Zurich Day 1: Ode to God and Starbucks and Sir Roland the Benevolent

One might read this title and think this is a story of finding familiarity amid a strange and foreign land. Starbucks is, after all, a home away from home for so many – myself included. But this is no tale of mochas or frappuccinos.

The morning spent sleeping off jet lag, our first afternoon in Zurich was filled with warm welcomes from Doug’s new colleagues at the University. At 8:45pm, after much decoding and a little help from the locals, we managed to buy passes for Tram 10 and headed down to the Main Station for a late dinner. Our stroller is rather large so getting on and off in the seconds allowed at each stop is a bit unnerving. We barely managed to get on. As we rode through the city, we knew getting off would be our next challenge. The tram rolled to a stop, I grabbed the back, he grabbed the front, and we were off. Awesome. Go Team Woodhams! Until…

“Wait. Where’s my…oh, no!” Doug cried.

“What?” I asked.

“The bag! It’s on the train!”

That’s right. Down the tracks to Lord Knows Where went our money, our passports, and our map, not to mention a load of diapers. We looked down the tracks only moments after the tram left to see only an indecipherable maze of rails. With no way to run after it, we panicked.

Doug began looking on every #10 that came back our way. A passerby said our tram wouldn’t make it around for another 40 minutes. She gave a number we could call but, apparently, pay phones don’t accept coins or cash here, only cards. Without a wallet, we had no way to make a call.

“Oh, God, oh, God, help us,” we both mumbled under our breaths.

Quickly we formulated a plan. There on the corner stood Starbucks. It was the one recognizable place. Doug would keep looking in the trains. I would take the baby, go in, and ask to use their phone. And if we got separated, that’s where we would meet.

The young lady behind the counter was less than helpful.

“Can I use your phone, please? It’s very important.”

“No,” she said flatly. (I should note here, in our short experience, this is not at all the norm. The Swiss have been very kind.)

“But, please,” I asked. “We left our bag on the tram. We have no card to make a call. Can you tell me where I can make a call?”

She helped another customer. “No, you can’t use this phone,” she said, and had no suggestions for where I might find help.

Abe, who had been sleeping soundly in his stroller, began to stir. With no other recourse, I picked up my baby, looked that Swiss blonde in the eye, and begged.

“Please. Please help me. Where can I find a phone?”

With a grimace, she finally said, “Wait here.”

Moments later, like a knight clad in all black, Roland emerged from the back. He, we soon learned, was the manager, just off duty. Like a sword from its sheath, he pulled a cell phone from his pocket and made the call. He translated my plight to the operator who called all of the #10’s, discovering that, yes, they had our bag. The conductor would deliver it to us when he came back around in half an hour. I ran out to tell Doug the good news.

Sir Roland gave us hot chocolate while we waited. Just as he said, at 9:51pm, up pulled Tram #10. The nice attendant handed us our bag – passports, cash, and diapers intact. Ahh, the efficient and friendly Swiss.

“Thank you, God, thank you, God,” we both said out loud.

So, with this adventure of a first day behind us, we are pleased to announce that the Woodhams family, plus 12 bags and change, made it safely to the other side of the world. Thanks for your prayers…they are definitely being answered. Customs was a breeze – literally. We walked right through. And Abe is doing well – quite a little trooper.

Much love to you all. More to come…