In case you didn’t know, this is where Switzerland is:
It’s funny how, when you talk about wine, or your cousin abroad, or a major geo-political issue, you think you have a perfectly clear idea of the exact whereabouts of the country you’re referring to. And then, usually mid-sentence into your story or heated discussion, something frightening dawns on you. You start to pray the person you’re talking to doesn’t ask any follow up questions because you suddenly realize you have absolutely no idea where said country is, or possibly even what continent it’s part of. You quickly change the subject to something simple like the weather or that ridiculous new toilet paper commercial (“It’s time to get real about what happens in the bathroom.”), just in case.
Or, at least, I naturally assume this happens to everyone because it happens to me all the time, and I not only graduated from high school, I also graduated from college. A very highly ranked one, no less. Surely there are a lot of people out there way dumber than I am.
We sell a wine in the store that led me to the realization that I am, in fact, a complete moron, and I should probably stop acting like an expert on pretty much everything. It is Pierre Boniface’s “Apremont,” a crisp, clean Vin de Savoie that I always enjoyed describing to customers as “like drinking fresh spring water, but with a kick.” I felt this representation really had a visceral impact. Up until recently, I also liked to tell them it was “from the northern-most point of France… right on the border of Switzerland.”
I don’t know why it never occurred to me these two things couldn’t be true at the same time. The wine was so light and acidic, it simply had to be from a northern-most point of somewhere. And, it had a Swiss flag on the label. By my calculations, one could hop in a car from Paris, drive due north and be in Switzerland by noon (admittedly, I had to Google the exact location of Paris to even write that with confidence).
I mean, can you blame me? Wouldn’t you see this label and think the same thing?
Ultimately, one customer kindly pointed out to me that Switzerland wasn’t actuallynorth of France at all.
“Right… I know… but right there… on the border…” And I gestured clumsily at the center of my air-map. I suddenly wasn’t sure the two countries even touched. I searched the depths of my brain for any lingering shred of a memory of 3rd-grade geography and yet I couldn’t conjure up even a crude mental layout of Western Europe to save my life.
Thankfully, the customer was gracious, and didn’t go out of his way to make me feel like a complete jerk. I already felt like enough of one on my own.
After the sale, I immediately locked myself in my office to study world maps. And it’s incredible how much I learned.