The trip from Centraal to Schipol is worth a mention.
I depart camp at about 10. I’m kicking and screaming.
Easy ride to the ferry, across the water and I’m in Centraal.
To buy the ticket I walked into the big shiny ticket office with my bicycle, not wanting to faff about with locks now that every minute counts. When uncertain, I walk slowly into places with the bike, if there’s a problem you hear about it. Today no one says anything and I lean the bike against a clean white post, very carefully, next to where I’ll queue for the ticket..
My turn comes. As the guy in front walks away the teller shouts after him that he has to pay if he wants to take the bike. I say it’s my bike. He shouts after the leaving customer again, that he needs to pay for the bike. I say again.
He calls out a third time – thedeparting customer turns back says it’s not his.
I look at the teller like dude, I’m standing right here and tell you three times it’s mine.
The clerk is like ah ok. I see now. It’s yours. Turns to me, and what can I do for you, then, as though he remembered, he tells me I’m not allowed to have the bike inside.
I’m starting to suspect Dutch humour here. I’ll be getting another dose or two before the day is halfway through today. Like from that security guard I asked about the stash.
I think I got a bit snappy here and told him to just give me a ticket to Schipol – me and the bike.
I think they’re used to rushed, tense travelers. He quickly issues the tickets and tells me platform 13. He says something about train times and bikes but who’s listening.
In the train. It turns out that I am taking my bike on the train at a time when I shouldn’t – no bikes at certain hours. Big loaded bike taking up the whole diagonal of the connecting area between carriages.
Inspector comes through. Little lady who eats nails for dessert. Starts making a fuss about me being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong ticket no doubt upto no good. She inspects the bike the way the Dutch do – critically and opinionatedly. She becomes conciliatory. After all I’m with a bicycle, a traveler on a bicycle. She says something nice, smiles, and turns to leave.
Then, as if remembering something, she turns back.
There’s a German couple sitting in the fold out seats. She didn’t check their tickets. Turns out they’re on the rush hour train with the wrong ticket too.
She writes them up a spot fine – euros are exchanged and a receipt is handed out. Toodle doo, toodle da and whatever else they say in greeting, these Dutch, and off she went.
It struck me that she was in a position to justify handing out punishment selectively – that both the Germans and I had the broken the same rule but they got a ticket and I didn’t – because I have a bike? Interesting position to take and telling of the depth of official thinking on bikes in Holland. Or maybe she just risked it.
The Germans are smiling and taking it in stride. I’m pretending not to notice what’s going on, pretending that I’m not standing there but am in fact, quite somewhere else.
I haven’t slept more than four hours in two days, there’s enough going on than I’m comfortable with and no margin for error. I don’t need frazzling by anything else. Reality is frazzling at the seams.
We arrive Schipol Airport at about 11:30. Three hours to takeoff and lots of volatile variables.