missing recycled Keys and hidden heavily taxed Dirt

As a regular and dedicated reader of The Weekly Letter, you are undoubtedly aware that Nazy and I have vacated Casa Carmen, The Martin Family estate in Zürich. Many of our friends and family were surprised at the speed with which the transition occurred. Questions flew in from everywhere with many expressing concern about my mental state. For example, a typical comment was:

next week? Are you crazy?”

My opinion, honed by years of executive management experience, clearly demonstrates that I have absolutely nothing intellectually amiss, so my reply to these questions has been consistently succinct: “No - I am
not crazy.” In point of fact, we have known for the past several months that we were going to leave Switzerland. But - we also knew that we were ‘on the hook’ for an (expen$ive) apartment lease that didn’t expire until September, 2013. In spite of Swiss Francs freely flowing to our landlord’s account, few renters visited when we put Casa Carmen on the market. Imagine our delight when, in Istanbul, the telephone rang:

“They want your apartment,” the realtor enthused.

“Wonderful!” I replied. “When?”

“They want to move in two weeks.”

“Great!” I replied. “
How?” I thought. “We’ll be in the Middle East for another week - but everything is falling into place.”

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The new tenant is the CEO of Peugeot, Europe - clearly demonstrating that the apartment was costly. When we got back to Zurich, we had only a week to prepare. Luckily, we had selected a mover. So ‘all’ we had to do was pack, sort, discard, clean, recycle and clear.

We began in sort mode. Nazy filled 7 large black bags with clothes ...

“That’s too much to take,” I noted.

“That’s what I’m throwing out,” Nazy replied. “I’m taking those,” she continued pointing to a pile the size of The Matterhorn.


Throwing out?” I thought. “That’s not so easy in Switzerland.”

I knew that I’d have to rent a car to transport the clothes to the authorized recycling bin. I was also aware that I’d have to take used electronics to a different recycling center. Then Nazy told me about the ceramic plant pots that had to go...

“Somewhere else?” I moaned.

“Don’t forget to the cardboard and paper pickups on Tuesday and Wednesday. And Soma said that she can’t take the closet. So we will have to..”

“... dismantle it. Then what do we do?” Aware that ‘stuff’ can pile up in 12 years, I decided to see about renting an 18-wheeler to transport the discards. “
I’ll worry about where to put the stuff later,” I thought. Helplessly. And then I remembered Tracy’s life-saving proclamation:

“We live next to a business with a dumpster, Dan. Just bring your big black trash bags and we can dispose of them.”

“At no cost?” I asked. Incredulously. “
Tracy is a miracle worker,” I thought, “I just wish I could fit a dismantled closet and a piano into a black bag.” Unfortunately, while I was thinking, I wasn’t looking. The packers..

“.. Nazy! A catastrophe! The movers
packed my cowboy boots. I specifically chose a pair of boots to bring to America. Wait!” I shouted as I saved my hat from the packing dervish. My victory was short-lived. The chief of the cleaning crew demanded my attention.

“We will need to pressure and steam clean the terrace,” he began. “which means you’ll have to move the planters. And, because of the weight, you’ll have to dispose of the dirt.”

“Dispose of the dirt? Where?”

“That is your problem, Herr Martin.”

I thought of a friend who had emptied a box of grass clippings in the local forest. One of his neighbors, spotting the subterfuge, betrayed him to the police. He could either pay a 500 Franc fine or sweep up the clippings and dispose of them ‘properly’. I had, of course, learned from his experience:

“Nazy my dear, we have to make sure that nobody sees us as we return earth to earth. I suggest that we make our move in the cover of night.”

On a related front, we knew that the best course of action was to get someone to take items that we didn’t want to keep. Nazy was particularly active on that front. She found someone to take the (heavy) piano, my leather chair, various appliances (that wouldn’t work in the USA) and my 180 liter aquarium. In the last case, however, the purchaser refused to take Kate, the large, bullying, angelfish. Thus, I had to find a home for her.

“Angelfish are native to the Amazon river, Nazy. We could FedEx Kate to Brazil.”


“She’ll be happy in the wild. And she deserves freedom. Luckily, because of her voracious appetite, we now only have to find a home for one fish.”


“Yep. Kate ate everybody else. The neon tetras (Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Bashful, Happy and Sneezy), the Zebrafish (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride), the clown loaches (Larry, Moe and Curly), the catfish (Harpo, Zeppo and Groucho).”

“I get it Dan.”

I rented an industrial drag net and corralled Darius into helping in the Kate-extraction effort. We lifted her out of the tank with a pneumatic crane. I couldn’t flush her down the toilet (she wouldn’t fit). Nazy quashed my suggestion of using the garbage disposal with a common-sense observation (“we don’t have a garbage disposal; they are not legal in Switzerland”). I considered a barbecue, but the pots and pans were packed. Finally, we found a local aquarium with a 500,000 liter tank that was willing to take Kate.

We eventually cleared the apartment, the garage and the basement storage. The handover process proceeded as normal (in Switzerland). The inspection team showed up in clean room attire with white gloves. A mobile bio-chemical facility was used to assure that all bacteria had been expunged from our kitchen equipment. A painting crew lingered nearby awaiting entry clearance. Our cleaning crew was on standby to polish, buff, scrub, cleanse, or sterilize any surface deemed none pristine. Everything was going fine until...

“We gave you 6 keys,” Herr Steiner intoned. “You have returned with 5 keys.”

It was a devastatingly troubling comment. In Switzerland, all house keys are registered and numbered. If someone (say ‘Dan’) misplaces a key, then the entire locking mechanism - for the whole building - must be replaced. The central registrar must update the national database. The remaining, i.e. non-missing keys, must be (minimally) melted or (preferably) vaporized. And, it doesn’t come cheap.

“This is a disaster, Nazy.” I moaned.

“Not to worry, Dan. I bought key-loss insurance.”

When everything was done, the apartment had an ‘empty’ look - predictably in retrospect.

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The final step hurdle involved meetings with the city bureaucracy in order to get permission to depart. Nazy had already arranged a ‘hold” on our permanent residency permit. Now we just had to get clearance from the tax authorities. Things did not begin auspiciously.

“You have a problem,” Frau Maier noted. “A very large

“We’re leaving for California tomorrow,” Nazy claimed.

“Not until you solve the problem. It involves many thousands of Francs.”

“Eh?” I replied.

“The only answer,” Frau Maier continued,” is cash. A lot of cash.”

I groaned... and realized that I’ve reached the end of this edition. So: What will happen? Will they escape? Find out in the next issue of
The Weekly Letter.

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