If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. At least, outside of rush hour.
My heart was pounding so hard it was as though it might implode inside my chest. My hands and legs were shaking strongly enough to create somewhat of an earthquake to a miniature village. My grip though, the grip that I had on the handle bars was of the strength I imagine the Hulk might have, or King Kong gripping on to the Empire State building.
A lovely old lady walked past me before I took off, she had the biggest smile on her face as she said something to me in Dutch. I thought, “What a sweet little old lady, I must look adorable. Maybe this won’t be so terrifying after all.” She could well have been mocking the ridiculously below average size of my red taped ride. It’s no matter, she seemed lovely and her smile was contagious, even if maybe she was a little senile.
I’m neither a fan of baseball nor have I ever been very apt at sports but for some reason I find myself singing “Take me out to the ball game” over and over in my head. It’s somewhat calming? I don’t even know the words to it except for that one line, but that seems to work just fine while I’m simultaneously focusing on my surroundings and not getting in other people’s way. It turns out Dutch natives don’t take very kindly to amateurs, I suppose I can’t blame them.
I’ve learned there’s two different looks you get, the one for actually stopping at a red light and waiting for it to turn green before crossing and the look of confusion and shame when you get off your ride to cross the road by foot, on a zebra crossing, for pedestrians. Yet I swiftly get back on in the most nonchalant manner — there must be another look for that, I just haven’t caught it yet.
Every red light is, ironically, like an accident waiting to happen. It’s absolutely fine so long as no one is beside me, behind me, or anywhere near me. Especially the smaller stop lights where everyone huddles around one another and everyone’s trying to get ahead of the other. This is terrifying to me. There’s another look, come to think of it, the one you get of equal fear and utter distress when you make a sudden break. Somehow you’ve managed to stop way past the mark and you’re all up in the zebra crossing like it’s got your name all over it. Like you’re just going to obliterate every passerby, pedal to the metal, no regrets. C’mon guys, not gonna happen. I’ve only run into one cute, innocent passerby once, and it was a dog. I think it’s ok even.
I finally made it to the museum I was so looking forward to visit. This particular museum is host to some of the world’s oldest scriptures and books, including Dante’s Divine Comedy and I had to see it. I had found the perfect place to park and lock up and it had me feeling pretty chuffed. I was beginning to look like a local. Fake it till you make it, right.
The museum was closed, naturally.
That’s ok. Amsterdam is practically made up of museums, all you have to do is turn a corner. So, I chose a photography museum only to find myself staring at photos of, wait for it, twigs, branches, moss and leaves. Fascinating stuff, really. 8 Euros and 25 minutes later, with a hop, a skip and a few more pounding heartbeats, I was on my way to Vondelpark.
And it was glorious. As soon as I entered the pearly gates of the park, I could breath again, smirking at all the pesky tourists — hah! I was you once upon a time. “Don’t be afraid to ring your bell at people if they are in the way.” Spoken by a true local. Fear not pesky tourists, ring I shall, for I am a local now…- she thought to herself and onward she went, following the Google brick road.
A few wrong turns followed by a couple of road crossings and I was on my way back home. I suddenly found myself grateful for other riders who prevent me from getting run over by taxis or vans before they do. Bless the buffers.
As I was locking up, another kind looking old lady approached on a walker. There must be some old person’s home in the area. This time she frowned at me and grumpily threw some comments my way that sounded very sarcastic but who knows. I smiled apologetically and quickly explained that I don’t speak Dutch, to no avail as she simply grouched her way past me.
I figure I should probably give my bicycle a name. She was a real trooper today after all.
Keep on cyclin’ on.