The apple incident
It's true what they say-- what goes around, comes around. Or is it what comes around, goes around? I always forget. On my very first day ever in Basel, back in November 2003 when we were here for Kirk's interview, I was fortunate enough to experience the epitome of Swiss-ness within minutes of my arrival. After checking into the hotel, I went next door to the local Coop to buy a snack. Kirk was not with me because we flew on separate flights and he was delayed (don't ask why we flew separately, I don't really remember). I picked up an apple and a croissant and proceeded to the Kasse (check out). When it was my turn to pay, the Kasse woman held up the apple and shook it several times and babbled something in Swiss German that I didn't understand. As I stood there perplexed, people in line behind me started to huff and puff, as if I was causing them this great inconvenience in delaying their check out. After several minutes of this (me, looking perplexed, explaining I don't speak German, and she, shaking the apple at me while customers were huffing and puffing) the Kasse woman finally got up, left her seat, and walked over the produce section. At that point, the man behind me says (in perfect English) "You have to WEIGH the fruit!" And I'm thinking, well, why didn't you say something before to save us all of this hassle? From that point on, I'm sure to explain to any newcomer to Basel how you have to weigh your fruit at the scale in the produce section which gives you a sticker with the price, etc. Yesterday, I was so pleased to be able to help a non-German speaker who faced a similar situation at the new Coop Pronto (a small, convenience store version of Coop) in the Bahnhof (train station). He set an apple on the counter to pay, and the woman babbled something in Swiss German and pointed at the produce section. He obviously didn't understand because instead of going to the scale, he grabbed a plastic bag from the produce section, put the apple in the bag, and set it back on the counter. After watching this for a couple minutes, and observing the man's frustration, I decided to step in, put the apple on the scale, pressed the number 3 (designated for that type of apple), and handed him the sticker. He seemed grateful, and I walked away with a smile on my face. I feel like such a pro at this Basel stuff now.