Saturday evening, at my second coincidental dinner with Kevin, who was DJing at Het Patronaat on Friday, we were discussing record stores and how he orders CDs from the shop in Tilburg called Sounds rather than buying them on the internet.
“The Dutch don’t really use credit cards,” he said.
It was a fascinating point. I don’t really use credit cards either. I have a debit card that I’ll use any day over cash, but in terms of amassing credit card debt as my nationality has a reputation for doing, I have more than enough student loan debt between myself and The Patient Mrs. to fill whatever quota I might have as an American.
All the same, those words were ringing in my ears this morning at 07.00 when I arrived at the Tilburg train station and was unable to buy a ticket for the 07.07 train to Schiphol Airport. I didn’t have a rail pass, the machine only took coins, and by the time the ticket sales counter opened at 07.15, I’d missed my train. The next one was in 20 minutes.
That wasn’t the first misstep on this still ongoing and still misstepping return journey to my humble river valley. On my way walking out of the Mercure Hotel this morning, I dropped my luggage when the wheel hit a pothole in the road. I’ve never been good at reading omens but in hindsight.
The next train required a transfer in den Bosch, which I’d forgotten. Easy enough, except that by missing the first train, I was no longer in line to catch the second and would have to wait an additional 20 minutes. Already we’re looking at 9.30 to get into Schiphol for a 10.30 flight out. My transfer made after asking the nice lady what track I should go to, I stood with my bags – the brown, messenger-type camera bag no longer fitting in my luggage on account mostly of CDs – as the train passed through towns and the time clicked on. I called my poor, loving, patient, patient, patient wife at what was for her three in the morning to tell her I was going to miss not one, but both of my flights – first to London, then to Newark – and that I was basically just going to the airport at this point to “see what happens.” The call was dropped. Damn roaming signal.
Upon arrival at Schiphol, I joined a line – a “queue,” to be more native about it – at gate 21 and stood on line until enough time passed that they went into emergency mode and pulled out all the passengers on my flight to board separately. We were like the special class. Are you flying coach, first class, business class? No, not me. I’m special class. Thanks though. My fellow late passengers and I got our bags checked – I’d written my phone number on the little tag that goes on the handle just on the train into the airport this morning; the tag being one I was given on the Thalys train in France – and headed to the gate, which I’m pretty sure was half the walk between Amsterdam and London, and I got there just in time to be the person right before the last person to board the plane. I hadn’t even put my belt on from the security check yet. I was holding up my pants with one arm while trying to keep control of the camera bag and my book bag with the other. My hair was knotted, and having showered only four hours before after waking up at six on a night of three hours’ sleep, I smelled.
On the flight, I sat next to a very nice German father and his four year old son, and when we landed about an hour later with no real mishaps despite the usual bout of turbulence and my position as wing-watcher compromised somewhat by the fact that I had an aisle seat and not a window, I did the usual rigmarole going through customs, showing my passport, getting grilled and stamped, etc., and finally made my way to baggage reclaim 7, where I stood. And waited. And stood. And waited. Until everyone but a scant selection of my fellow special class passengers had been reunited with their luggage and moved on with their days and lives. I stood. And waited. Until heaven was on earth outside the airport and life was nothing but Reese’s cups and blowjobs and free money and every day was Roadburn but you’re never tired and you get paid a living salary just to blog about stoner rock. Until then, I waited. And then I waited some more. Still, no bag.
A conveyor belt breakdown, it seemed, had caused I and my fellow special class passengers’ luggage to stay behind at Schophol. To use another regional term sarcastically: Cracking. Smashing. Whatever violent euphemism you want to substitute for “awesome.” It’s never a good sign when the person behind the desk asks you, “What did your baggage look like?” as though in a whole universe of bags, which an airport basically is, yours is the green one with the orange stripe around the trim. Well, it just so happens mine is the green one with the orange stripe around the trim, and I told the middle aged woman behind the counter precisely that. She was, let’s say, unimpressed at the unique snowflakeness of my bag, but told me it would be arriving on the next flight from Schiphol, getting in at 15.00 or so. She could hold onto it there or ship it on to me.
Originally, I was on a United flight at 12.50. It already would’ve been a tight squeeze to get my bag and go back through security again to catch the flight home, but this made it pretty much impossible. I knew that if I entrusted this woman and the British Airways company on whose behalf she was serving as representative any further with my bag, I’d never see ol’ green-orange-stripey again, so I told her I’d rather wait and get it myself. The Patient Mrs. having already moved my second flight to 18.00, I’d still have plenty of time to get the bag and go to terminal four, from which my flight supposedly leaves. I asked the woman behind the counter if there was a coffee shop around and she told me in which direction to fuck off. I did as she said, and one sandwich and an all-too-sweetened iced tea later – I even asked the guy if it had sugar and he too told me to fuck off – I continue to wait for that 15.00 flight to get in. About an hour and 40 minutes left to go, barring any further conveyor belt troubles.
Then I fly home! I do not yet know just how excruciating anticipation will make the last couple hours of that flight, and I think I’ll have a while mentally before I get there yet. Seems to be plenty of adventure left to occupy my faculties in the meantime. For example. I can’t seem to stop giving the airport “barista” dirty looks about that iced tea. I mean, I asked if there was sugar.
I should get back to Jersey if all goes according to plan from here on out – and I have no reason to believe it will – at around 9PM Eastern. I look forward to that.
Tags: Desertfest & Roadburn Adventure 2012, London, UK