If you spend a lot of time walking around Amsterdam it is inevitable that at some point a tourist or a group of tourists will ask you for directions. They seem to have a habit of getting lost in cities that they are unfamiliar with and requesting directions. It’s one of their defining characteristics in fact.
Some people might find it strange but I actually enjoy giving directions to tourists. It gives me a warm feeling inside knowing that I have helped someone while putting my knowledge of the city to good use.
I was recently presented with another opportunity to do my bit for mankind and help those in need of directions when my wife and I were approached by a group of five Russian sounding tourists on the streets of Amsterdam.
“Excuse me. We are lost. Where is Van Goth Museum?” The female leader of the group asked.
“Er…” I quickly looked around to get my bearings, “It is that way.”
I pointed in the direction of Museumplein and was about to expand upon this information with a full set of directions but before the words ‘left at the end of the street’ could leave my lips I was suddenly cut off.
“No! It is here!” She insisted sternly and stared me directly in the eye.
I was a little taken aback by this response. The smile fell from my face and my finger stayed in the air, mid-point, as I tried to process her strangely hostile reaction. Was she in denial that she was lost? Had she not just declared in her opening stamen that she was lost? Did she not understand the definition of lost? Was this some sort of test? I quickly looked around to check but there were definitely no museums in sight.
I quickly decided that the best thing to do was to show her. I finally lowered my arm and reached into my pocket for my phone, “I’ll look it up for you.”
“No. Here is map,” A map was suddenly grabbed from one of her associates and thrust into my hands before I could open Google maps.
I glanced at my wife. She looked just as puzzled as me. The man who had seconds ago been holding the map simply looked un-phased, as if this kind of thing happened all the time.
“Right… well… we are here,” I paused for a second as I pointed to our location on the map. She did not shout at for making wild accusations so I continued , “and the Van Goth Museum is here.”
She seemed satisfied with my answer this time. And by that I mean she was not satisfied with my answer at all but she did seem to believe it this time. The map was grabbed back out of my hands, something that might have been a thank you was mumbled (it also could have been a rude word in Russian) and the group started to walk off, back in the direction they had come from.
My wife and I continued our walk towards the tram stop, trying to work out what had just happened. We had no clue.
At the tram stop another Russian sounding woman approached us, “Excuse me? This tram? Dam square, yes?”
“Yes,” I replied, deciding it was best not to argue.
“I’ve not seen you for a while. Did you have your hair cut here last time?”
It was a simple enough question. I had no idea at the time that it was going to lead to one of the most shameful lies of my adult life.
I was sitting in the barber’s chair of my local hairdressers as the owner of the establishment trimmed my hair and made small talk. It was him that had asked the question.
I like my local hairdressers. I’ve been going there for the past six years. I go there whenever I need my hair cut. However, the last time I had gone there (the time he was referring to) he had been too busy to fit me in and instead of coming back the next day I had sneaked off to another hairdressers. I’m not proud of it.
So when he asked me, “Did you have your hair cut here last time?” I needed a moment to think.
It was an innocent question which I could have simply answered but I didn’t want to tell him that I had been unfaithful with another hairdresser. I felt guilty about it. It was because of this that I told a small white lie.
“I… was out of the country for a while.” I said, heavily implying that this was when my hair had last been cut.
It was a small white lie that answered the question neatly without any need for further discussion on the subject. There could be no arguing with such a statement. I’d been in another country, I’d needed to get my haircut, I’d had no choice but to see another hairdresser, and besides, what happens on vacation, stays on vacation even if the vacation is completely fictitious. Most importantly of all it was a small white lie that avoided the need for any awkward confessions on my part and allowed us to continue our happy relationship…. That is until he did something I was (foolishly) not expecting him to do.
“Where did you go?” He asked politely, smiling with interest.
I quickly said the first thing that came to mind, “I… er… went back to London.”
London was an easy choice. It’s my home city after all but the closest I’d actually been to London in the past six months was when I had spotted a sign post on a Dutch highway that read ‘London 356 kilometres’ and pointed in the vague direction of the sea.
“London is very nice. Did you do anything fun there?”
I said the first thing that came to mind again, “Oh… nothing much… Just a quiet Christmas with my parents.”
This had not been the plan. The lie was supposed to be a small, innocent lie. Now I was telling fibs about how and where I’d spent Christmas two weeks ago. In reality I’d spent Christmas and New Years in Friesland with my family-in-law. My ‘small white lie’ was slowly taking on a life of its own.
“That’s nice.” There was a short pause, which for a moment made me think his curiosity had been satisfied, “I think a lot of people had trouble travelling this winter. You did also, yes?”
I wanted to stop, I really did but I could not simply say ‘no’ any more. The answer would have been too unbelievable and the lie had become too big for unbelievable answers. The lie was forcing me to get creative. I picked a number at random. Eight seemed like a good number.
“Well… we had a delay of about 8 hours at Schiphol airport.” I said uncomfortably, feeling my cheeks burn a little.
The lie had not only taken on a life of its own, it had a wife, two kids and a mortgage. If it continued to get any bigger it was going to need its own postal code.
“That is not too bad,” he replied. “It was a lot of chaos here. Many trains not going.”
