Over the last few weeks, I ‘ve seen a number of people in Vienna using cell phones in what strike me as very funny conditions. Everyone loves their cell phone (“Handy” auf Deutsch), but here they are a way of life—I get the (unsubstantiated) impression that there are fewer smart phones but a whole lot of actual talking and old-school, press-the-buttons texting going on.
Anyway, a few weeks ago I was walking through the Mexikoplatz and saw this little girl, dressed head to toe in pink and bundled up against the cold, strolling down the sidewalk by herself looking extraordinarily self-possessed. Five or so years old, and not an adult to be seen—I looked up and down the street, surprised. She paused, pulled a cell phone out of her pocket, and, in the most casual of ways, made a call. She then wandered back and forth a bit in a relaxed pacing pattern as she did whatever the hell business a five-year-old has to conduct by cell phone in the middle of a busy city.
It was simultaneously adorable and terribly alienating. Here, see for yourself:
The relative hugeness of her pink backpack is a clue to how little she was.
The following week, snow struck. Vienna was covered—in fact, it was angezuckert (read more about that here). I was very proud of myself, the intrepid American, for going jogging in the midst of the storm in the Prater, Vienna’s equivalent of Central Park, despite the difficult conditions and the falling darkness. “Nicely done, ” I said to myself. “That’s the American spirit right there—never give up!” And in general the Prater was as quiet and empty as you would expect a park to be at 5 PM on a snowy early-evening. In Austria. In February.
Except for this woman, easily in her late 60s, sitting casually on a bench along the Hauptallee, sending a text message:
Now, that is the spirit of not giving up! American independence has nothing on Alpine stoicism, it seems.
Of course, I hate the phone and prefer to send emails rather than text messages. This makes it nearly impossible to get anything done here. But more on that another time.