Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Return to Amsterdam-An Exercise in Chaos

We return to the hotel planning to grab a cab and catch our train to Amsterdam. The young man at the desk tries to call several different cab services, all in vain. The masses of people in town for the rugby games, plus a still partially crippled public transit system due to the strike, have made cabs extremely scarce. I am still somewhat fatigued from my illness so he suggests that, while I wait in the lobby with the luggage, my partner go to the main street a half block away and attempt to flag one down. After a wait of several minutes he is successful and he and the taxi arrive at the door of the hotel.

As I wait I chat with the pleasant, not unattractive, but decidedly hetero, young man. He tells me that France is "fini". He recites a litany of problems, the strike, the loss of the rugby game and the breaking news that morning that the President of France is divorcing his wife to marry his mistress.

The streets to the train station are choked with taxis, cars, bikes and pedestrians. The scene outside the station itself is akin to an unruly mob. Hordes of people crowd the sidewalk. Rugby balls are being thrown about in a seemingly random fashion. A good quarter of the people appear to be intoxicated. I mention to my partner that perhaps we should auction off our cab to the highest bidder. As we exit the cab several members of the mob on the sidewalk attempt to enter it. The driver explains to them in French that this is the drop off zone and he is not allowed to pick up passengers here. So much for my auction idea.

Inside the station the scene is not much better. Trains out of the country are packed to capacity, still feeling the disruption of the strike. Our train leaves late, so we arrive late in Brussels, where we are to change trains for our final leg to Amsterdam. We race through the station, luggage in tow. My partner asks if I know where we are going. Panting, I reply, "I think so" and continue, almost by instinct, to the correct platform.

We make our connection with just minutes to spare and manage to snare two of the last remaining seats. Many passengers are forced to stand. A group of women in jahibs crowd in the aisle beside us. As we near Amsterdam groups of young kids, dressed for a Saturday night of clubbing, board the train. Their various bright shades of hair and clothing add more color to an already colorful stew of humanity. We arrive in Amsterdam, catch the shuttle to our hotel, get to our room and flop into bed, completely wrung out from the day.

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