I eagerly grabbed the chance for a subject change, “I know. I…”
Then I quickly stopped myself.
I was going to tell him about the trouble I had experienced getting to work during the snow fall in Holland but I’d quickly realized that it had all happened during my fictional vacation and I could not have possibly experienced it.
“Did you watch the fireworks in London on New Years?” He asked.
“No, it was too busy. We watched it on TV and had a quiet New Years Eve.” I replied feeling quite defeated.
The lie now had a life of its own, a family, a mortgage, a mid-life-crisis, a Ferrari and a mistress.
There was an awkward silence.
“So you had your haircut while you were in England?” He asked.
“Yes.” I replied and hoped that this would really be the end of the questioning.
Surprisingly it was. He did not ask any more questions. In fact he did not say much of anything else. In fact he seemed a little annoyed. I suddenly realized why.
Christmas had been two weeks ago. I had said that my last haircut had been two weeks ago. In reality it had been two months ago when I had sneaked off to the other hairdressers. I was sitting there in the chair with two months worth of hair growth, not two weeks. That’s the kind of inconsistency that most hairdressers would notice and it seemed that my now pissed off hairdresser had.
I like my local hairdressers. I don’t think I can ever show my face there again.
Thursday morning at the office started with an email from the HR department:
Subject: Mikka is dead…
His body is in the HR office for anyone who would like to say good bye.
The news that one of my co-workers had died came as a bit of a shock but not as shocking as the fact that the email seemed to be suggesting that his body had been laid out on an office desk for everyone see. Where his grieving parents also going to swing by the office? Were they going to bury him in the back garden?
A short while later another email was sent all:
Subject: RE: Mikka is dead…
Mikka is the office cat, not a human.
Something tells me I was not the only one who got confused.
The war had been raging for four hours and the casualties were high. Great Britain had fallen into the hands of my father-in-law (a fact which he delighted in reminding me and to which I had retaliated by taking Holland/North Europe). My wife controlled South America, I controlled North America and we both had armies in Africa. Europe was not particularly under anyone’s control and Australia and most of Asia were under the iron fist rule of my brother-in-law. My wife had not seemed keen on the idea of joining forces to crush her brother. Nor did she agree with my belief that she should simply let me ‘have’ South America under the ‘what’s mine is your’ law of marriage. It was the kind of epic game of Risk that they write war poetry about and ask questions about on history exam papers.
My forces along the border of North America were under attack. When the fighting had started it had suddenly become clear why my wife had turned down my earlier suggestion of an alliance. My beloved was the one attacking me. When my attempts at peaceful negotiations and compliments about her new hair failed to deter her from this course of action and threats to make her sleep on the couch also met with similar success (that argument never works on women) I was forced to take up arms and defend myself.
As our armies clashed upon the battlefield of cardboard I tried to rally my tiny plastic men with words of military encouragement. “Hold the line men! Stand your ground and we will share victory upon this day!” I shouted, along with similar lines of motivation as I rolled the dice.
One by one my tiny plastic soldiers fell upon the basic geographical representation of American soil. “Courage men! Courage! The day is not yet lost!” But I knew I was lying to them. I started to mentally compose telegrams of condolence to the tiny plastic families they left behind.
But then, when only one soldier remained defending the border of North America something happened. The dice rolls started to fall in my favour. My last little plastic soldier was fighting, fighting for all he was worth.
The dice were rolled. A six and a four versus a three and two ones. Two attackers down.
“You can do it! Do not give them one inch of ground!”
The dice were rolled again. Two fives versus a four and two twos. Two more attackers fell.
“Fight! Fight for all you are worth!” I was on my feet, cheering for my tiny plastic Rambo as he lay waste to the enemy.
I felt the excitement rising. Feelings of emotion and pride welled up inside me. The fighting became more and more intense. The clouds were drawing over the battlefield. The drums of war were beating. And then I was asked to turn off the epic battle music I had started playing from my ipod as it was proving a little too distracting no matter how much ‘atmosphere’ I thought it added.
Sadly Rambo, my brave little soldier who dared to say ‘No’ to the enemy was over powered and fell in battle shortly after that. With my main line of defence gone my wife marched her forces across the face of North America and I lost my mighty Empire of for the third and final time (to which it was also pointed out that constantly capturing and losing a continent hardly forms a stable basses of an empire). All hope was lost.
My wife (who under the rules of warfare was now also my ruler) proceeded to extended her control over Asia and secured her victory with a blitzkrieg attack that had surprised us all. They say it is healthy for couples to have some secrets from each other but somehow I don’t think they had plans for world domination in mind when they said that.
It is time for the 2011 Bloggies. “What are the 2011 Bloggies?” some of you might ask. Well I’ll tell you. The 2011 Bloggies is the long running online award ceremony that highlights the best blogs of the previous year with in several categories. The nomination phase has just begun and runs until the 16th of January.
“Why are you telling us this?” you might also ask. Well, I would like to enter this blog into the competition and to do that I need your help. Please visit the Bloggies website and nominate Invading Holland for the Best European Blog category.Eleventh Annual Weblog Awards: The 2011 Bloggies
If elected ruler of Europe I promise to rule with integrity, quickly get drunk with power and ultimately have to be over thrown but you will have my ever lasting thanks.