© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights reserved.
Article added on February 3, 2005
Murphy's laws also apply when you travel: If anything can go wrong, it will. On a mid-January evening in a hotel in Budapest, I was lying on my bed and thinking do I go to the gym in the basement and try to get rid of the overweight gained at my mother's place over Christmas and New Year or do I go to the hotel restaurant to get a cheesecake?
Of course, I took the wrong decision, took my wallet and got a cheesecake, by far my most expensive one ever, as it would turn out later. After the restaurant, I stopped at the reception to get a newspaper and fix my wake-up call for the following morning.
With the room key, the wallet and the newspaper in one hand, the plate with the cheesecake on the other, I walked to the elevator. Once on my floor, I heard a noise as if something had fallen down. Turning around, I could not see anything. At the same moment, people opened another door. Maybe it was them. I had to balance my cheesecake and open the door at the same time and did not pay further attention to it.
The next morning, I found a button from one of my shirts. When I wanted to put it into my wallet, I realized that it was gone. At the reception, I was told that the last night's 6-12pm tape of the lobby surveillance camera had been deleted. Anyway, the loss had occurred on a floor with no camera, where a dishonest founder had stolen it.
All subsequent searches - also by hotel personal in the other rooms of my floor - led to nothing. In my wallet had been several hundred Euros, a few thousand Forints, my credit card, a banking card, my driver's license, train tickets for Switzerland, museum and public transport passes for Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, four keys, dozens of addresses.
My hotel paid me the taxi to my next and last hotel in Budapest, where I told my story and was advised, in addition to canceling my credit card, to report the incident to the police. My favorite moment there came when, at the end, I asked the police officer about the Budapest lost property office. He just laughed: lost property office? I guess that is a luxury unknown to Hungary.
Luckily, the Swiss passport is too small for the wallet and my transfer ticket for the recommendable minibus service from the airport to the city hotels and back was paid in advance and safe in the passport.
Back in Switzerland, my new credit card was already waiting for me, my banking card code just came by mail, the card itself the next day. But there was still the problem of a new driver's license.
A minor problem, unless red tape intervenes. I had called the road traffic licensing department from abroad and was told that my native city was not responsible for issuing a new one because, since my university years, I had been living in Geneva. However, I had always kept my first driver's license. In Geneva I was told that my native city was responsible since I never registered my change of residence and was not even on their computer register.
Things were even more complicated since I had left Switzerland at the end of 2002. With no domicile in Switzerland anymore, the person in charge at my native city's road traffic licensing department even told me that I had no more right to a Swiss driver's license since I do not pay taxes in my native country anymore.
I explained that I am on circular travels abroad, with no domicile at all, hence no chance to get a German, French or other driver's license. The department told me that they needed a photograph, a confirmation from Geneva that I had left the country and a Swiss police report that my driver's license had been stolen - the Budapest police report would not do since they do not speak Hungarian. In addition, I had to fill in a short form applying for a new driver's license, now in credit card format.
However, it was not certain that I would get a new license. Anyway, it would take about two weeks to get it. Furthermore, they would send my request to Zurich where a legal adviser would check it. I explained that I had once successfully passed the driving test, not giving me a new license would de facto mean revoking it. There are men and women with common sense in Zurich, and two days later, my new driver's license was in my mother's letterbox.
Then, Murphy's laws of thermodynamics applied: Things get worse under pressure. Once I had all my things back, I wanted to write a few articles. Unfortunately, a brother living nearby was on holidays, my mother is over eighty and has no internet access. Swiss providers only give you broadband access if you pay for one year, but I am only about ten weeks per year in Switzerland. The phonebook as well as the directory assistance told me that there is no internet café in my native town.
The local public library would only open at 9am, therefore I decided to call my former high school because the phonebook listed the number of its computer department. I called, explained my problem and a friendly man told me "no problem". He would be there in the next half hour and I could come.
I thought great. I have no car and I thought the bus might be too slow, I decided to take my mother's old bike. Bad decision. In a hurry, I fell on one of Switzerland's snowy roads and broke the wrist of my left hand. Still, I managed to cycle to the high school and get Internet access.
There, by chance, a friend from high school from a parallel class was visiting the school. He had become a pediatrician. He told me to come later to his medical practice. After radiographies confirmed that my wrist was broken, he fixed it with bracers, which will accompany me the next six weeks. I am already in Amsterdam. Murphy, what's coming next?