Sunday, February 21, 2010

This is what we do here.

The extra pins are back into the Bill Gates doll which is now in the coldest part of the freezer.

Gwenyth and I have decided that we will communicate only in German when we exchange emails – and will do this daily. So I decided to buy the German Language Pack for Word 2007.

The Microsoft site is almost impenetrable and only those with advanced hacking skills and immense patience can get into it. Actually finding the site to buy the Language Pack was damn near impossible. There is nothing at all on any of the layers of pages I went to that say ‘Buy Language Pack’, They talk about it a lot but to buy it you just have to keep clicking until you get lucky and stumble accidentally upon the right spot.

Perhaps it's part of a game ‘Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Furshlugginer German Language Pack'.

But buying it proved to be much more difficult than finding it.

Firstly I ended up on the US site and went through all the palaver to buy it only to discover that I needed a US address.

So I had to go to a European site – where I have the privilege of paying much more for the same product.

The process of buying this thing was excruciating. I had to fill out many forms, create a Windows ID account, give my date birth and much other totally irrelevant information. At one stage I admit I was shrieking with rage but managed to calm down enough to do what I thought may be the final steps.

When I clicked on the last button an invoice popped up saying thank you for your purchase and telling me what I had bought and how much it was. Printed on the invoice was a message saying that my credit card payment could not be processed. I was then booted off the site and found myself back where I had started from.

I had to go and calm down and did not return to the quest for the language pack for some hours. Working slowly and carefully I negotiated my way back in and eventually found that I had in fact purchased the damn thing and could download it. Which I did.

It took hours to do something that should have taken minutes.

I discovered another weird Viennese thing.

Cate got back from Moscow on Saturday evening and we went to dinner at a restaurant called Firenze Enoteca near Stephansplatz. When we left the restaurant Cate said it was the worst meal she had ever had – and the worst wine.

Cate tends to be swept up in the emotion of the moment and forgets some of the stunningly awful repasts we have savored in our global wanderings.

I said I didn’t think it was even in the top 50 and mentioned some memorable occasions – including some go outside and stick the fingers down the throat situations. Or even stay inside and do it.

I can for example – remember a restaurant in Narooma, on the south coast of NSW – which has rendered me incapable of ever eating again – or even thinking hard about - a Hokkien Noodles. And this was 15 years ago.

Anyway at about 4:30 Cate started vomiting and just got worse and worse – so bad in fact that Muffin left the bedroom and I had to wear ear plugs. And Muffin could just not understand why Cate was shouting into the big white telephone when there was a nice furry rug waiting in the lounge room.

But – it was not the food – because we both at the same vile crap. It was obviously a bug from Moscow.

She may have gotten this from the extremely drunk taxi driver on the way to the airport in Moscow. He kept falling asleep and Cate and her work colleague had to keep shouting and hitting him to keep him upright. Death was narrowly avoided but there was not much they could do – they were in the wilds of Moscow in the middle of a blinding Snowstorm. Death awaited them both inside and outside.

By 8:00 AM Cate was fading and I realised that it was possible that some Apothekes may be open on a Sunday as there is a sort of duty roster. They must hustle Apotheke people out of bed at gunpoint to get them out there on a Sunday.

So I found the website that listed the duty Apotheke in our area and went there at 8:30. It wasn’t ‘open’ in the sense that the door was open but there was a light on inside. I was pondering my next move when a man came along and pushed a red button next to the door.

An Apotheke-man appeared from the back of the shop and came and opened a small glass window – at about waist height – at the side of the door. The client man bent over and shouted his ailments through the glass and eventually – after a lot of shouting and gesticulating – (the glass is nearly but not completely soundproof) there were medicines and money exchanged.

Old habits die hard and when the Apotheke-man slid open the door to talk to me I dropped to my knees and said ‘Bless me father for I have sinned – my wife is vomiting non–stop and is dying’.

He crossed himself and said ‘ This is the work of the devil – give your wife these drops and they will cast out the evil spirits. Now say ten Hail Marys and be gone’.

‘Ten is a bit much’ I said – ‘just for vomiting’

‘OK’ – he said – ‘Just do five but stop fiddling with your testicles’.

When I got home Cate had deteriorated and I immediately called ‘Doc Around the Clock’ (Yes – that is what it is called) and Doc said he would be there in half an hour – which he was.

He gave Cate an injection and told me the drops I had obtained got were useless homeopathic rubbish. He gave me a prescription to get filled.

He then charged me a synapse-searing €250 ($377.50) for the consultation. After the third visit we get a voucher to go sailing on his yacht in the Maldives.

