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It's midnight in Zurich, a global center for banking and finance, but I'm in a taxi hunting for prostitutes. The first thing I see that tells me I'm close is the neon—red, green, blue—that illuminates each stall of the long parking garage on my left. I roll down my window. She does, but when I tell her I'm a reporter, she rolls her eyes and says I can't talk to her or any of the other women.
Zurich has strict privacy and consent laws: If I want to tour the city's drive-through sex box complex, I must pay for the privilege as any john would. I hear a car horn behind me—my cab is holding up the line. It turns right, and I'm on a paved, looping track about the size of a football field. Lining the track are 10 covered wooden sheds about 10 feet apart about the size of a typical bus shelter.
Some are spray-painted with prices. The cost of services varies, depending on bartering between the sex worker and the client. The working girls—mostly Roma who are often discriminated against in Europe and referred to pejoratively as "Gypsy" from central and Eastern Europe—smoke, chat, drink Swiss lager and wait for customers to drive by and choose them.
Circling the track in a taxi and checking out the hookers in their seduction-wear makes me feel as if I'm on a sordid amusement park ride. Call it Humper Cars. If you thought sex in a box was reserved for Justin Timberlake sketches performed on Saturday Night Live , you've obviously never been to Zurich, where the red-light district has been packaged and streamlined like an express-order fast-food chain.
It's accessible only by car—pull up, pull in, pull out. In numerous surveys, Zurich has been named the city with the best quality of life in the world and the wealthiest on the continent.