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.
“Cabin crew to landing positions please. Cabin crew to landing positions.”
I sit up suddenly, snapped out of my day dreaming by the unexpected announcement. What? Landing? How can we be landing now?
“Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking. We will shortly be arriving at Rotterdam central.”
Rotterdam? I don’t even know if Rotterdam has an airport? How can we be landing there? What is going on?
“The local time is 11:16pm. Weather conditions are good with a temperature of -2.”
I am deeply confused, not because we are making a sudden and un-expected landing but because we are making any kind of landing at all, because I am sitting on a train, a normal, regular train that does not have wings and is not capable of flight (as far as I know it).
“We hope you have enjoyed your flight with the Dutch railway service and we hope to see you again soon.”
Maybe the train driver is having a nervous breakdown…
“Dames en heren. Excuuses voor mijn alter-ego, de Engelse Kapitein. De volgende stop is Rotterdam Centraal.”
…or has a split personality.
As I stare out into the cold night air of Rotterdam from the station platform where I await the arrival of my train I realize that I am a man who has been lied to. I am a man who has been wronged… I am a man suffering injustice.
The train time table clearly stated that the next train to Dordrecht would be arriving at platform 7 at 23:01 but it is 23:02 and there is no train in sight. I am annoyed. It is not the first time a train time table has lied to me.
The platform’s electronic information board provides me with no assistance either. Instead it simply sits there, blank, suggesting that the train has been cancelled all together.
“This really takes the biscuit.” I mutter under my breath bitterly, evoking snack food to punctuate my anger at the sheer injustice of it all.
Sure it is only a minute but that is not the point. I’m not just annoyed about this delay but all the delays we have all had to suffer in our lives. All the unexpected technical difficulties, broken signals and leaves on the line we have all had to endure.
It becomes clear to me what must be done. We the passengers must unite. They cannot ignore us all if we unify. We must rise up as one and in a united voice tell them, “One minute is not an expectable delay.” Oh yes! As the spirit of rebellion rises inside me I decide that I will be that first voice. I will be heard. If they think I’m going to let them get away with this any longer they have another thing coming. If they think I’m simply going to stand here on platform 6 and…
My internal rant suddenly comes a halt as I realize my horrible mistake. I am standing at platform 6. I should be standing at platform 7. Platform 7 is directly behind me… and so is my train.
I spin around just in time to see the doors of the 23:01 to Dordrecht closing. It’s so close I can almost touch it. How could I have failed to notice an entire train arriving directly behind me?
All I can do is simply watch as my train slowly pulls out of the station and begins its journey towards Dordrecht. I Sigh and check the train time table. The next train is at 23:31.
“I am a man!”
Nearby co-workers turned their heads as I strolled into the office with great pride and triumph booming from my voice. They we are all obviously deeply curious and jealous about whatever achievement had caused me to display such manly pride.
“What is it this time?” One of them asked.
“I have just successfully figured out how to ride my bicycle with no hands.” I waved my hands as I relayed the story in case there was any doubt that I had hands.
“Congratulations,” my obviously envious Dutch co-worker replied, “You can now do the same thing that every five year old in this country can do.”
Not to be put down by this I grinded and quickly added, “And I have the language skills to match.”