The following takes place between 9:30am and 6:30pm on January 31st 2008 in the games studio in Amsterdam where I work. All the facts are true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent:
9:30 am – I arrive at work for another busy day of browsing the internet for amusing photos of cats with funny captions.
9:53 am – I notice a small spider sitting on the ceiling, deifying gravity with his eight little hairy spider legs. We exchange glances.
10:34 am – I look up again and see that the spider has not moved at all, not even a micro of a millimetre. We exchange more glances. He wins the staring contest with his superior eight spider eyes over my ordinary two human eyes.
10:55 am – The spider still has not moved. I decide to call him Timmy. I do not know if his intentions are friendly or hostile yet.
11:24 am – I notice Timmy lowing himself down from the ceiling towards my desk. I wonder if I am about to find out if he just wants a friendly chat or if he is about to cocoon me to my chair.
11:25 am – I lose sight of Timmy.
1:35 pm – Timmy dashes across one of my computer speakers and disappears again.
1:48 pm – Timmy suddenly appears running up the left side of my monitor. He continues to do a lap by running along the top, down the right side, along the bottom (getting cocky with gravity again) before stopping for a rest to catch his breath and disappearing around the back.
2:10 pm – During a conversation with a co-worker Timmy reappears on my desk and runs around for a bit. My co-worker and I stop mid-conversation to watch Timmy for five minutes as he frantically explores the desk. We are easily amused. Eventually Timmy goes back into hiding.
3:12 pm – Timmy suddenly appears crawling over my keyboard. I stop typing and observe his possible attempt to write an email. Eventually he gives up and leaves to explore new areas.
3:28 pm – Timmy climbs up onto the game pad that is sitting on my desk. It occurs to me that he either wants to play the game I am working on or he is secretly a spy from a rival games company. He seems unimpressed either way and leaves again.
3:30 pm – Timmy runs along the edge of my desk forcing me to raise my arms so he can pass. He stops near by. I return to my typing and look back a second later to see he has disappeared. I worry that I either just squashed him or the suspected cocooning is about to start.
3:32 pm – Timmy suddenly reappears on the other side of my desk crawling over my headphones. I decide it will be a while before I wear them again. Timmy runs down the cord and on to my computer. From the computer he crawls to the floor and makes a break for it in the direction of my bag. I wave goodbye and do not see him again.
6:30 pm – I leave work to return home and wonder if Timmy is hiding in my bag and if I’m going to get a sudden and surprising visit in the middle of the night. I decide that if he deals with the mosquitoes during the summer he is allowed to stay and I will adopt him.
I have discovered a previously unknown level of hell. It does not appear in any religious text or scroll but that does not make it any less real. It just so happens to occupy a small area of Amsterdam. If you have ever walked along the Leidsestraat you might know it well. It only takes up a small 50 x 200 meter patch of land but it is filled with such torturous evil that no innocent person should know.
I am talking about the area outside my office that seems to contain every survey taker, subscription seller and (dare I say it) charity collector that hell rejected.
Everyday I have to walk through this swarm of aggressive clipboard holders as I try to escape to the nearest tram stop or collect lunch supplies from the local supermarket. Everyday they try to stop me and ask the same question.
“Can I ask you a question?”
It’s enough to drive anyone insane. I’ve long learned that simply telling them I don’t speak Dutch does not do any good either. However, I have finally come up with a solution, a new strategy. When they next ask me again I am going to come up with a completely random reply to what that question could have been. I will then be able to make my get away while they try to work out what just happened.
I have already come up with several answers for the next time they ask, “Can I ask you a question?”
– “The answer you seek is; 42.”
– “Yes, it’s true. I really did shoot a man in Rio just to watch him die.”
– “Sure. Picard was a much better captain but Kirk was a much better singer.”
– “No, Sorry. It would never work between us baby.” (This is double confusing for the clipboard holder if they are also a guy)
– “No. I will not write you into my will.”
– “Ok. You can have an autograph but I was hoping no one would recognize me.”
– “No. I’m not going to help you cheat on your test. Answer the questions yourself.”
– “No. My lawyer has advised me not to answer any questions.”
This weekend I swung into decisive action and started one of my New Years Resolutions, it was time to return to the gym. There are people out there that will tell you it is impossible to improve upon perfection but I was dam well going to give it a go because that is the kind of man I am. I grasped my gym pass from its resting place on my DVD shelf, wiped off the two months of dust and put it into my wallet. I packed my amazingly stylish gym outfit and set off into the world while radiating more charisma then all the James Bonds combined.
I strode into the gym with more commanding presence then a Spartan warrior who had just won the life time achievement for manliness. I knew in my mind that women wanted me and men wanted to be me (maybe a few of them wanted me as well). I walked directly up to the man behind the front desk and pulled out my gym pass with lightening fast reflexes.
