The lady waiting for me in the airport (let’s call her “lady M.”  for now) is not Swiss, she’s Aussie. However, she lost the nice Aussie accent. You’d tell she’s not Swiss by some other items, including the genes and the mindset.

Well, she took me to a Best Western hotel in the vicinity of the airport and asked me what do I want to do that evening. My intention was to visit Zürich, as I had no longer the urge to work on some software project after the flights. Unfortunately she had a scheduled phone call with her family on the other side of the planet, so the conclusion was I’ll visit the city on my own. No problem, I thought …

The hotel room was small, but comfy. There were two unexpected surprises, though: no toothpaste and no slippers. Well, I quickly made a shopping list, took a shower (do not ask me what I did with toilet paper and a towel to workaround the missing slippers), and considered calling home. Via Live Messenger, of course 🙂

And here came yet another surprise: the Swiss outlets are different from the general, two pins European outlets and nobody (myself, our secretary, our boss, my customer) knew it! Now, how can I plug in my laptop? No problem, we’ll have to buy an adapter, so let’s get prepared for shopping …

As usual, the good idea came to me and I’ve asked the receptionist whether she can help me with the outlet. Now, this is one of the things I really liked at that hotel: she had a cache of adapters for people from all over the world. So, instead of calling for a cab and heading for the city, I came back in the room and plugged in the laptop, which started working like a charm. And the hotel provided good Internet connection, so I took my time chatting with my significant other, making myself some chamomile tea (yet another thing I really liked at that hotel: they provided a free water heater in the room and a few free tea options), I’ve snacked on a sandwich I had brought with me from home and some cereals and chocolate bar, watching a few English TV channels …

Then, yet another surprise: my mobile phone has reset and the customer’s number was lost from the calls history; as there was no way I could call her, I’d decided I’d stay in the room and watch “Sea Patrol” over the Internet (I really like that TV series 🙂 I was not able to sleep for a long time (I guess I had one too many coffees that day) so in the morning I woke up at 8:15.

Good, let me remember my skills: I’ve quickly shaved, took a shower, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. I had one coffee (I didn’t like the taste too much, but it was the morning drug nonetheless), I’ve drunk as much orange juice as possible (the bad: they offered really small glasses, so I had to take pleasure in having breakfast and the morning walk at the same time), I’ve made myself some cheese sandwiches and that was it! I’m good to go, let me check if my customer has arrived.

Yes, she was there, waiting for me in the lobby. I’ve quickly got my luggage, my laptop and said farewell to the tiny room and to the cute receptionist and then we’ve driven for one hour to the laboratory.

Most Switzerland lays in the Alps Mountains and the trip to the laboratory was lovely. The roads and the countryside are well maintained, and I also had the chance of admiring some  Swiss army vehicles on the highway.

Good, here we are at the lab; I don’t want to remember all details here, as they are “business as usual”. The good point is I’ve deployed the software I’ve painfully tested and stabilized for a week (imagine implementing a code sequence in Access VBA, running it and seeing Access crash every time; the only way I made this go away was to insert an “On error goto ..” statement that gave me a chance to isolate the faulty macro and rewrite it; I still do not know why it was crashing, I really rewrote the entire sequence) and then the monster printer finally started to output the slides exactly as the customer wanted and the scanner was able to read all printed barcodes.

After some other performance tests, the customer decided he was happy with the solution, so they planned to use the printer in their routine the very next day, while we were in standby for support.

Great, let’s enjoy Switzerland now!

The plan was to check-in at a hotel close to the lab, but I was really hungry, so I’ve asked lady M. to have lunch first.

That’s one thing I really liked in Switzerland: we’ve practically entered the very first restaurant and they had very good food. I’ve taken a good glass of red wine first, an onion soup, that really warmed me from inside, some chicken breast cooked in the oven, with an egg crust and some vegetables and then a cake. The cake was not impressive, but the onion soup and the chicken breast were. I really enjoyed them (and I was not that hungry, if you’re thinking that the hungry dog eats apples 🙂

The second hotel was not such a good idea: it was actually a guest house and the hall at the entrance smelled. The room had a really low ceiling and there were no English channels on TV. Well, we’ve been through that before, so I’ve powered on my laptop, connected to my computer at work, skyped a customer and two coworkers to manage another project I’m responsible for … I didn’t really liked the idea of going out through that smelly hall, so I’ve snacked on my last cereals and chocolate bars and my last bottle of orange juice, talked with me significant other, did some research for yet another project and then I’ve went asleep while watching “Sea Patrol” over the Internet 🙂

The guest house was a little noisy, but not too much. The interesting experience was the fact that I had that feeling that an old man, about 82, died in that house about 7 years ago, and part of his energy was still there (not like a ghost, only like a part of the soul that needed some help from a priest). I’ll go to a psychic as soon as possible to confirm that, it’s possible I was also getting too tired without realizing it, so my mind started to wonder to get some rest.

Well, yet another morning, yet another “not at home” location. Let’s get some coffee! The guest house was not able to serve coffee, but they told me there’s a coffee shop nearby. Unfortunately they didn’t explain quite well that the coffee shop is also a bakery shop, so I walked for a while the empty streets of the town (seeing the full half of the glass, I took my morning walk, but it would have been much better if I had the coffee first 🙂

A few times before I’ve asked people if they speak English using English, and they did not know what to say. At the bakery shop I said “Sprachen Sie English?” and the lady behind the bar said “No” 🙂 So I had to continue with the few German words I master: “Ich möchte ein Kaffee, bitte”. Good, she understood me!

The good thing is another lady quickly came and helped me with one of the best coffees I’ve ever had, and she also helped me when I had to pay. Go figure, I only had Euros with me, and not Swiss Francs! The situation quickly clarified (give the Schweiz yet another ten points for having a clear and open mind) and then I was good to go. I went into my room (I passed through that smelly hall again promising myself I’ll never accept such a situation again), worked on some other projects for a while (Skype and Remote Desktop proved again to be very good friends of mine) and then the call from lady M. came. The laboratory had some issues!

Oh, goody, just when I started to think I can move on!

We’ve driven to the lab only to find out it was not the software, but the barcode reader. Apparently somebody had changed it’s configured a few months ago and now, when quickly reading barcodes with it, some data was cut (go figure: they’re not using a check digit for any of their barcodes and I had no chance to convince them to do so).

Well, the customer is always right, so I’ve quickly implemented a code sequence in our software to complain as loud as possible when a read barcode was not exactly 8 digits long, show a message and force the user to press Escape before continuing. I had to implement this in Access VBA, where all forms behave differently, so I had to quickly learn how to create a form that cannot be closed when the user presses Enter (I needed this because the barcode reader sends a CR after reading a barcode, so the message box would have been useless).

(to be continued …)

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