maandag, augustus 02, 2004

In Dutch with a canal

Today I've done something that I could only have done in The Netherlands.

Ian and I made plans to meet after work at his office. The Private Law Building is in city center, one of the older buildings in Utrecht. It's a beautiful setting, with a canal next to the building. I left home wondering if I was going to be able to find his building, but was feeling confident. Utrecht can be a little confusing at first. Few of the streets are straight for more than a block or two, and all of them, for no discernible reason, suddenly change their names.

At any rate, I made it with about 15 minutes to spare. The network of canals throughout the city actually help. If you follow a canal, eventually you'll get to someplace you recognize.

I was supposed to meet Ian up in his office, so as one has to do here, I started to lock up my bike. Best way to do that is to lock it to the railing around the top of the canal.

Mine is the one above with the blue saddle bags. Ian's is the one just behind mine with the black bags. Generally, after work either on of us, or sometimes, like today, both of us cycle to the store to pick up some things to make dinner and breakfast the next morning with. Everything here is a little smaller because of the lack of space. Although our apartment is a very nice size by standards here, we still have what in America is referred to as a "dorm fridge." Anyway, we can't get too many things at once when we shop, everything easily fits into the back bags - even a couple of large boquets of flowers.

But back to Ian at work. I was a little early, which is a good thing. I still am not great at locking the bike. You wouldn't think it would be that difficult, but although the chain is huge, so is the lock that goes through it. You could really do with another hand. You need to line up and hold the lock and chain with one hand while turning the key with the other. I suppose it doesn't help that all of my new keys are on the keychain that also holds the key to the lock. Some of them are unlike any keys I have ever seen before - especially the one to the front door. It cone shaped with lots of little burs all the way around it. We don't use it except for when we go on vacation (there is another one for daily use), but there it is on the key chain, and it's big. I guess it costs about $30.00 to cut a new one.

So I'm trying to heft the lock around the chain, and the chain around the bike and the bar to the canal.

What you're looking at above this is the water in the canal. As you look at this, about 7 feet below street level, imagine you've been in a foreign country for about a week. Now imagine that while you're looking down at the water, what you see, in very slow motion, is a lock with keys to everything you own slowly descending into the canal. Then you hear a "plop" at about the same time you see the keys hit the surface with a small splash. You see a few little air bubbles rise to the surface as the form of the lock itself is lost beneath the murky water, then the water is still again.

You look up and down the canal.

Then across the courtyard. Just to put a point on that sinking feeling in your stomach, there isn't even anyone who witnessed the event. At the very least, I wanted to see someone smiling at the absurdity of what just happened.

Nothing to do but wait for Ian to come out. As I looked at the door and the architectural detail of building, I had to laugh a bit. I normally go in and get Ian (otherwise he tends to get lost in his work and has been known to forget about concepts like time and space), but I couldn't leave my bike unlocked. I'd already had one bike stolen. (I was not responsible for that, but that's another story.)

So, I just looked around for awhile. Eventually, Ian came out of his building, very apologetic for being late. He thought maybe I was upset with him for not noticing the time. I finally told him that I would have come in, but that I didn't have a lock to my bike. He looked at me a little funny as though what I said didn't make any sense. I added, "I dropped it in the canal." Slowly, a huge smile spread over his face and he started laughing. I asked how deep the canals were, but Ian suggested I not even think about it.

We walked across the street to a bike shop (and there would have been a bike shop across the street anywhere in The Netherlands). A couple of stops later and we had all the keys duplicated, well, except for that big one.

Now, being able to say I've lost my keys in the bottom of a canal, I feel almost Dutch.

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Blogger foultempt said...

just popped in and was reading your blog! This loosing your keys sounds like something I would have done! LOL Any way I love your pics here, makes me want to come visit. It's so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experiences =o)

11:29 p.m.  

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