Yesterday, after elbowing my way through three grocery stores packed with shoppers on the verge of taking up sniper posts atop the shelves, it seemed a good idea to inquire what was going on, just in case the Swiss were stocking up in light of a pending nuclear meltdown.
The hotel staff informed me today is a holiday “bigger than Christmas.” They were uncertain whether this is the day of Ascension or Pentecost, but they were sure it was a day off. Nice to see the Swiss, a secular bunch, so scrupulously devoted to the religious calendar and any vacation days it might afford.
So we have been outside in the sun, strolling along the canals, not sure if we are marking the coming of Holy Spirit or the day Jesus hightailed it for heaven, but enjoying God’s goodness either way. The swans are nesting in giant wickerish mounds and the fishers are out with their extended poles, standing on metal platforms the size of diving boards. It’s lovely and yet the Swiss have said they have enough, no more vacation days for us, thanks.
In this season of mass protests against austerity measures, the Swiss voted down a proposal to expand their minimum annual paid vacation from four to six weeks. The Swiss can vote for crazy things like prostitute garages and keeping women from voting (until the 1980s), but sometimes their poll results reveal an intelligent electorate mature in its understanding of economics.
In the meantime, back home in Canada, Quebec’s premier Jean Charest cratered to protesters who stormed university classrooms this week and used belligerence to empty the rooms. Quebec is the only province where a masked man bursting into a room and shouting is usually the overture to gunfire, so it was an odd choice by the protesters, but then they have not been in school in weeks, so maybe they missed the history class covering the slayings at L’Ecole Polytechnique (1989), Concordia University (1992) and Dawson College (2006).
The premier shut down the spring sessions. I don’t get it, although in his defense Quebec’s opposition party is gleefully taking advantage of the unrest and throwing more fuel on the fire.
None of that for Geneva where voters approved tougher penalties for pushy protesters. Quebeckers are fond of referendums. Maybe they’ll take a tip from the Swiss and use one to restore order to their streets and campuses. If they don’t do it, it doesn’t look like anyone will, least of all their leaders.