Ruckus at the Freibad: Brit Moves Towels

It has been a tough few days to love Vienna. First, on Friday last week, I became embroiled with a handy-wielding-motorist after he nearly ran us down (myself and the kids) on a zebra crossing near home. Naturally, I felt the need to point out that speaking on a mobile phone whilst driving was dangerously illegal. But instead of accepting this fact with good grace and apologies, the driver felt the inexplicable urge to pull over and subject us to a rant which was all hilarious, aggressive and a sad indictment of modern man (usually white, middle aged, probably single and with penis issues).

Then, on Saturday, with life imitating blog, I returned to the Freibad and found out what happens when you try and move a towel blocking a sun-bed (in this case one towel blocking three sun-beds). The reaction from the family involved, three podgy, charmless, unsmiling adults and their plump offspring, was one of legend (especially the grandmother). It was almost as if life had stopped for a few seconds and the whole Freibad looked on with a wonder that anyone would have the nerve to challenge the status quo or informal social “norms” of swimming. It is a moment I shall savour but also reflect on with great sadness at the potential for egoism and psychopathy in my fellow citizens.

The family had, in fact, shamelessly arranged a wonderful little camp of beds, blocking no less than fifteen (no exaggeration; I counted them) of the bastards for their family and friends who would arrive and some unspecified time later. My protestations reaped little, of course. Their message was basically: bad luck you twat (I paraphrase).

And so I did something very un-English; I complained taking my protests to the boss, the Badermeister (the lifeguard). Not much he could do, he told me, you have to get here earlier (we arrived shortly after nine). But they are using beds to dry their towels, not lie on, I protested, They are using at least three just to display their swimming trunks, not to mention the two used to house a pair of flip-flops and a snorkerl. The lifeguard, friendly to the core (not Viennese) nodded sympathetically and shrugged a shrug that if it was down to him, then he would simply chop off their hands. But he called over his reluctant boss. What am I the Grass Sherriff? he whinged (er, yes, I thought) only to scuttle off back to the shadows, his smartphone and his fear. Okay then, the Freibad manager, lets’ call him Kurt. When I eventually tracked him down  I explained the situation only to be met with the typical Viennese response in ALL matters of public dispute. “Was soll ich machen?” (What can I do?). Nothing. Nada. Nix. The Viennese version of redefining the very etymological basis of the phrase “deaf ears”. No interest in finding a solution. No interest in taking a short walk over to the “Wiese” and laying down the law. No interest in upsetting anyone. Especially not before the first beer of the day.

And at that moment. standing there in the August heat in a ridiculous pair of shorts, something in my love for Vienna died. And I walked out, furious, frustrated and fed up knowing that I would never return to this Freibad or any other. I felt humiliated and embarrassed yet, curiously, elated. Perhaps it was the thought that I really didn’t have to waste anymore of my life in the company of such insipid scum and their perverse interpretations of shared cultural assets. And with this in mind and a masochistic mood to boot, I headed south for Shopping City. Sod Vienna, I thought,  sod Austria and sod the Freibad. Retail therapy will save me. For a few hours …

© Badermesiter RJ Barratt 2014

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