Monday, December 17, 2012

Flies of fancy

Marble columns. String quartets. Black graduation gowns. Flies. Urinals. Some things convey class more than others. I was recently back in Graz, a charming city as always, and went to a graduation ceremony to see my homey Teo get elevated to doctordom. Their ceremony was in a pretty nice room, with all the fancy accoutrements noted before. I'm a little annoyed. I got a PhD too. I got none of the fanciness at my ceremony. And this was before the era of budget cuts. I guess modern UCSD graduates get flies and urine, and have to like it.

Of course, since I flew through Munich for the first time in 8 months, you know why I was thinking of flies and urinals. I couldn't wait to see if my old friends were still hanging out in the Munich airport urinals, right at the aiming point, just taunting me to piss them off. I was ready. And I thought they might be extra tired, too, since the fucking inefficient Germans cut off the corridor between the H and G concourses, forcing all of us international travelers to exit and then go through the security checkpoint again. This tired me out too, but it was presumably worse for the urinal flies, since we all know they have triple the hassle removing their shoes. Yet the tenacious little buggers held on tight, through a full assault of processed coffee and wine, without even batting one of their very many eyes. They should consider guarding Buckingham Palace.

Germanic regality is also somewhat offset by their signs in bathrooms. You can leave a room with marble columns and string quartets and black robes, walk down the hall, and there's a bathroom with a taped paper picture of a guy brushing his teeth with a toilet brush. Perhaps he is confused by the lack of spaces in the title. Yes, that really is one long word.

This sign is very common in Austria, which makes me wonder if it really is a problem for them. I mean, they do drink quite a lot. Perhaps, if they sobered up, they would realize that designing toilets like smart people would greatly reduce the need for toilet brushes. Their toilets make you poop onto a plain porcelain plateau rather than water, which I once noted is more like dumping the kids on the diving board than dropping them off at the pool.

Another problem with such a high porcelain shelf is the greater risk of urine splatter. Hence another common toilet sign....

Dude. No. Men pee standing up. This sign is in an office with 15 engineers. This means almost all men. Yet you walk in and the toilet seat is down. Dude. Dude? Dude!!

Lest I come off as overly nationalist, I shall supercilicize my own country. During the workshop tour through the Great Plains, I noticed a lot of shops along the freeway for fireworks, Mexican food, and porn. All of these are associated with the underside of society, and lead to explosions in their own way. It is sort of understandable given the appropriateness of "Great Plains." They are great. They are plain. On and on. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of nasty smells, too, little stretches with eau de skunk, sewage, or smoke. I brought a nutmeg with me, which I would scrape whenever we hit a noisome streak. it worked, but now I associate nutmeg with all that is foul instead of Christmasy.

Speaking of Christmas, it is that time here in Austria too. Had my gluehwein and saw a few different Christmas markets. They call some Christkindlmarkt, which means "Baby Jesus Market." I doubt I am the first to wonder if they sell Jesuses, but I bet I am the first to propose Krampuskindlmarkt, or "Baby Krampus Market." It could be like a foul, fucked up version of Christkindlmarkt, with rotten gluehwein and rude staff dressed up like Krampus and burnt pastries and nasty-scented incense and poorly made crafts that break on you.

Yes, Austria, I missed you too.

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