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Q—If you see a child crossing the road, when do you stop?
A—Before you see the child.
One would suppose that such laws would make prudent drivers of the Swiss, and one would be wrong. Typically European, the Swiss have two speeds: all-out and full-stop. I once had the pleasure of driving 1,200 miles through France with a Swiss chauffeur, and for 1,200 miles his foot was shoving with all his strength at either the gas pedal or the foot brake. A day's driving left us physical wrecks. My head bobbed dizzily about like a rag doll's, and I had long, sometimes losing bouts with mal de mer, hundreds of miles from the sea.
In Lugano, a Swiss tried to convince me that he and his countrymen are highly skilled drivers, that it is not poor drivers but poor conditions that cause such a high accident rate. "Why, take my own case," he said, not without a certain hauteur. "Already, on the narrow, crowded streets of Lugano, I am hitting two children."
My anguished look startled him.
"Oh, no, no, no," he said. "Not to worry, my friend. They were not hurt bad. Just a scratch or two."
Well, one might have thought, at least this Swiss has learned his lesson. After hitting two innocent children, he obviously will be driving like an old lady. Then I went for a ride with him, and he drove like Emerson Fittipaldi, through those same narrow, crowded streets of Lugano.
Later we were driving north out of Zurich, duplicating the Zurich-Munich trip that several thousand Americans would be making later in the summer. Near the Albis Tunnel, there was a warning sign with an animal on it.
"What's that?" I asked my wife.
"Wait," she said. "It's—no, it can't be. Yes, it is! It's a frog!"