In Switzerland the so-called “Post buses” (the yellow buses) are kind of a national institution!
And, as all the other kinds of institutions in the Confederation, they are part of the Swiss pride.
There is a nice App to know all the possible timetables and live schedule changes of these buses. Nowadays this is comon for every public mean of transportation.
Last week I was waiting for my usual post bus No. 354 at 7:54 in the morning to go to the office, from the remote village of Ehrendingen to the more remote village of Niederweningen, crossing the “border” between canton Argovia and canton Zurich… An amazing trip in the fields which is normally taking 6 minutes.
1 minute after the scheduled time… no bus was arriving
2 minutes after the scheduled time… nothing
3 minutes after the scheduled time… nothing
Then I thought: let’s check the wonderful “post bus” App!
The result was astonishing: For a 6 minutes’ trip, a (very well) announced delay of 7 minutes was displayed on my App!
Confederate trains and buses are always on time?
Ehm… actually not!
But the delay is so precise as nowhere else!
An alternative title for this post could have been “Guinness world record for Swiss railways?”.
Simply said. This morning I was boringly waiting for the train connection to reach my office and, weirdly, I started thinking (normally I do not think so early in the morning, and even on Mondays!).
For sure! That list of mysterious letters painted on all the Swiss trains, which I know so well, is an acronym(*). One of the million existing acronyms, for sure.
But then, once I reached my computer, I started researching.
If I am not wrong, that is the longest acronym in the world for a railway name!
The Swiss national railways have the longest acronym among all the railways of the world: SBB CFF FFS, i.e. “Swiss Federal Railways” in the three official (written) languages of Switzerland:
– Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (German);
– Chemins de fer fédéraux (French);
– Ferrovie federali svizzere (Italian).
Considering also the spaces it’s 11 characters!
I immediately informed them, the SBB_CFF_FFS, of this sudden (at least at my eyes!) achievement…I’m still waiting to be scolded for annoying them on this gewgaw matter or to be challenged on the truthfulness of this possible world record.
I think everything makes sense!
Visiting the SBB (I stay short for reciprocal convenience) website (www.sbb.ch), their headline defines themselves as the “biggest railway station of Switzerland”.
At least now they can even claim something more…majestic!
(*) Acronym (I know that everyone knows this word, but I just wanted to be sure that it’s the right one to be used in this context):
From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acronym): An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. These components may be individual letters (as in “laser”) or parts of words or names (as in “Benelux”).
“Is this [seat] still free?” This is a very popular question in Swiss German, the German language spoken in Switzerland (by the way, one of the various versions…depending on the region). Common and legitimate question to know whether a seat is available or not. Where would you normally ask such question? I can think of cinemas, theatres, classical music concerts, i.e. places where you go to enjoy some hours of fun and relax. If I had to ask this question in Swiss German, like the Swiss, then this is the perfect question to ask on the trains! Whenever the Swiss seek for a free seat and see a tempting one available, they don’t dare to sit yet. Before doing it, they always ask the “famous question”! Who do they think I am waiting for if the seat next to me is free? I am not at the cinema, waiting for someone to enjoy the movie with me! I just hopped on a train to go home or somewhere else. Although this is the “train” most asked question in Switzerland, it’s for sure a rhetoric question. I never heard someone replying “No, this seat is not free!”. Such a reply would probably make the perfectly congested Swiss railway system collapse. Such a reply would make lots of passengers panic, being deprived from one of their vital certainties: the spoken permission to sit on a public free seat!
In every train station a lot of boxes offer you in the morning the “commuter” free newspaper “20 Minuten” (www.20min.ch). All the commuters are greedily reading this papers (when not busy with the iphone, ipod, galaxy, or other “astronautical” electronic devices). If I arrive late at the station or, for some still unknown reasons, I cannot find any 20 Minuten in the usual box, I prepare myself to a boring train trip. But suddenly I see an abandoned 20 Minuten on an empty seat of the train or folded somewhere. I appreciate a lot the person who left that newspaper copy for an unknown commuting companion. It’s like getting the room service in a hotel!
Swiss train stations are the pride of all the Confederats! But the quality of the air, even outdoor, along the various platforms is worse than in Beijing (Nothing against the capital city of China, but this city seems to be the one with the worst air quality in the world. Statistical data from: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/11/29/10-cities-with-worlds-worst-air/). Last week I went to work by train. Outdoor smoking is allowed everywhere in Switzerland, but the short distance between the platforms of the station, the high density of commuters and the high number of smokers make the Swiss air almost unbreathable between the railways! I had to walk continuously to find some spots of fresh mountain air to breath! Of course I have nothing against the smokers!!!