01 September 2011

I"m an unseasoned American, of course I know it all


The year was 1998. I was on my first trip to Europe.  5 days into it.  I had never travelled on my own before and had never been to Europe before. It was only my 2nd day truly on my own. I was on a train bound for Haarlem, the Netherlands. Why Haarlem? Well, Amsterdam was too scary for me, and I had met a guy on the internet from Haarlem.
Wait wait, its not like that at all….
I had met a guy (and his wife and kids) on the internet in New Zealand, who was originally from Haarlem. He had described his hometown as such a pretty place, I just had to see it. He was no where near the place anymore.
So there I was on a train bound for Haarlem. I did not speak Dutch and had no real travel experience. Therefore I knew it all!  As I sat on the train, an elderly woman (mid 70’s? ) tried to engage me in conversation. Her English was limited, however much more advanced than my non-existant Dutch. Through the conversation she was able to ascertain that I was an American (although I probably screamed it at the time) and that I was travelling to Haarlem. She was very friendly, and most likely we were able to communicate more than I recall. The train approached a station, Haarlem was part of the name. It looked very industrial.
But remember I knew it all.
I was ready to get off. I saw the name of the place, it was the only word I recognized. I stood up, strapped on my backpack, which weighed almost as much as me and began to walk to the door of the train. This was my stop. I was getting off.
Remember I knew it all.
The older woman stood up as well, she ran down the aisle of the train and stopped me. But I was still determined to get off.
Remember I knew it all.
She tugged on my backpack, holding me back, conveying that this was not the correct stop. I was going to get off.
Remember I knew it all.
But I was unable to be rude to this woman who clearly wanted to help. I decided that I could just get off at the next stop and take the next train back. That way I would not offend her. I figured the next stop would be nearby, because this was a local train.
Remember I knew it all.
As the train pulled into the next stop, I didn’t even bother to look at the station sign. Now the woman motioned to me to get off. She said “Haarlem” multiple times. I smiled and thanked her. All the while thinking ‘I need to find a train to get back.’
Remember I knew it all.
As the train pulled away from the station, I finally looked at the sign. Haarlem was all it said.
Clearly the woman on the train knew it all.