Amsterdamize


Close Encounters of the Good Kind
May 23, 2008, 3:42 pm
Filed under: amsterdamize, special | Tags: , , , ,


Today I had to go to a client in Amersfoort, about 60 km southeast of Amsterdam. I’m sure it’s a lovely bike ride, but I’m not a crazy Belgian and not in the military. And since I don’t own a car, the obvious alternative is going by train. Easy, 30 minutes of comfort, and time to do some tasks.

So I was waiting on the station platform, 10 minutes before departure, enjoying the sun, when I noticed this couple. Mid-50’s, obviously tourists, because the man was confused about why nobody was boarding the train and his wife asked him to double-check. Then he saw me. He approached me, and, just as I thought, he was American.

Quickly I confirmed that it indeed was the train to Amersfoort and yes, it will leave at exactly 11:27 AM. All good. Our conversation continued however, as he had some follow up questions about a few towns they were going to visit today. As he talked, I tried to pinpoint where his home is…hmm, New York, at least East Coast. Then his wife joined in. Smiley, gentle, pirkey. But no East Coast.

Enough of the guessing. “So where are you from?” “We’re from Portland, Oregon, do you know it?” My big smile should have given it away, but I confirmed and added that I like it for a very specific reason. When I told them what it was, by coining it “Cycle City”, they laughed. Almost apoligetically they said it wasn’t anything close to what goes on in Amsterdam. Of course, but Portland is the closest thing in the US and developments are looking good.

I heard the conductor’s whistle, invited Deirdre & David to hop on (all their nerves had gone) and we chatted our way to Amersfoort. They were crazy about traveling, ever since the 60’s, when they first visited Amsterdam. Yes, for that reason too, they were the 60’s after all! Their traveling habits had rubbed off on their 20 yr old son, who’s studied in Europe and who is now in Spain, waiting for them to join him. David IS originally from NYC, she was born in the Bay Area, but after living in San Francisco for many years, it made no economic sense anymore to stay, so they moved to Portland. And from what I took from our conversation, they’re not about to move again.

They were genuinely interested in how the Dutch and Europeans approach certain things, how they came about, what makes us tick. Drug legislation, euthanasia, social life, and lots more. I like to think I came up with some good analogies and examples, also in light of my life experiences in the US.

It was the end of our ride and we got to talking about bikes again and the every day utility part of it. Deirdre: “Yeah, I love those cargo bikes, I’ve seen so many of them here!” I guess I saved best for last, because when I said they were for sale in Portland, they were stunned.

I said: “Yeah, just go over to Clever Cycles and check them out!” It was a good laugh.

I wished them bon voyage, we parted, they transferred to another train taking them to Apeldoorn and I started walking towards the city centre. It was a good day.

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