It was a bit harder at the Apotheke this time as there was a queue of six people already waiting outside. Fortunately it was fine and mild day. I would hate to have to line up for hours in a snow storm – because there is no way they are going to open the door.

It is quaintly Viennese not to think that people may need an Apotheke six days each week – but not a Sunday. After all – why would anyone get sick on a Sunday?

And if you do get sick it is certainly not my fault and I am definitely not going to let you and your smelly little sick body into my shop – I mean - I mopped the floor on Saturday afternoon.

To make you suffer even more I will make you bend double and shout through a little hole in the glass. If you have a particularly embarrassing ailment I will ask you to repeat it six times.

This is Wien. This is what we do here.


  1. Thank god I live in America where I can get my drugs at a drive-thru Starbucks.

  2. Poor Cate. I guess she'll be better tomorrow, Monday, and off to work again.

  3. This may not have been much use to you on this occasion since it sounds like Cate wasn't well enough to leave the house, but there is a surgery in the 2nd district that is open at weekends (10am to 4pm) where you can see a doctor. I was sceptical of its quality when I went there but it wasn't bad at all.

    Might be worth making a note of.

    On the out-of-hours Apotheken – yes they are a scream aren't they with their stupid windows. Once I had to pay by bankomat but of course the terminal was nowhere near the window. So the "pharmacist" had to get me to write down my PIN number and enter it herself. Yeah very secure that is.

  4. Poor Cate, I hope it was "only" a 24-hour bug!

    I think the little windows of after-hours pharmacies are there to ensure the safety of the lone pharmacist doing duty. With all those drugs, I imagine pharmacies would be easy targets for thugs otherwise.

  5. Merisi has a reasonable point about the pharmacist's security, but I think that having to disclose your PIN to a vendor is absolutely disgraceful. That has never happened to me in any other country, and surely has to be added to the 'This is Wien. This is what we do here' roll of shame. Usually I'm a big Wien defender - I like it that people trapped in crappy jobs (would you want to be a shelf stacker?) are at least guaranteed a day off on Sundays, and although I regularly walk past rotting vegetables in Billa that hold all the appeal of Hundescheisse, I like it that they don't use as many chemical nasties as in the UK.

    But sometimes enough is enough. I've had a couple of terrible experiences in the last week (too complicated & tedious to explain) that really make me fed up with the don't-give-a-shit unprofessionalism that's rampant here, sowie the treatment of customers like irritating venereal afflictions. Miraculously, I've yet to really lose it with a bad-mannered Viennese oaf, and as much as I don't want to give them any more anti-Ausländer ammunition, I think it's only a matter of time...

    Luckily I've never been ill on a Sunday in almost twenty years of visiting Austria and now living here, and I suppose that ought to be of some comfort after hearing about your pricey misadventures. One tip I have would be that whenever you're next in a sane country bring back a suitcase full of drugs and potions. A lot of the over the counter stuff they sell in England now is quite potent (Boots pioneered OTC Viagra), and usually stems symptoms for a day or two if you're ill over the weekend. Anyway Badger, hope your better half gets well soon, and sorry to hear about your unglückliches Wochenende.

  6. Oh Badger,
    William S. is counting our visits,
    156 from Red.White.Red!!!!
    I almost lost my tea cup over that.
    I mean, my laptop.

    Anybody heard from Frog Pond? *giggles*

  7. I think my laboured point about Apotheken was that people do get sick on Sundays and there should be service provided. That means that they may have to open (shriek!) some Apotheken AND put people in them.(QUICK Nurse - the smelling salts!. People lining up to shout through a small plastic window is not what I would call an adequate service.

  8. 156 - That's an impressive number of visits from such a small country.

  9. "I think my laboured point about Apotheken was that people do get sick on Sundays and there should be service provided. That means that they may have to open (shriek!) some Apotheken AND put people in them.(QUICK Nurse - the smelling salts!. People lining up to shout through a small plastic window is not what I would call an adequate service."

    Couldn't agree more - well put. I'm all for 'When in Rome', and understand that one of the reasons why Wiener vote for disgusting neo-Nazi parties is because they feel that Ausländer are trampling all over their culture and customs, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. It's about time that Wien got in line with standards that - crucially - aren't imposed by other countries/cultures, but ought to accepted as international norms for developed nations. And not being provided with substandard medical service (and ripped off for the privilege of it) when you fall ill on a Sunday should be one of them. Again, I have much sympathy for you Badger. I love Wien to bits and even I can't defend this. What's more, I know many Wiener who are unhappy with the shitty night/weekend Apotheke service (and 'Apotheke Preise' in general), and still nothing gets done about it.