Monday, November 16, 2015

Missing the pristine

One of the things The Frau loves most about Switzerland is hiking. The paths are plentiful (60,000 km +) and pristine, and The Frau’s most recent experience last month demonstrates just how pristine.
path at 10:30 a.m.

To the right is a picture of the path to the Majingsee (near Leukerbad) around 10:30 a.m.

path at 3 p.m.
And to the left is a picture of that same path around 3 p.m. Yes. Heaven forbid a few fall leaves cover the path, but the leaf blower was doing his job in the middle of the Alps on a Monday. It seems excessive, this Swiss version of care, and yet when you get used to it and then don’t have it anymore, you miss it intensely.

The Salt Creek Trail, a trail in the Chicago suburbs where The Frau likes to inline skate, has been covered in leaves for the last few weeks, meaning she can no longer skate on the trail. And last year, the La Grange Park District just couldn't seem to put in the effort to make their outdoor ice rink useable even one time during the winter. It’s times like these when she really misses Switzerland. 

In fact, it doesn’t take much to feel like you’re living in a third world country after Switzerland. The Frau swims at the local high school pool in her American suburb and they’ve cleaned it once in the last year. Once. Someone in The Frau’s swim group told her  that sometimes the Department of Health shows up and closes the pool down. Even the air vents in the room are so filthy that one of the swimmers with asthma can no longer swim because of the room’s air quality.

This makes The Frau wonder—why? Why can’t a school pool that’s in a wealthy suburb, for which she pays the equivalent Swiss price to use (and for worse hours and service) not be regularly cleaned? It’s in a school! Is care and cleanliness in America too much to ask anymore?

Some might say the problem is money, but The Frau pays more in American taxes than she ever did in Swiss taxes. As she reads more and more books on political issues (Elizabeth's Warren's A Fighting Chance is a great one), it’s clear that while the average American taxpayer pays more and more, they get less and less for that honor. In the meantime, the billionaires are building their own pools in their backyards while the rest of us have access to a dirty pool twice a week for 1.5 hours beginning at 5:30 a.m. If that’s not inequality in America, The Frau doesn’t know what is.


Hattie said...

I hear you. We just returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand, and I was so jealous ofthe cool stuff they had. All workers get a living wage and medical care is free. But of course they don't have a huge military sucking up half the public money.
Guess we Americans just don't deserve nice things.

Chantal said...

Nope. Instead of fixing our own country, we insist on "fixing" the world. But we're at the point now where we can no longer afford to do this. Our own people need help and our infrastructure is crumbling.

Hattie said...

Absolutely. Every time I go downtown I'm ashamed at how bad it looks. These things creep up on us.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chantal, I am confused why you call this an inequality issue? Perhaps it is simply a fiscal mismanagement situation on behalf of your school. Why do people continue to exude this sense of entitlement (your billionaire reference - "they have one,so should I"). In the US people expect the best of everything and don't want to pay for anything. Swiss taxes may be lower, but everything else cost 3 times as much as in the U.S (trade off). Perhaps whatever you pay for use of the pool is simply not sufficient to run the pool but the school doesn't want to raise the price for fear of backlash. In Switzerland they certainly would not think twice about raising prices if required. Not to mention that Switzerland is a tiny country so obviously easier to maintain. Although, I would agree that the US is in need of a major infrastructure overhaul.

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