Springtime Shopping

It took months, but we were able to find a place to live. Unfortunately, the landlady was a deranged lunatic. Because we wouldn’t agree to return the apartment to the state it had been in when the tenants “before us” rented it, our landlady locked all the bathrooms and hid the keys on moving day.
Moving day was also marked by the news that Compaq was being pursued by Hewlett Packard. That deal was closed several months later.
Robert had, of course, followed the traditional route of a new appointee: he changed all decisions of his predecessor. I found revenue-generating position with ING, one of our largest customers. This job entailed a regular commute to Amsterdam – a situation that was not especially popular at home – but which did keep me out of Robert’s sight.
While legalities around the merger were being clarified, Compaq reorganized. I wasn’t surprised, reorganization was Compaq’s core competency. Robert, sure his star would rise in the confusion, installed Hans, who could “walk on water” as my new boss. Walking on water seemed possible to me because Hans was an airhead. (Replace the air with hydrogen and...) Then Tom sacked Robert –leaving me in an awkward position. I arranged a meeting.
“Tom,” I said. “I’m not completely comfortable having Hans represent me to the management team.”
“Why is that, Dan?” Tom asked.
“Well, eh, Hans doesn’t understand anything that I’m doing.” I replied. “Surely you noticed that Hans is a nutcase.” I thought.
“I see, Dan. What would you like me to do with this information?”
“Well,” I paused, scratching my head. “You know, Tom, I don’t think that there is a place for Hans at Compaq.”
“A tip on your presentation style, Dan.”
“It is never a good idea to suggest that your boss be fired.”
“But you asked..”
“I thought you’d tell me to coach him.”
“Tom, you are his boss. I thought you were coaching him.”
Tom explained, later, that he would have to sacrifice some people when the merger was complete. He was saving Hans for the appropriate occasion.
As Nazy and I settled into the new apartment, we also began exploring Switzerland. We took a springtime trip to Crans Montana, rode the cog railway up Mt. Pilatus, had venison in Interlachen bought cheese in Apfenzeller. Somehow, however, something was still missing.

A picnic was in the cards because Nazy liked picnics. In fact, ever since we got married, Nazy wanted a picnic basket. Not just any basket, but a basket extraordinaire. She wanted this basket even though most of the places we lived were not picnic-suitable: The only time that the weather was appropriate in New Hampshire was during black-fly season. No one would do anything outdoors in Houston. Our short time in rainy Vancouver occured during winter and in Holland, the powerful odor of industrial-strength (organic) fertilizer precluded most outdoor gatherings. Switzerland, in contrast, was picnic-paradise. Accordingly, Nazy acquired a grand picnic basket. She enrolled in and graduated from the offical Zürich picnicking course with Canton-endoresement and a license. We were now prepared and, amazingly, the weather cooperated. We packed our basket and went to the lake where we enjoyed a really nice time.

However, Spring was just beginning and the picnic was merely the first, hesitant step in outdoor enjoyment. Nazy wanted to do more and she was very persuasive.

“The botanical gardens, Dan, are

“What’s the highlight?”


“Yeah, the high
light. In Memphis it was the Tulip Poplars, in Holland the Rhododendron, in Atlanta the Dogwood and Azalea. What is the ‘feature attraction’ here in Switzerland?”


“Frogs? Did you say ‘frogs’?”

“Yes, frogs. There are a million frogs croaking…”

“..I’m sure I’ll croak if I go to see a bunch of..”

“… not a ‘bunch’, Dan. A herd. A whole herd of frogs. All croaking.”

And, indeed, the highlight was frogs, a “herd” of frogs, not one of which went ‘unheard.’ Our ears picked up the cacophony while we were several blocks away. The noisy amphibians puffed up little airbags under their cheeks and the botanical gardens sounded like a monkey-filled African jungle. In contrast, the plants weren’t nearly as impressive. Little was actually flowering because the botanical garden featured
one of every item of every piece of flora from any place on the planet. Most of those were not in bloom in Switzerland.

Things at the office continued to be wonderfully exciting. My new and “delightfully California” boss (a graduate of Pointless University with a B.S. degree in Inapplicability) communicated via an equally new head of Human Resources (a graduate of the Gulag School with a certificate in pain generation). As you can probably guess, figuring out what is ‘really’ happening is not particularly easy.

We communicate, but we don’t comprehend. It was a bit like the challenge I had with driving customs in Switzerland. In Holland, if two cars approach an intersection and one of them flashes his headlights, that means: “You
better pay attention to me because I am going to go through this intersection before you.” In Switzerland, the same signal means: “I yield. Please go ahead of me.” [In Italy, you watch for the headlights to dip - indicating that the opposition has wimped out by stepping on the brake.]

We’ve had similar collisions between Zurich and California. If my boss wants it to be done, it will have no positive impact on our business. If I want to do it, it will have no positive impact on my career.

After the picnic, Nazy wanted to embark on something a little less fun: Spring Cleaning. Not just ‘Spring Cleaning’, but
spring cleaning. Bereft of compassion, she wanted to clean the windows. That’s right, she wanted to clean the (floor to ceiling) windows. For some reason, she wanted to polish glass manufactured according to well-defined, obligatory standards to permanently streak, smear and smudge while resisting any and all polishing solutions. The danger was clear. I knwew that desperate times called for desperate measures. I was up to the task.

“Well, Nazy,” I said. “The windows do need to be polished. But..”

“Don’t try anything with me, Dan.”

naz fergammo

“I was just thinking. It is, you know, a holiday weekend. I wonder if you’d like to drive to the designer outlet in Mendrisio.”

“The designer outlet...”

“.. in Mendrisio. It’s on the Italian border. I bet they have all the great..”

“.. Italian designers, Dan. We can do the windows when we get back, Dan.”

Maybe.” I thought - hopefully.

I knew Nazy was serious about this trip when she got ready
early on a Saturday morning. As we drove through the picturesque Alps, Nazy was talking about how important it was for me to get a ‘power’ suit. Although not completely convinced (perhaps a ‘power suit’ would only make me a better target) I did agree that my existing wardrobe needed an update.

The colossal outlet featured an exceptionally diverse collection of designer stores. Nazy immediately gravitated toward the women’s sections at Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbano. The list seemed endless. She found a leather dress at Gucci – a ‘huge bargain’ – and requested that I help her ‘try it on’.

“You want me you try it on? Are you out of your mind? I want a power suit, not a power dress. If I want power leather, Nazy, I’ll go to the Harley-Davison store.”

“Dan! This dress may be a little tight. I need your help.”

“Oh. Okay. Lucky for you that I brought my heavy equipment and power tools,” I said, watching a particularly nosy Swiss women frown as I joined Nazy in the dressing closet. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to close all zippers, clasps and buttons while Nazy was trapped inside the dress.

How do you think it looks?” Nazy asked, unable to generate much volume because there wasn’t room for air in her lungs.

“Well, dear,” I replied, “it
is tight. I think that the leather was looser on the cow.”

Nazy glared.

“It’s a perfect dress for a cocktail party, my dear.” I replied - scrambling.

“Cocktail party?”

“Yeah, the kind where you just walk around sipping champagne. I’m sure you won’t be able to sit in that dress.”

Naturally, we bought it. We also bought a power suit – for Nazy and a set of Ferragamo sunglasses (for Nazy). I got a pair of socks – a very
colorful pair of socks.

Back in Zürich, we eventually attacked the windows. They looked great, until the afternoon sun began illuminating the streaks. Adjustments and rework, together with the sunset, eventually resolved that problem