The Amsterdam Incident (April ’08)

Today my sister got her driving-licence! Celebrations all around! It was her second attempt and we all know only losers pass the first time around. Personally I have the track-record of three, making me an even better driver. Obviously.

Not according to my lovely friend and flatmate who thought that  dinner was an excellent time to bring up the Amsterdam incident again.  I swear the story gets bigger everytime she tells it… (“…We started the journey with twelve people, three goats and a dozen chickens, an epic trip, a blizzard and two days without heat later only us two survived…”) So just to set the record straight this is what happened:

I remember when… my friend came over to the Netherlands two years ago.  It was Easter and my mother had invited her ( and I quote: “even if my daughter isn’t coming home, I will still be happy to see you.” Erhm thanks Mum.)

Regular readers know that I live in a small town, so we were probably bored by day three, when my friends invited us to a dance performance in Amsterdam. There was only one problem: there were no trains going and I only just passed my driving test. After lots of umming and ahhhing, I decided to drive.

My dad took me to fill up the car, a tiny red 12 year old Fiat panda at the time. Back home this car was stuff of legend: my friends would wave at it because they knew my parents would be driving in it. It really felt like driving a kart, not a proper car. Then my Dad let me drive around in it for a bit, did the initial how to get to the motorway etc. 

You see I was driving with a couple of handicaps: 1. I learned to drive in England, so left-side of the road. 2. We had no sat-nav.  3. There were so many roadworks since I left my home-environment years ago, that even if I had ever driven there before, I wouldn’t recognise it.

Nothing like a challenge right? That is what my flatmate must have thought when my mother ( My Own Mother) kindly required whether she would feel safe in the car with me. ( Again: thanks Mum!) My friend felt she didn’t really have an opinion on it now and just nodded. Then Mum proceeded to take out a Dutch road map to show to my English friend and explain how to drive to Amsterdam. She then elaborated on the different routes one could take to get to the motorway and which ones we should avoid. If my friend wasn’t scared before, she sure as hell was now.

I arrived home with Dad, ready and revved up. My parents started exchanging opinions on to get to the motorway. Turns out that Dad obviously showed me the one route that my mother didn’t want me to take because it involved a slope…An artificial one – my country is completely flat and a hill-start is seen as one of the manoeuvres during your driving test.  I think I decided to go the way that my Dad showed me anyway, also because my friend whispered she couldn’t remember any of the 6 other ways that my mother had helpfully tried to explain to her in my 20 minute absence.

The way there was great, a little nervous but we were fine. We got to Amsterdam, managed to park – miracle of miracles- though I think I was so full of nerves I put the car straight next to a cement pilar ever though there was space aplenty.

We had some food, saw the performance in the legendary Carre theater, and then went home at 11pm as we didn’t want to get home late.

Now this is where it starts: it was April, it was Easter and as we drive back from Amsterdam (only a 2 hour drive) it starts to snow. Not a little bit, proper snow. I start to panic, quietly- but maybe accidentally I might have voiced this panic whilst peering over the steering wheel with the sentence, immortal by its casual utterance: ” I cannot actually see the road.”  Cue friend who tried to find the heating in our really crappy, really old and now really cold car, stopping what she is doing and telling me it’s fine – just drive carefully.

She then sits back and literally holds tight to that hand- thing that you have above the passengers door. With a good hour to go we make our way through the snow. My poor friend claims she found new levels of cold that night, even talking and thinking about it her head still hurt with muscle-memory of the cold. I cannot remember this, I was trying to keep the car on the road.

When we finally arrived at my parents drive way, we crept into the house. As we put the kettle on to defrost, my mother casually wanders downstairs… you know like she had just coincidentally woken up. At 2am. She started feeding us food from the fridge. At 2.10am. Then we went to bed. End of story.

Long story short: Nobody died on the way from Amsterdam so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

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