Amsterdam is well known for its canals and although they are one of the cities main attractions they are well known for not being very clean. It’s not a desirable place to go for a quick swim even if you are diving for abandoned bikes. Drinking the water would most likely end up in the mutation of a third arm or eleventh toe. Given my accident prone nature it might be surprising to know that I have never fallen into a canal myself. However, I do know someone who has.
After leaving a house warming party late one night with a small group of friends we stumbled around the streets of Amsterdam looking for something to do while we waited for the trains started running again.
When a pile of bricks was discovered by a canal an impromptu game of ‘throw the brick in the water’ began. Despite the very simplistic rules I did not want to not take part. The first of the group picked up and threw his brick, almost reaching the other side of the canal. The second person grabbed a brick and did the same but his did not go as far. Then the drunkest person in the group decided it was his turn.
The drunken Scotsman picked up a brick, pulled back his arm and flung out as hard as he could in an awkward move that looked like it might dislocate his shoulder. The brick tumbled forward a few inches and landed just in front of his toes. However, he did not let the rather girly throw dull his determination and another brick was picked up for a second attempt. This time he decided a run up would give his projectile the acceleration it needed.
He took a few steps back, breathed in a deep breath, held the brick up high and ran towards the canal edge. Using the momentum of the run he extended his arm out into a powerful throw. He used all his strength to send the brick into the air. It looked like it could fly for miles. At least it might have if he had not forgotten one important thing. He forgot to let go.
The brick with the Scotsman still firmly attached flew a short distance before plunging into the brown water of the canal. There was panic all around but most of it was coming from the now soaking wet Scotsman who was trying to paddle back towards us. Baywatch might have made life guard duty seem glamorous but there is nothing sexy about fishing a drunk Scottish friend out of a murky Dutch canal at 3am on a Saturday night.
It only lasted a few seconds but as you can imagine he was very happy to be back on dry land again. He let us know this by screaming, “I’m alive,” every few minutes and sounding very surprised of the fact himself. Sadly the same could not be said of his mobile phone which was announced dead on arrival.
We dragged him back to a nearby friend’s house so he could dry off and shout out a few more times about his mortal status. This also gave the owner of the house (and the bathrobe the Scotsman had to borrow) a surprise when we turned up on the door step. The joke, “you look like you’ve been swimming in a canal,” didn’t really work at the time.
The next morning we were all very hung over but still amazed by what had happened. There was a lot of talk about what might have happened over breakfast as well as a few failed attempts to revive the drowned phone. Since that day I think the Scotsman has had a new respect for canals and to my knowledge he has never grown a third arm or eleventh toe, not yet at least.