I have barely skimmed the appetizer section when he is back with a ginormous glass of wine, (it was at least 3 decis of wine, I swear, in one glass.  3 decis of wine would cost 27 dollars in Switzerland),  a large glass of tap water with ice and a request for my food order.    Y’all, I have literally been in my chair about six minutes.  I haven’t even opened my USA Today!  Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.  I ask him for a few more minutes to peruse the rest of the 18 pages of the menu.  At this point, Mark is starting to get on my nerves.  Stop hovering, Mark!  Go away!  I will make eye contact with you when I need you, or, if necessary, raise a discreet index finger.  But until I give you the high sign, get the hell outta here!

I just needed a few moments to admire my glass of water.

A)      I hadn’t even ordered it.  It just appeared, as if by magic.
B)      It was free.
C)      It had a dizzying amount of ice in it.  So much ice, that there was actual, physical condensation raining down the outside of the glass.
D)     There was a (free) slice of lemon in it.

A thing of beauty.  We have a referendum before the voters in the canton where I live in Switzerland right now regarding water in restaurants.  Here’s the deal.  All diners order water when dining out.  It is understood that this will be bottled water.  It is understood that it will cost money and the only thing you need to express to the waiter is whether this will be sparkling or still.  HOWEVER.  There has been a recent backlash of late all over Europe against high-priced bottled water because it’s not “green” and, most importantly to those of us in Switzerland, our tap water is delicious. 

My particular tap water is Evian water.  Not kidding.  You can skip a good, flat rock across the lake to Evian, France from my house.  Our water comes from the same aquifer, but they took the name first, the little Frogs.  The Swiss had to call their brand Henniez.  Have you ever heard of Henniez?  Of course not.  Can you even pronounce Henniez?  Of course not.  Neither can I, but that’s not the point.

Anyway, here’s the issue before the legislature.  Do the people of the canton of Vaud have a RIGHT to free tap water with their meal?  Or do the restaurants have a RIGHT to charge for the tap water?  This is an issue because minimum wage is $22 per hour and so who will pay for the time it takes to fill and deliver these free glasses of water and who will pay to wash and dry the free water glasses is the question on the table.  A dilemma of epic proportions, to be sure.   In the canton of Appenzell, they had to have a vote on whether or not to ban nude hiking; we have to vote on free tap water in restaurants.  It’s a funny place, La Suisse.

Back to my lunch.  I must confess, I did go a little overboard with the salad bar, just because there were so many choices and it was a nice change of pace from the Euro green salad.  If you order a green salad in Europe, you get a plate of lettuce with French dressing (which is white, by the way, not orangey-red).  The lunch main course arrived about 2 minutes after I started eating my salad.  I was thinking “Mark.  Dude.  I’m still eating my abundant salad.  Why are you here with my crab cake?”  But I bit my tongue and just sort of pushed the crab cake out of the way to send a message to Mr. Speedy that he was rushing me.

Apparently, Mark is not good with subtle hints because he was back, uninvited, unneeded and unwanted in approximately 3 minutes.  WITH THE BILL!!  I was just digging into my salad and barely getting into the Life section of my newspaper and the article on who is anticipated to win American Idol,  and there he was like a bad penny.  He tucks the bill under the side of the crab cake plate which hasn’t even been touched yet.  “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready.”  Big American Smile.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was stunned.  Was I being kicked out?  I’d only been in the restaurant for about 20 minutes, tops, and I was being presented with a bill.  I checked my armpits to make sure that I wasn’t sweating up the place and offending my fellow diners.  All clear there.

Here’s a hint for American waiters and waitresses if they think they may have a European guest.

A)      Don’t call yourself a server.  A European will have no idea what you are talking about.  They know waiter and they know waitress.  A server is a porcelain platter on which one serves food or the piece of furniture in the dining room off of which one serves food.  A server is not a person.
B)      Stop rushing!  A typical meal in Europe takes AT THE LEAST 1.5 hours and that is at McDonald’s or Starbucks.  A meal in a regular restaurant is 2 hours, minimum.  No exaggeration.
C)      Do not be surprised if Europeans only order one bottle of wine for four people and that bottle will last through the entire dinner.
D)     They will, (eventually!), order dessert, even with lunch.  This comes BEFORE the coffee, not with, and after the cheese.  Coffee is the last and final course.
E)      By coffee, they mean espresso, served with one creamer, a pack of real sugar and a teeny, tiny chocolate bar.

F)      Never, ever, ever bring the bill before the guests have specifically asked for it.  The bill, l’addition, la cuenta, die rechnung, is the end.  They are telling you they are ready to leave.  It is a universal signal everywhere except America, where it only means that the server is washing his/her hands of that particular table.  They are saying, “My job here is done.  See you!  Don’t forget to leave a healthy tip!”
G)     Free water is a very, very good thing, especially when they are only drinking one or two little glasses of wine each over the course of two hours.

On a final note, stop worrying about your tip.  They have read the guide books for America just like you do when you go over there.  They are well aware that you survive on tips and make $2.20 per hour.  They think you are crazy, but they understand they must tip you 15% so you can go buy things in Walmart.  You will always get a 15% tip from a European unless you do something heinous like bring their bill while they are still on their first course.

I’ll let you know what the Swiss decide on the free water issue.  I can tell you, however, that if you want to hike in the nude, you cannot do it in Appenzell.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Visiting Our Empty House

We are currently in the US for 19 days for Charming Daughter’s college graduation and to attend the wedding of our dear friends.  We haven’t seen our house for three months and no matter whom we employ to care for it in our absence, we still spend the first week cleaning, decobwebbing and finding things that have mysteriously been relocated or disappeared outright.

