Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Human Factor

I used to complain about yearly state inspections when I lived in Virginia because they always seemed to benefit the garage that was doing them. After all, what garage wouldn’t try to get some extra money out of people every year by not passing them unless they fixed this and that—and at the garage’s profit, no less. In Switzerland, I do not have a car, and thank God for that as I have heard the craziest stories from fellow expats about their car inspections:

-One guy was failed because his engine was dirty.

-Another was failed because the underside of his 10-year old car was dirty.

-And a third guy failed his motorcycle inspection because he did not have a piece of paper stating how fast the motorcycle could go. (He’s from Spain and I doubt they even give those out in Spain).

Maybe it’s just me and my American upbringing, but sometimes the Swiss policies seem so anal and inhuman. An American would accept that a 10-year old car might be a little dirty. That’s just a fact of life. But the Swiss see it as a character flaw of the owner. And that is something I will never understand.

In the same way that the Swiss expect, after living in an apartment for years, that it be exactly the way it was left years earlier—without a scratch, without sympathy for the very human error of losing a key. There’s no allowance for “wear and tear” here. I just don’t know how the Swiss live. A French expat I know is already worried that after living in his Swiss flat for 5 years with 3 kids, that he will be responsible for every little scratch on the cheap parquet flooring. And I’m sorry, but this is no way to live life—nickeled and dimed for being nothing else but, well, human.

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