Amsterdam

It could have been a little easier. 

But it could have been a lot harder. 

A few months ago, when plane fares were incredibly cheap, we bought two tickets to Amsterdam. 

It wasn’t so much that we wanted to go to Amsterdam in particular. More, we were holding out hope that someday we’d be able to go where we’d be surrounded by human beings we didn’t know and see things we’d never seen. 

The plan was shaping up nicely, until my wife got hurt playing tennis with our granddaughters. She stepped into a small defect on the court and pulled her hamstring. It wasn’t a serious injury, but she couldn’t walk.   

Seriously. We pretty much carried her to the car on the way to the hospital. 

This could be a much longer, sadder story, but, thanks to the tireless efforts and friendly competence of Big Stone Therapies and the Graceville Health Center, ten days later we were on a plane. I’d gone from mild despair at canceling the trip, to grim determination in needing to push a wheelchair all over Holland, to amazement as she walked everywhere, with the help of three elastic bandages from her hip to her ankle and an occasional muscle relaxer. 

Just for the sake of honesty in journalism, I was willing to push her all over Amsterdam in a wheelchair, but I wasn’t eager

We’d never spent time to Amsterdam before. It’s listed as one of the safest cities in the world, but the first thing you need to know is it’s incredibly dangerous. The trams, trains, buses, cars, and an estimated 600,000 bicycles all operated within their own lanes and rules. Remember how your mother told you to look both ways before crossing a street? Mom would have died young in Amsterdam, what with the need to look at least six ways before crossing a street. And once the light turned, you had better hurry your butt across, because at any moment a gang of 20-year-olds on 89-year-old Schwinn bikes could blow past with murder on their minds. 

Really. Because they have their own traffic signals, the bicycles move in gangs, nose to tail and two or three abreast. I’m not saying they aim for pedestrians, but they don’t appear to dodge them either.  

Think I’m exaggerating? A site called Statista said cyclists cause 27% of pedestrian deaths in Amsterdam. 

There are more differences. At home, I’ve been known to drive around the block if I can’t find a parking spot right in front of the door. In Amsterdam, I heard myself saying, “It’s only about a mile. We can walk it.” Part of the reason was that we were goofing off. Walking along the canals through lovely neighborhoods was just as much fun as what was at our destination. The other part was that I’m lost all the time and I get lost slower when I walk than I do driving. In my defense, I grew up in a place where most of the roads are laid out in one-mile squares. In Amsterdam none of the roads, and I mean none, seem to meet at right angles and if they do, there’s a canal in the way. I used to poke fun at people who have no sense of direction, but I kept getting to intersections and had no idea whether I turned right or left. 

Luckily, with a bar every 50 feet so, I could stop and have a beer while I stared sadly at my phone to figure out where I went wrong. 

Tomorrow we’re getting on a boat to go look at tulips. I’m pretty sure I can’t get lost doing that. 

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson