There is something very undignified about losing a fight with a bicycle rack. Even if you do manage to win you still can’t walk away without feeling more than a little humiliated.
The problem is that there are just so many bicycles in Amsterdam and so few bicycle racks to park them in. Bicycles end up being forced in to them and tightly jammed together at all kinds of odd angles. And because it is often impossible to find anywhere else, you have no other option but to add your own bike to the tangled mess when you want to chain it up somewhere.
Parking your bicycle in a bicycle rack is an exercise in brute force and perseverance and it is very important that you don’t mind (or care) if a few things get broken in the process. Peddles get trapped in wheels and handle bars become entangled with brake cables. It’s like trying to force two unrelated jigsaw puzzle pieces together with a hammer (if they were both made out of sharp, rusty metal). It’s a task that would send even the most calm and serene of people into a blind rage. Even when you have managed to do it (and the urge to murder has started to diminish) the real trouble has only just begun.
Because you have now ‘successfully’ forced your bicycle between its two rusty neighbours there is even less room for you to manoeuvre and you still have to somehow lock your bicycle to the rack.
Reaching over the handlebars won’t work because you can no longer squeeze yourself between the bikes to get close enough (even when awkwardly stretching over while standing on one leg).
This often leaves you no other option but to crouch down and squeeze yourself awkwardly between the bicycles as you reach out, chain in one hand and the keys in the other, trying to lock bicycle and rack together and remain calm. However, as if this situation was not infuriating enough already you will inevitably find your goal frustratingly just out of reach when your coat or backpack suddenly becomes caught on some random bicycle part which you are now unable to free yourself from. At this point it’s worth questioning how much you actually like cycling and if it is all worth it.
But eventually, after much frustrated and annoyed struggling, you finally manage to reach and successfully lock the chain around the front of your bicycle and the rack. You can relax. You have been successful…
But then you try to stand up.
Whatever random bicycle part you became snagged upon while trying to lock your bike is now the same one stopping you from backing out as well (and threatening to pull half your clothes off over your head if you try). It’s like being a fly trapped in a spider web made of bicycle chains and break cables.
It is then, after a while of unsuccessfully struggling to get free a very embarrassing realisation starts to settle in. You are a grown man (or woman) trapped in a bicycle rack and you have only two options open to you. Remain trapped for several hours or face the humiliation of of having to call out for help from a random passerby (which should not be too hard because by now you’ve already drawn a crowd of on lookers).
And as if that was not enough you know that whichever option you choose you have to do the whole thing in reverse when you want your bicycle back.
“Excuse me. Did you drop this?” I hear an unfamiliar voice ask from behind me as I lock my bicycle.
Wondering what it is they could be referring to I slowly start to turn around to face the owner of the helpful voice. Whatever it is I have apparently dropped I’m very lucky that it has been found by an honest and upstanding citizen. It’s nice to know that in this day and age there are…
“I think you dropped this! Did you drop this? I saw you drop it! Is it yours?”
Before I can say anything I am caught off guard by the sudden appearance of a passport mere inches from my face. It happens so fast that it actually takes a moment for my eyes to refocus and work out that it is a passport and that it is being held at arm’s length by the owner of the voice. It takes another moment for my brain to catch up and process his rapid line of questioning.
“Er…” Is the best response I find myself able to come up with.
The whole situation is already slightly odd but it is the passport itself that makes the whole thing really bizarre. I have no idea how to react but there is one thing I know for certain… the passport is not mine.
There are two main reasons why I know this to be true. Surprisingly the first reason (the fact that I know my passport is safely at home) is not the most compelling out of the two reasons even though under normal circumstances it should provide enough evidence.
The second and yet most compelling reason why I knew that the passport now being held inches from my face is not mine is because he is holding it open at the photo page… The face staring back at me from the page is not of myself… it is of him.
“Err… No. It’s not mine.”
“Are you sure? I saw you drop it… over there.” He points in the direction I’d cycled from moments ago.
I look from the passport, to the cycle path and back again as my brain tried to work out how that scenario is even feasible.
Possibly taking the look of puzzlement and confusion on my face as an indication of uncertainty on the subject of ‘my’ passport he slowly stretches his arm out even farther so I could get a closer look at the photo, as if questioning my eye sight too.
I am so confused by the whole situation at this point that I checked the photo again anyway… just in case. It had been almost ten hours since I’d last seen what I looked like in a mirror (while brushing my teeth that morning) but I was still fairly certain that I did not have black dreadlocks.
“I’m really sure it is not mine.”
“But I saw you drop it.”
I’m still not entirely sure what is going on but I’m starting to suspect that the stoned expression on his face (which is not included in the photo) has something to do with it.
“Sorry. It’s not mine.”
“I think you might want to check the photo.”
And I slowly start to back away as he looks at me confused and puzzled, unable to understand why I would not want he believes to be ‘my’ passport back.
You meet some strange people in Amsterdam.
A lot of people have contacted me today regarding an error with their voting cards for today’s general elections here in the Netherlands. I wish to apologize deeply for this mistake and have made the correction to the voting list here:
Thank you for your continued support.
If you wish to know more about my policies and exciting ideas you can check my previous ‘press releases’ here:
“You’ve got something stuck between your teeth.” My wife informs me as we finish dinner.
“Thanks,” I reply after successfully removing the offending food fragment.
“Do I have anything stuck in my teeth?” She asks in return.
I quickly check as she grins at me but find nothing.
“No. You are more…”
I suddenly stop mid-sentence as my brain jumps into the conversation like a bodyguard diving in front of a bullet.
Me: “What?! What is it?!”
Brain: “You can’t say that to a woman. Do you have any idea how that sounds?”
Me: “What? How what sounds?”
Brain: “You were about to say; You are more practised at eating then me.”
Me: “I was only… Oh… Oh god… You’re right. That sounds terrible. ”
Brain: “Quick! You’ve got to come up with something else!”
Me: “I… Err… Umm..”
Me: “Err… experienced at eating?”
Brain: “Don’t be stupid! That sounds worse.”
Me: “Oh no! She’s looking at me funny. I’ve been paused for too long. What do I do?!”
Brain: “Say something. Anything… Anything not stupid.”
“…better at eating then me.” I finish aloud.
Brain: “Oh you idiot! That’s not even correct grammar.”
Me: “I panicked. You made me panic.”
Brain: “Keep me out of this. You’re on your own.”
My brain suddenly falls silent. I am left alone. I brace myself for the reaction of my wife who is simply looking at me with an unreadable look on her face. There is a moment of silence and then… she bursts out laughing at the look of absolute fear on my face.
In other news: Invading Holland has been nominated in the Expatica ‘I am not a tourist’ Expat Blog competition along with some other very talented writers. You can check it out here and vote if you like.