wed 13 feb 2008 16:53:49 witte de withstraat
to rhenen and back.
tuesday i had a meeting with a new potential client. i was to take the train via utrecht to a faraway place called "rhenen". my trip started off totally chill, but somehow grew more stressful with time.
i got to centraal nice and early, bought myself a sandwich and sat on a bench near the west end of track 5. while i was eating my ham and cheese, some guys nearby took out a monster circular saw and started cutting a hole in the concrete platform, making a lot of sparks and dust and noise. so i moved halfway down the platform and had a smoke by the little rookzuil. my train was running late. someone up there may have announced as much, but of course nobody could hear any announcements while men were busy sawing open the platform.
a train rolled in, and stopped way down at the east end of the platform. i figured this probably was not my train, but i walked down to it anyway, and joined a thick crowd of people all confused. after a few minutes someone up there thought to change the display to "niet instappen" -- and during a lull in the sawing i heard the lady on the loudspeaker saying "passagiers op spoor 5b worden vriendelijk verzocht niet in te stappen" (passengers on platform 5b are kindly requested not to step in). then she said some other things too, but a high-pitched siren had begun screaming, so i could no longer hear. i'd never heard that siren before. it may have been the special "warning, someone is sawing a hole in the platform!" alarm.
soon enough the desired train for utrecht came in. we left amsterdam cs only about ten minutes late. at utrecht i only had to cross the platform from spoor 14 to 15, so i could avoid the famously annoying main hall of the utrecht train station.
but i got confused. i read the schedule board, but from the display it seemed another delayed train was due before the one i should take. i waited for it to roll in from the left, but then noticed a train had rolled in from the right. maybe that was the train to rhenen after all, and it was just being sneaky? i hurried over to the train, again joining a thick crowd, and pressed toward the door.
just before stepping on, i had the presence of mind to ask a man sitting right inside: "gaat deze trein naar rhenen?"
he just stared at me.
"rhenen?" i repeated.
"no," he said.
so i turned and quickly got out of the way. the train left.
standing there, i realized the man by the door had answered me in english. maybe he didn't speak dutch. it was an especially clear bright day. faced with my wild-eyed question "rhenen?" maybe he had simply been trying to tell me "fuck no, you idiot, it ain't rainin'."
so when i finally saw the train i thought i needed, i wasn't totally sure if it was really the one. and the display saying where this train goes and when, was literally too far away to read. i knew if i took the time to walk over to read the sign, i might miss the train.
(i occasionally have this trouble at major rail stations in the netherlands, where the platform is long, and the displays are placed near both ends, not by the stairs where you come down/up to the platform. better eyeglasses might help. but i always feel like an ingrate complaining about railways in NL, since the rail service where i come from is so much worse.)
so i just climbed on the train and hoped for the best.
mind you, my uncertainty was compounded by my abysmal knowledge of dutch geography. i live in amsterdam, i feel like it's enough that i can tell the difference between slotermeer and sloterminder. i'm not sure if i should feel guilty for not knowing where rhenen is. do you? i mean, at least i can identify the continent of australia on a map.
anxiously i kept my eyes peeled. after some 40 min of travelling through woods and farms, i saw a sign on a platform: rhenen. cool. stepping out, i realized i could not have missed my stop. it was the end of the line.
my friend found me and drove me to the meeting. i drank coffee and learned as much as i could about special high tech [...]. i saw a laser cutter and some robot welding machines. my friend drove me back to rhenen.
i had smooth trip back, only this time there was a baby across the aisle from me, who i predict will someday have a stunning career as an opera tenor.
now at 50 years of age i can finally say i've been to rhenen and back. but having been there, i still can't tell you where it is.