While we are in Switzerland, our children still use the house, even though all three of them have their own places.  We know that they are “in residence” from numerous sources.  One, they tell us.  Well, some of them tell us, um, some of the time.  Two, our Slingcatcher in Switzerland will change channels on the TV in the middle of a show, as if by magic.  Ah ha!  One of the little buggers is home, changing the channels.  This usually sends Mr. Big through the Swiss roof and he is on his mobile immediately tracking down the offender in order of he-who-is-the-most-likely-culprit, always beginning with Small Son. 

Small Son, of course, answers neither cell phone nor email if it appears to originate from the Parental Units, so it is onto Domestic Son.  If Domestic Son swears he is not currently at our house flipping channels, Mr. Big phones Charming Daughter.  This usually does the trick because she will inadvertently rat out whichever brother is at The House through our skilled use of seemingly innocent questions, i.e. “where’s your brother?’

Most of the time though, all three of them are smart enough to refrain from using the TV during Swiss prime time, thereby not giving themselves away.  So, Mr. Big employs Method Three, a.k.a. Monitoring The Burglar Alarm System Remotely.  He can tell from the internet who accessed the house by looking at which ID number was punched into the alarm system.  He gleefully prints out a report, rubbing his hands together in evil delight, like some demented kid playing with an ant farm, master of all he surveys.   What he doesn’t understand is that all three of them know each other’s code as well as my code and, yes, even Mr. Big’s code.

My children are not stupid.

Really, the only way we ever know who has been the house is by looking at the clues they leave behind.  Beds have been stripped and sheets and towels are in the hamper?  Charming Daughter or Ms. Fiancee.  Dirty sheets still left on bed and dirty towels still hanging over shower bar?  Small Son and his friends.  Beds stripped, sheets changed, beds remade and towels laundered, folded and put in linen closet?  I don’t know who the hell THAT was, but I wish they would come back.

Today, these are the things that I have found and what they tell me:

1.        Evidence of vomit, cleaned up with bar towels, left in hamper.  This was one of my kid’s male friends who was here with a girlfriend.  How do I know this?  Easy.  If he hadn’t had a girlfriend, the vomit would not have been cleaned up in the first place.  The girlfriend cleaned it up but that was all she was willing to do because she is not a fiancĂ©e or a wife who would have washed the towels to destroy all evidence because she was mortified.  A girlfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same level of responsibility because, hey, it’s not her throwup, right?  He’s the doofus who had too much to drink.

2.        The key to the Hummer is missing.  I think this might possibly be Charming Daughter.  The boys, I’m sure, had duplicate Hummer keys made approximately 39 seconds after we told them we were moving to Switzerland and not taking the car.  I do not think Charming Daughter has learned to be this devious.  Yet.

3.       The key to Mr. Big’s work room is missing.  Since Domestic Son is the only one who might have a use for large power tools, I think this is probably him.  The only time I have seen Small Son with power tools is when he and his buddies were building their Beer Pong Table and I shudder to think of Charming Daughter wielding a Skil Saw.

4.        Three air mattresses are missing.  I believe if I could swoop in and do a spot check of all three of their abodes, I would probably find one air mattress at all three places.  They are really nice air mattresses.

So, that is what I’ve found so far this morning.  Who knows what the afternoon holds, (besides a nap to get over this jet lag)?  And, it will surely be quiet for my nap because Mr. Big is at Lowe’s for the second time already this morning.  Mind you, we have only been home for about 13 hours and Lowe’s has only been open for 6 of those hours but he has been there twice.  He is there right now.  Only an American is going to understand this.

There are certain things that my husband misses in Switzerland.  Number one is a nice, juicy ribeye.  Number two is a hardware store about the size of one of the smaller Swiss cantons that is open for business for about 18 hours per day, including Sunday.  You should see him in a Swiss hardware store, even their “big” ones.  He is so sad.  Invariably, they never have the perfect, exact thing he is looking for.  He always has to settle for something that “might” work.  Even when he does find the right thing, it is incredibly expensive.

For example, he needed a dimmer switch for the foyer light at the apartment in Switzerland.  A dimmer switch.  This item in America costs about 4 US dollars.  And, you would have a choice of color, shape, size, etc.

In Switzerland, at the Jumbo, (a “big” hardware store), he had 2 to choose from.  Two.  He choose the ivory, not the white.  It was 95 Swiss franc, or about 90 US dollars.  NINETY DOLLARS.

By the way, he is back.  He is soooo happy.  He just skipped down the hall, muttering under his breath, “OK, I need my drill bits.”

He is in heaven.  He is working on his Honey Do list.  (For the Europeans, a Honey Do list is a To Do list, but it is generated by your wife.  Get it?)  His Honey Do list is extra long this time because it is the only chance we have to get the house ready for Domestic Son and Ms. Fiancee’s wedding.  One of the line items on the Honey Do list is installing a sink in the laundry room, which he is doing as we speak.  Of course, he bought the wrong size sink on his first junket, hence the need for the second trip back to the hardware store.  The point being that:

A.       The store was open both times he went.
B.      He had a choice of about 80 different stainless steel sinks and,
C.      The sink cost 55 dollars, or about as much as four chicken breasts in Switzerland

Mr. Big is in such a good mood that he has, momentarily, forgotten about the missing Hummer and work room keys.