Small sights, remembered pleasures

/ 20 April 2003

Here we are in Vienna… Eric, the kids, Eric’s mother Dagmar, and I. We come to Vienna every couple of years to visit Eric’s grandmother, whom we call “Oma.” Eric’s mother grew up here, and Eric himself spent first grade living with Oma and going to school here. So Vienna is home of a sort to him, and has become our favorite place for resting and recuperation. Every time we come I notice the differences in daily life that give me great joy, but which I tend to forget in between trips. Things like the public transportation system, on which you can get just about anywhere in the area — easily, in clean comfort, swiftly. Sometimes I think the only reason we don’t have such a system in the US is because people can’t imagine how wonderful it is. Even Boston’s, which we enjoyed, is not nearly as efficient, clean, and ubiquitous.

Or Oma’s hot water system, which furnishes an endless supply of hot water for washing and baths, but only what you need. Rather than a huge tank that stores uncounted gallons of water at a certain temperature so it’s always ready, she has small, individual gas water heaters that pretty much instantly heat water as hot as you like, but only while you need it.

Or the food production laws, which, among other things according to Oma, prevent chickens from being raised in confinement. So you don’t need to specify “free range chicken” when you’re buying it, because ALL of it is free range.

I can’t help wondering if more people had the opportunity (indeed, the privilege) to travel that way we have, if we wouldn’t have more imagination in the US of ways to solve longstanding problems…