He looked at my gym pass.
He looked me in the eyes.
I looked him in the eyes.
He looked at my pass again.
He looked me in the eyes again and said, “Well… I can try scanning it into the computer. You might get some points.”
I looked down at what was in my hand. I thought I had been holding my gym pass which looks like this:
However, I had picked up the wrong card when I left the house and was in fact showing him my Albert Heijn supermarket reward card which looks like this:
Despite my mistake I think I have discovered an area where the gym is missing an opportunity. Maybe more people would go to the gym if they knew they could get a free tin of beans or rolls of toilet paper for every few miles they run on the jogging machine.
In the long and well documented history of human beings ‘putting their foot in it’ there have been many amazing examples of things going very wrong. Simple misunderstandings have been known to escalate into blunders of epic embarrassing proportions.
I myself have been responsible for a few minor examples of this. However, the mix-up that I was a part of this weekend might be the next winner of the annual ‘putting your foot in it’ awards ceremony.
It all started on a day like any other as I was walking through the streets of Amsterdam on my way to the train station. As I made my way through one of the smaller streets I was stopped by two very attractive girls who appeared to be waiting on a street corner.
They both smiled at me happily. I smiled back with out a clue of what was about to happen.
One of the two attractive girls asked me something that I did not quite understand. Using my powers of deduction I was quickly able to deduce that English was not her first language and that she was possibly East European. My main clue in working this out was the way she spoke broken English with an East European accent. Being the polite Englishman that I am I made it clear that I had not understood and she should try repeating herself. I did this by using the universal confused look and the phrase, “Sorry. I don’t understand. Could you please repeat that?”
“Prostitute? Female prostitute?” She repeated with a happy smile in her Eastern European accent while standing on the street corner where she had stopped me.
I suddenly had a realization. She was asking me if I was looking for a female prostitute. This resulted in me doing an involuntary impression of an embarrassed Hugh Grant as I shook my head, stuttered, “No thank you,” and walked away.
I have lived in Amsterdam for a few years now and seen a lot of strange things but until that very moment I had never been approached by a prostitute.
I had only taken a few paces when I suddenly heard the girl running after me. It seemed like I was being pursued by the most persistent lady of the night ever.
“Not me, not me,” she insisted nervously. “Please, where is prostitutes?”
I suddenly had another realization. This time it was the correct one. I felt my face reach a new, much brighter shade of red as my embarrassment increased. She was trying to ask me where Amsterdam’s famous red light district was. I had just accidentally accused an innocent tourist of being a lady of questionable morals who likes to entertain gentleman with out any clothes on as her primary source of income. This coursed me to do another impression of Hugh Grant, this time stuttering out an embarrassed apology. We both laughed awkwardly about the confusion as I gave them the directions they sought. They seemed to understand why I thought what I had and were just as embarrassed as me but I still walked away with my head in my hands.
However embarrassing the blunder was for the both of us I can’t help but wonder how much more embarrassing it could have become if as a reply to the first misunderstood question I had been so inclined to ask, “How much?”
After two weeks of visiting friends and family in London during the Christmas period I have returned to Holland. During my visit I:
– Had a flight cancelled and rescheduled due to fog, a meal at a restaurant cancelled and rescheduled due to a power cut and several trains cancelled and rescheduled due to British Rail. I started to sense a pattern.
– Spent an evening telling my friends the story about how I nearly got arrested while out jogging and tried to explain to them that I am not really a criminal.
– Became a real criminal in London after I walked out of a bar and forgot to pay for my drink. I only realized my mistake 20 minutes later. I am still at large and now hiding in Holland from the British authorities.
– Was lured into a Macintosh shop with much trickery and deception by a Mac loving friend who I have been in a Mac vs. PC argument with for some time. I had to admit that the store looked very stylish. However, it did not have what we needed and turned out to be unhelpful…. just like a Mac.
– Received a red fire truck for Christmas from my mum because of a joke I made in a previous post about Sinterklass.
– Had a few drinks with my usually sober Dad. To cut a long story short, the next time he tries to lecture me about over drinking all I will have to remind him of a few things he did that night.
– Celebrated my 30th birthday a year early because a friend gave me a flashing ‘30’ badge to wear while we were out drinking in London. This was either because he could not find a ‘29’ badge or because he can not count. I also suspected that it was a badge intended for a girl since it was pink and read, “30 and Flirty.” I wore it anyway.
– Spent some time testing the authenticity of a Dutch theme pub in London just because I could. It didn’t really pass the test since the bar man did not understand what I was trying to communicate when I shouted, “Biertje.”