I’m not a rebel. The law-abiding nature of Switzerland suits me well. I’ve never, as the saying goes, so much as spat on the sidewalk in over ten years living here.
Our home is in the countryside, about five minutes’ walk from the village railway station: two lines in the middle; a platform on each side; and a short walk down, under the railway bridge, and up again if you want to get to the opposite platform.
Living so near the station, I have a tendency to time my arrival to coincide with the train’s. Sometimes I cut it a little fine. On this particular occasion I cut it too fine. The only way to avoid missing the train was to step over the tracks. Strictly forbidden of course. This is the main line between Bern and Geneva.
As I crossed the rails, the train whistle sounded. The driver had seen me in the mirror and wanted me to know he knew I’d broken the rules. Big deal, I thought. He’s not going to get out of his cab and give me a lecture. He didn’t have to. No one else was getting on or off, so he simply refused to open the doors. He made me stand there hopelessly pressing the entry button for a few seconds before driving off. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do. The next train was due an hour later.
I was furious; literally hopping up and down with rage. What sort of sanctimonious so-and-so was that train driver? Hadn’t he ever been a few seconds late? What if I’d missed an important appointment? Just 500 metres from our station a public footpath goes straight over the tracks.
But I’ve told my story to numerous Swiss acquaintances and have yet to find even one who thinks the driver was wrong to keep me off the train. Of course I was wrong. But is that really the point? Bearing in mind that, given the same situation, I’d do the same again (hoping for a more benevolent driver), does anyone agree that nothing good came from the driver’s decision to take the law into his own hands?