I don't want my first blog to be about Madame S., but Madame S. is the most salient part of our move to Zurich so far. Madame S. is the apartment manager. We arrived at the foot of our apartment building after a madcap taxi cab, full of narrow misses with trams, street signs, and the flesh of passing pedestrians. After several wrong turns, and many exhalations of "sheisse" by the driver, we were dumped unceremoniously in front of the building.
Our luggage, guitar, and mandolin lined the walk like sentries, and we moved the instruments every 15 minutes or so as the shade slithered into the path to the entryway. We waited patiently for 3 hours for the arrival of Madame S. The residents of the building were both kind and curious, the kindest of the lot an elderly gentleman who explained, "ah Madame S., the Master of the House" when we explained who we were waiting for. Finally, Madame S. arrived in a flurry of Germanic exhortations. A tiny 50-something year-old woman with wild blond hair, a cheetah-print shirt, and round black glasses that slipped over her mouth as she spoke. "Protocol! Protocol!" she exclaimed, which we found to mean the going-over of every detail of our 200 sq foot apartment. First, we were led to the cellar, through a series of frightening meat locker doors, until we arrived at the destination-- "der waschermachine!" Then back out the doors and up to the apartment, where Madame S. painstakingly (now I know the meaning of that word) went over every dent and scuff on the apartment walls, floors and cabinets. "I script!" she would call, as she found each new problem. When it came time to actually write the problems, she had forgotten them all. In an explosion of German/French/English, she tried to explain all of the problems and what would happen to us if we caused more, "fershtay?" "tu comprend" "das is gut?" all blended into a long stream of language mishmash. She laughed madly then, her smoker's cough spilling out in sharp, dry breaths.
Madame S. returned today, wearing the same leopard-skin shirt and talking through the glasses that fell over her nose and into her mouth. Our television wouldn't turn on. She quickly diagnosed the problem as the power. Deftly, she ran to the kitchen and retrieved a kitchen knife. She stared boldly into the electric socket. Emily and I slowly backed as far away as possible. She plunged the knife into the socket, spun it around a few times, then tried the plug. "Fixed!" she exclaimed.