Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of the humble Dutch strippenkaart (strip card) as it passes on into the realms of nostalgia to be replaced with the new electronic OV-chipkaart (public-transport chip card) system. Many of you who have gathered here to pay your respects will remember our friend the strippenkaart as a simple means of exchanging money for transportation on Dutch trams, buses and metros. I would like to share some of my memories of it with you too.
I first encountered the strippenkaart in the summer of 2001 when I arrived in Holland as a young and confused expat. I had only been in the country for two hours when I first tried to board a tram and buy a ticket. It was then that I was presented with my first strippenkaart. It was only a small strippenkaart, barely more than a strip, just enough to travel one zone but I was instantly intrigued by this system of transportation payment. It was so new and fresh too me. I think it was something in the way the driver smiled at me and stamp my ticket that reminded me of a simpler happier time, when the teacher would stamp my work with a little star to show that I had done well. From that moment on the strippenkaart had a special place in my heart.
Later, I discovered the larger strippenkaart, the kind with 16 strips that could be used for traveling through even more zones whenever I wanted. At the same time I also discovered the large yellow self stamping machines. At first it was a relationship of some confusion as I tried to work out how many strips I was supposed to stamp for the amount of zones I wanted to travel. However, I eventually came to understand the system (after a lot of very cheap travel and one encounter with a tram ticket inspector).
I will always remember the feeling of accomplishment I felt when I had filled a strippenkaart up with stamps, my desire to shout ‘bingo’ upon doing so and collect a prize from the driver for getting a full house.
I will also remember listening fondly to the *klunk, ding* of the older stamping machines as they stamped the strippenkaart of early morning travelers with the date and time, the sound of which always making me think of a drunk north pole elf with a peg leg stumbling across a wooden floor.
*Klunk, ding, klunk, ding, klunk, ding*
Yes. I will always remember the good times… and so should you my friends.
It is also important that we do not hold any feelings of hostility towards the new OV-chipkaart system. It might feel like it has taken our beloved strippenkaart from us and now fills our ears every single day with the, “don’t forget to check in and check out with your public transport chip card,” announcement at almost every single stop in both Dutch and English without even saying a simple please or thank you. I to hear that announcement so often on a daily bases that I have started to hear it in my dreams, over and over and over again…
What I mean to say is that despite all of that it is important to remember that the OV-chipkaart did not ask for the responsibility of filling such large shoes to be thrust upon it. We must give it time. After all it will be there to confuse the next generation of expats on their first day in Holland as the strippenkaart did with me.
Yes, we will morn but we must also celebrate and remember. I know I will…. Farewell my friend, strippenkaart… You will be missed.