Monday, November 12, 2012

Platform 8

The true account of a recent visit from an "adopted little sister".
Her train to Copenhagen was at 19:01. A German train. Extremely punctual.

I had mentioned we should leave thirty minutes prior, but by the time we were on the street, her eyes widened as she told me we had twelve minutes to reach Central Station.

"I don't think we're going to make it," I whispered.

In any normal situation, reaching Amsterdam Central Station from my house by public transport takes at least 15 minutes. Calculating in rush hour and road construction, I couldn't foresee how we would reach the train on time. Not even with a taxi.

"Do you think we should run?" Nicky asked. I glanced at her. Her suitcase nearly as tall as her 5'3" frame.

I was about to object with the absurdity of it all, but the look of pleading desperation on her face caused me to grab her laptop and water bottle and run.

We ran for two minutes towards the Marnixstraat intersection. Only twice did Nicky scream in frustration as the suitcase overturned in her haste. Fifty feet before we reached the crosswalk, tram 13 came into view.

"That's our tram!" I shouted. "Run!"

The tram slowed to a halt as I was half way across the crosswalk. I ignored the 'do not walk' signal since cars and bikes stood still, impatiently waiting for their light to turn green.

"No, no, no!" Nicky panicked.

I looked back and saw her train ticket flying out of her unclasped vintage purse.  She bent down to pick it up off the ground.

"I'll hold the tram!" I tried assuring her.

I raced ahead, one arm pressing the laptop against my chest. I jumped through the open doors and hung halfway out, blocking them from shutting and the tram from continuing forward.  Thankfully the lady in the ticketing booth only looked at me and smiled. A rare gesture from public transit workers in this city.

Seconds later Nicky came into view. The large suitcase distorted her running to appear more like a gallop, with one arm propelling her forward while the other lagged behind, holding tight to a plastic handle. As she reached me, I grabbed hold of the suitcase and helped pull it on.

The doors closed and the tram began moving.

Nicky parked the suitcase in the designated stroller space, just to the side of the entrance doors. Glancing at the electronic display above our heads we checked the time. 18:53.

"At least we only have two more stops, right?" Nicky asked.

"No. Four."

A look of fear crossed her eyes. I glanced over at the blond ticketing agent. She was still smiling.  When I turned back, Nicky's head was bowed.

"Yeah, pray hard." I teased. She nodded, slightly.

By the time she looked back up we reached the road construction at Dam Square. 18:56. Three more stops.

"Well, at least this will make for a funny story... if I make my train."

Suddenly I thought to call a friend who took the same train to Copenhagen two weeks prior.  I rummaged in my purse for my phone while Nicky spoke words I failed to register.

"Hey Claire," Anouschka answered.

"Hey! Which platform was your train to Copenhagen on?"

"Uh... um. Eight! Platform 8. I'll never forget that one."  She had a near miss experience herself.

"Great, thanks. Nicky is taking the same train," I explained.


"I know."

"You two have 4 minutes. You better run."

"We're still on the tram!" I exclaimed.

We gave quick goodbyes and hung up.

"Let's move to the back of the tram. That way we can jump out quick," I told Nicky.

She began walking, the kindly ticketing agent taking notice.

"You don't have to go to the back, you can leave out these doors," she mentioned in Dutch.

"Oh, no. That's okay. We have to hurry," I responded in English.

"Ah," she nodded.

A middle aged woman stood in front of the door. Nicky fidgeted. The woman looked back at her.

"Sorry," Nicky nervously stammered. "We have to run. We're, we're gonna run."

The tram made its final curve in front of Central Station. Just before the doors opened I took one final look at the time. 19:00 hours. On the dot.

"Go, go, go!" I commanded.

Nicky ran faster than I've seen anyone go. She maneuvered the suitcase like it was a natural extension of herself.  Darting through gaps of people, she made it into the station before I did and headed towards platform 8.

I slowed down just enough to catch a glimpse of the departure schedule to verify our destination. Anouschka was correct.

Through the corner of my eye I saw a clock. 19:01. I reached Nicky just as she made it to the bottom of the platform.

"Oh no," she sighed, looking up the two flights of stairs to reach the train.

Without stopping to think, I grabbed hold of a suitcase handle and together we ran up the concrete steps.

The doors were closed but the train was still there.

Exhaling, we walked over to the nearest train car. It was numbered 175. Nicky's car was 204.

"Your couchette is located that way," I stated, looking away from her to the right, in the direction of her temporary bed.

"Noooooooooooooooooo!" she screamed.

The train started moving. I turned back around just in time to see her miraculously open the car door in front of her and jump on.

"Oh... OH!" I realized what was happening and helped push her suitcase in.

The train picked up speed. I slowly ran alongside, handing her the laptop and water bottle one at a time.
"I love you!" she yelled over the noise of wheels on the tracks.

"Love you too," I returned.

"This is just like a romantic movie," she sang out while frantically waving.

I ran alongside waving back and passed an older man watching the entire spectacle. The look on his face had me wondering if he thought we were gay.

I laughed all the more.


Amy said...

Claire, I'm a devoted reader and, as you know, rarely comment.

LOVED this :)

claireb said...

You're great Amy! Now that you're moving, you need to start your blog back up again too. ...Just a thought.

Patti said...

That was an awesome story. I'm exhausted! And the Turkish ice cream video was really fun. Quite a show.

claireb said...

Thanks Patti!