Does anyone here work?

My first full day in Vienna was Sunday, and everything was closed except the restaurants and cafes. I glumly looked at my shopping list. Coffee, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, bicycle …

The coffee I could live without, by which I mean that it was 4:00 AM and could wait until six, when the McD opened. The shampoo, conditioner, and shaving cream could wait because my dorm room had soap. The bicycle? Who needs a bicycle on a bike trip? Not me.

The walk to Wien Mitte was about an hour but I thought it would only be fifteen minutes. I’m staying at the Don Bosco Summer Hotel, which in reality is the Don Bosco Fall/Winter/Spring High School. They let the rooms in summer for $46/nite, a deal in Vienna, or any city for that matter that boasts running water. This is by far the best room I’ve ever rented in Vienna. It is clean, small, and quiet.

Well, not exactly quiet. When I got in on Saturday night a drunk outside my window serenaded me to sleep with dirty songs, but at least I got to hear about reproductive acts in a nice baritone.

On the way to Wien Mitte I undocked a Vienna City Bike; these are free for under an hour and more importantly, I’d now officially ticked off “bike ride” for the trip. Five minutes later I was at McD’s. No one was working anywhere except the drunks who were working at carrying their drunk from Saturday night all the way into Monday.

One guy was working exceptionally hard at this. He had a beer in each hand, a beer in each pants pocket, and a dozen or more in his system. After coffee I went over to the park and sat down on a bench, or a loitering station as I call them. Vienna invests heavily in, and actively encourages loitering.

Before long there were many other loiterers, and we all looked at each other. None of us had anything to do, which, unlike in the USA, isn’t a sign of moral failure, like being poor. Nor is having nothing to do cause for some angry neighbor to call the police. In fact, the angry neighbors were loitering right along with the happy ones.

No one thought it weird that you hadn’t rolled out at 5:00 AM for a 150-mile bike ride, or that you weren’t using Sunday to fiddle with a spreadsheet or compose your Bloggus Opus, or that you weren’t using Sunday to organize your line of attack on Monday.

These loitering stations, I could see, were a big problem, and explained why Austrians were so lazy. Imagine, here you are in the middle of the work week, hurrying to make a conference call that you’re already late for, and boom! In the middle of the street the siren song of a loitering station calls. Pretty soon you’re loitering, you’ve missed the con-call, and the world hasn’t even come to an end.

I thought about all the bike riding I wasn’t doing to prepare for my upcoming 240-mile slugfest in late September.

But I didn’t think about it very much.

END


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