You have to love them, those days that suddenly leap out at you and are different from the humdrum regularity it is so easy to fall in synch with. The chances of seeing them coming are near nil because, as it happens, one is asleep before that special day suddenly rolls up on one. Scintillating, sparkling, filled with vibrating images and quirky episodes that flash into one’s memory cortex. Or, to make room for context, it just appears thus to me because I’ve been hibernating from quotidian life for so long: no school, no employ, just a laptop, a couple of hundred books and time to burn [or write or run, as I pleased].
Morning was nothing to e-mail home about, just cramming vocab and some light reading. Postmeridian was when the sights & sounds began flowing. First off was the convention [Annual Health Trend Days] at the eponymous Culture and Convention Center Lucerne, which, according to its promotional blob had as its topic the “challenge of innovation” as in which changes are urgently necessary to enhance our health system, which innovations can still be paid via basic insurance, are new and innovative financing systems needed?, etc. I wish I could here report that it was more than a simple love-fest for privatizer’s and those who think of the health system as a great opportunity to “innovate” profitable new business ventures but I cannot. The only surprise was the celerity with which I was abused of any notion that this could be about something other than privatization and profit. The speaker I was most interested in spent a whopping five minutes outlining the results and consequences of his institute’s major study on the catastrophic personnel short-fall Switzerland will be facing during the next three decades. Thereafter he used his remaining fifteen minutes to outline how Switzerland can advantageously position itself in the global market as a health-brand to attract Millio- and Billionaires from the Middle-East and Russia. This is not a dramatization for comedic or any other fact, this is what Prof. B. Sottas from the Careum Institute actually did.
Outside in the lounge, MedTech salesfolk were lolling and texting about, doing their best to clobber time until the next break. MedTech being one of the sectors Prof. Sottas was pointing to as where the healthcare-system’s employees were being drained to in search of more lucrative pastures. Tuna mousse sandwiches patiently turning stale in big bowls. Given the brain-deadeningly predictable nature of the presentations, including PowerPoint slides so florid they made the Baroque era look reticent the thing I was most impressed with was the mundane technicalities of the convention. More than that how absolutely it failed to surprise me in any way and thus was just a strange and subtle and unnecessary compliment on my predictive imagination. I got a tag; I knew I would get a tag, I was waiting to get a tag, the lady told me to wait, that she still had to print out my tag, then I received my tag: a little plastic slide with a handy metallic clip in back to latch onto my new, striped dress-jacket. My name was on it, Yung LU, with not even a typo.
A package, I got the thick info package with all the information that was going to be presented at the convention in it, as though they, the organizers, were willing to acknowledge that the whole event was, per se, pointless but needed to be held in the holy name of conventions and networking. Nowadays we need to take conventional activities, turn them into nouns and then, after a while, transmogrify them into verbs so that we can “do” them; we thereby insure that regular activities continue to exist. The package reminded me of the ones that G. Clooney and his young assistant hand out just as they fire people, except that I was not getting fired, fortunately, though I would not have been surprised. The lady with the smile could have said “Mr. Yung in this package you will find a few options that will ease the transition into your new career. Think of it as a fresh start, an opportunity to do what you’ve always dreamt of but never have had the guts to go through with.” And I would have left the KKL without looking back. But that was not the kind of package it was; this was the redundant information package. And following the ritual code of the convention I took it, knowing full well that I would not read 5% of the 100-plus non-recycled sheets in a massive plastic folder that were being pressed into my open hands, with a smile. It so happens that the smile, in my estimation, was the only genuine thing in the course of the entire event.
I put on the clip and made for the lecture hall. I was, and still am, feeling happy about my new Navy Boot “Dress sneakers”; understand, I’m a fashion slob, I’ve never worn shoes like these before. It doesn’t feel played out but more like a fresh, neat, temporary identity to slide into. Sweet while it lasts. The dress jacket is also unprecedented, as is the belt and the black jeans. On top of that I have the package and the writing block and hefty, rubbery ballpen. I am at the convention and, so Confucius help me, I’ve never felt more conventional.
What did surprise though, was the sheer height of the lecture hall: the cluster of seven black, massive speakers [to each side] hung far above like two demonic grapes from a ceiling that lost itself in shadows high up above. Even if any of the spielers would have had anything meaningful to blab on about, it most likely would have evaporated upwards into the exospheric heights of the room, where there be extra-terrestrians. Which if you are familiar with Lucerne’s KKL is a strange thing because sitting right next to it, on the other side of a little, pretentious indoor waterway [for lubed conventionees to fall into] is the acoustically most surpassing concert-hall on planet earth. Probably not the universe but earth, pretty impressive. And in a further twist of the distortion of spatial perception, a low light bathed the rows of well-heeled convention-goers in a yellow and brown-light, which, combined with the warmth of the place and the tight arrangement of listeners, created a developing-country living-room-grade of claustrophobia. Sitting all the way at the back of the contorted “Lucerne room” and gazing at the speechifier, I had the unpleasant sensation of blending with the mass of people in front of me while the talking head kept changing focus and his words disappeared upwards simply to come booming down again from out of the said diabolical clusters of HIFI wizardry. Or perhaps my memory, still stunned by the run-of-the-mill-ness is exaggerating certain subtly uncanny aspects in retrospect.
What certainly is not being falsified by my incomplete recall is the person-sitting-next-2-me’s BPM: burps per minute. The man started of at a leisurely pace, now and then entirely internally having air bubble inside him. Now the audibility of bodily noises at such events [one person blabs, the rest shuts the fuck up] is inevitably high and people are wont to resort to fidgeting about, moving around on their chairs and making compensatory noises [coughing, sneezing, etc.] to cover up for the unwelcome autonomous sounds of the anatomy. However, in this case any such strategy would have been infeasible as the BPM just steadily rose. About ten minutes into Sotta’s presentation the man next to me had reached an equilibrium point: the belches and burps [no longer just internally but some of them with audibly open mouth] interchanged with equally brief/long spells of [relative] quiet. The thing to do would have been to politely ask the elderly gentleman to leave the premisses and take care of his eructation seizure in the lobby where perhaps some fringe MedTech rep might be able to assuage his ictus with metallically gleaming high-end gadgetry. But no. Some ghastly, unarticulable social norm of “don’t-be-a-bother-on-the-belching-geezer-in-the-last-row-of-the-lethally-boring-convention’s-speech” kept any of us within earshot of breaking with our conventional paralysis.