Tuesday 08 October, 2013 by Uncle Spike
Sometime around 10pm on a dark rainy autumn evening in 1987, I arrived in the small town of Hoofddorp, just to the south of that wonderful city, Amsterdam. I had been on the road for 24 hours or so, hitchhiking from the UK, across by overnight ferry to Belgium, and then north up to The Netherlands. At that time, I was always travelling, seeing new places, enjoying new adventures, meeting new people, and visiting an endless list of the folk I met on my travels.
On this occasion, I was trying to find a guy that I had met in Athens a few months before. Now in the late 80’s, one has to remember that there were no mobile phones, no internet, so all I had was an address scribbled hastily in my little handbook; not even a home phone number. All that was quite normal, and I was well used to just ‘landing’ somewhere, and then trying to find my way around, locating friends etc. I don’t even recall the name of the guy I was seeking, and by the way, I never did find him. Maybe I was given a duff address perhaps after all. Anyway, this little story does not end here, for what happened that day became engrained in my memory for the past 25 years.
I was in a bar… ok, so that’s not exactly news; in those days I practically lived in such establishments, so was quite ‘at home’ shall we say. But I do remember trying to ask directions to the address I had, and after a while the realisation dawned on me that I had no place to stay. By around 1100pm that night, the bar was half full – it was a quiet neighbourhood, not a busy city pub by any stretch of the imagination. It was about then that a guy approached me, all smartly dressed in a tailored office suit, probably some banker or lawyer I guessed. He simply asked if I was lost. Now I was pretty worldly-wise by that time in my life, and knew of certain situations or predicaments that one could land oneself in that presented more dangers than opportunities. But for some reason, I felt safe, felt comfortable with the situation. And so I truthfully explained my circumstance and that was that; within 10 minutes he said he was leaving, and would I be needing a place to stay for the night. Yes I tentatively replied. He then used the bar’s phone to make a call. Now my Dutch was not up to much, but I surmised that he was talking to a woman, his girlfriend or wife I thought.
I hauled my dirty old backpack with me, following this guy out of the bar. He put my pack in the trunk of his expensive black BMW, and off we drove. Within 7 or 8 minutes we arrived at his apartment….
Now I know what you must be thinking. What the hell had I let myself in for? How stupid was I etc etc.? But the story ends quite simply, quite favourably. For all the potential scenarios I’m sure you and I can come up with in hindsight, the truth was this. The guy was in fact married. The call was in fact to his wife. I met his wife and dog as soon as she opened the door to their beautiful apartment. They simply offered me their spare room, provided me with a hearty breakfast the next morning, and then he drove me in his shiny BMW once more, right to the centre of Amsterdam where we worked. And I had guessed right, he was a lawyer. They had kindly refused my offer of money, we never exchanged details, I simply said “thank you”, and they simply said “you are very welcome”.
Call it karma, or whatever, but being on the receiving end of that simple bit of Dutch hospitality did more for me than almost any other experience I had encountered in a decade. There was, correction, there IS human kindness to be found in all walks of life, and you’ll find it where and when you least expect it.