I slowly crept up the stairs using all the stealth skills that I like to think I have but don’t. The sack over my shoulder made an awkward rustling sound as one of the gifts inside shifted. It struck me that burlap sacks are not the best option when you are trying to carry something quietly. However, they are part of the tradition. The Piet hat that I was wearing was also part of the tradition. I didn’t actually have to wear it since I would not be seen but I’d wanted to wear it anyway.
I reached the top of the stairs and slowly lowered the sack, placing it quietly against the front door of our upstairs neighbours (as asked). Slowly and carefully I drew my hands back from the sack but kept them just a few inches away for a moment, as if trying to mentally will the sack to stay in place. Once I was satisfied that it was not going anywhere I slowly stood up and began to turn around. At that moment the sack suddenly decided to make a break for it. It began sliding sideways down the door, threatening to send toys crashing down the stairs.
In a clumsy, frantic movement I quickly grabbed the falling sack just in time and froze. Staying as still as possible I listened. Had I been heard? Was my cover blown? Would I have to leg it? If I was caught in a position like this the neighbours would either have to explain the reality of the situation to their children or tell them that buurman Stuart had just been caught trying to steal toys.
When a moment had passed without the sounds of children running towards the door I quietly repositioned the bag, making sure it would not fall again and breathed a sigh of relief. I imagined this is what bomb disposal experts feel like when they are trying not to blow themselves up.
With everything in place I took a handful of pepernoten out of my pocket and got ready for stage two. I’d been asked to bang on the door as loud as I could to, “really scare the shit out of the kids.” Given the way the apartment building stairwell echoed I was probably about to really scare the shit out of everyone else in the building as well. Luckily, it was pakjesavond so they would probably realize it was a Piet delivering toys… hopefully.
I raised my free hand back as far as I could and then brought it crashing down on the door. Boom! Boom! Boom! Three times. Damn it hurt my hand. They have a hard door. I had no time to think about the pulsating in my hand. I had to get out of there before the door was opened by very excited (and maybe slightly terrified) children. I started running down the stairs, tripped, grabbed the banister and somehow managed used the momentum to swing myself around to the second set of stairs. It would have been graceful if it had not looked so clumsy.
From my new position I waited, out of view. My escape exit back into our own apartment was close but there was one last thing to do; The pepernoten! From above I heard the door open and I flung the pepernoten upwards in an arc in the general direction next to it. I couldn’t see my target so I could only hope that I didn’t accidentally take out a surprised child’s eye with a flying pepernoten. The lack of screaming told me I had not.
As the children gasped in amazement at the sacks of gifts (and the pepernoten that had just been thrown at them by a fleeing Piet) I slowly crept back into our apartment as my wife (Piet accomplice) quietly closed the door behind me. For a while we listened to the children’s reactions from behind the closed door and giggled.
“Dank u Sinterklaasje! Dank u Piet!” the children shouted from upstairs.
“PIET!” shouted our daughter from next to us as she pointed in excitement at the hat I was wearing.
It was the first time I had ever been asked to stand in for a Piet. I think this officially means I work for Sinterklaas now. At the very least it must mean that I am more integrated into Dutch culture now. What do you think?