‘You have four minutes!’ proclaimed the short middle-aged blonde woman behind the train station’s ticket counter.
Not thinking I had cut it quite that close I stare back with wide-eyed incredulity. ‘Four minutes? There should be more time than that.’
Shaking her head she tells me they recommend international departures arrive one hour prior to departure. ‘But that’s obviously not possible in this case…’ she concludes curtly in her Dutch accent.
Two minutes into my remaining ‘four minutes’ we conclude the transaction. I give a rushed hug and farewell to Naomi, my traveling companion these past four days, and break into an all-out sprint for track 10B.
Roughly two minutes later (according to the clock in my head) I crest the stairs to track 10B. Sure enough there’s a train there.
Approaching I notice the conductors are stepping onto the train. Of course none of them are close enough to speak to. Breaking into a sprint (again) I dart through the nearest open train door.
Knowing I hadn’t had time to verify the train number and sure that Murphy’s Law is still firmly in place, I run through the train in search of a conductor; finally finding one just as the doors slide closed.
Breathless I hand her the ticket. Between wheezes I manage, ‘Right train?’
The train starts moving.
I already know the answer. With timing like this how can it be anything other than no?
Looking up from the ticket, she shakes her head, my intuition proves correct.
After reviewing the train schedule for a minute she tells me the train I was supposed to board was pulling into the station when we left. Turns out I had ‘four minutes’ before boarding was to start, not before boarding was to complete.
(Wait, it gets better … or worse.)
She advises me to get off at the next station and catch the next train back to the starting point, stating, ‘There’s one every ten minutes.’ She goes on to tell me that once I’m back at Amsterdam Central I can try again.
Five minutes later I step from the train onto the platform. Crossing to the opposite side I take refuge behind a schedule board. It’s cold as hell (why do we say that? It’s supposed to be hot there, right?), and I didn’t dress for extended exposure to Amsterdam’s December weather.
Studying the board behind which I’m sheltering I see the train should be here in ten minutes. I thought to myself: Self, there’s a train every ten minutes and you get here just after one departs … thanks Murphy!
Five minutes later I wave as my originally assigned HiSpeed train to Berlin whizzes past.
Five minutes after that the station’s public address system crackles to life. I figure it must be announcing the next arrival so emerging from my hidey-hole I walk up to the tracks, craning my neck to glimpse the approaching transport. All I see is my fellow passenger-wanna-be’s heading for the exit.
Chasing one down I ask what happened. He says the announcement stated a jumper has thrown himself in front of the HiSpeed train and all trains in the area will be delayed at least an hour.
HiSpeed Train … that name sounds familiar.
(Told you it gets better … or worse.)
Working my way to the surface streets I search for a cab or bus. No cabs in sight. The first bus stop I check doesn’t go to Central, neither does the second, or third. Finally I find a busy bus stop. There’s even a bus at it. I ask the driver if he goes to Central.
‘No,’ he says. Then points at the back of a bus two blocks ahead and getting farther. It has the number ten displayed on its rear.
“You need bus number ten.”
Shaking my head I say, “Let me guess, there will be another one in ten minutes.”
Looking impressed he nods, “Ya.”
I step out of his bus onto the curb. It starts to rain. It’s almost cold enough to snow … but not quite.
I refer you back to the middle of this blog, that part where I said I wasn’t dressed properly for December in Amsterdam.
Yeah, thanks again Murphy.
On the bright side, I’ve spoken with Naomi. Having a hunch that things might not work out as planned she is still at Amsterdam Central.
God bless her.
Ten minutes later, icicles hanging from my nose, I board the ’10’ bus and head back to Central (along the way snapping a photo of one of Holland’s iconic windmills).
Lost in Translation.
There are two stops labeled ‘Amsterdam Central’ along the ’10’ bus’ route. As he pulls up to the first I ask the bus driver which one is closer to the ticket counter. He says the first one. So I exit.
This doesn’t feel like the closest side. After walking along the station’s very long front I reach the far end (you know, the one closest to the ticket counter) just in time to see the ’10’ bus pulling away from the second ‘Amsterdam Central’ stop.
Murphy rears his ugly head yet again.
Side Note: I’m not a negative person and while this was a frustrating chain of events, the whole time I kept thinking, ‘Well, at least you’ll get a helluva blog out of this,’ and ‘You’ll get to give Naomi a proper farewell.’
Speaking of … arriving at the correct end of the station I see Naomi waiting for me.
‘Am I glad to see you!’
After rebooking my trip we have thirty minutes to kill (my arrival in Berlin has only been delayed by two hours). Naomi and I search for a Parisian style train station pub. Finding none we settle for a place selling rabbit food and wine.
Sitting down I ask, ‘So how’s your day going?’