About a week ago I came back from a trip to Amsterdam. It had been about six months since I had seen my brother and sister, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing them since either of them was born, and I missed them very much. There were others I had not seen face to face longer than I had ever had since meeting them, like Moulsari, Richard and Dennis (even though he went to Paris for a while, but I still saw him more in person then.) Luckily, technology has evolved to the point where we can talk and see each other whenever we like, but it’s still different than sitting together, without constraints.
Having been working from home for twenty-something weeks, with only the occasional meetups, and having almost all of our groceries and purchases delivered, going outside only to go running, get some fresh air or pop down to the store for a bag of ice cubes, I was wondering what it would be like to be around people again. The early morning taxi and bus ride to the airport didn’t confront me with a lot of people, but it did confront me with the people I had read about, but didn’t think actually existed; the ones who didn’t quite understand how to wear a face mask. They would either have it resting underneath their nose or wear it on their chin! I thought they would be a rare anomaly, but once I got to the airport, I realised there were many more.
One man pulled his mask down to sneeze, not in his hand or elbow; no, just a full on aerial vomit type sneeze. Another man got into an argument with two ladies who asked him to wear a mask, which is was mandatory inside the airport, and he refused, even when security came to warn him. Of course he was on my flight, but luckily he did wear one on the flight. I estimate that the amount of people either not wearing a mask, or wearing it incorrectly was about one out of every ten people.
Being around so many people after weeks of relative quiet was unsettling for a few hours before I began easing into things. The travel itself was not so bad, but there was a low-level, creeping anxiety about keeping proper distance from people. Arriving in a near-empty Schiphol was nice, and seeing that a lot more people seemed to take masks a bit more seriously in public transport in Amsterdam also calmed my nerves a bit.
It was good to see my brother again. I had already decided that there were certain people I was going to hug regardless of the rules. He was one of them. He gave me a proper hug, which he normally isn’t likely to do. Together we went to my hairdresser. I’ve found a replacement hairdresser, but they’re nowhere near as good. That was good, too. Then we met Joasia, who had arrived from Poland, and went to get a drink at Sky Lounge. I was overjoyed to see how serious the hotel was taking their responsibilities. We weren’t going to get in without our reservation, asked us to sanitise our hands, and the place was nearly empty; even though it was a beautiful day and they have a rooftop terrace that is usually packed.
Afterwards we met Luba at the train station and went to Hoorn. That’s where I met my sister. Another hug. We went to dinner and sat outside. Ruurd and Femke came, even though they initially thought they wouldn’t. They came back from their holiday a little bit early so that we could have dinner together. That was really nice. We filled out forms so that they could do contact tracing if necessary. We had dinner, wine and fun conversations. Afterwards, we went for another drink and that’s where I noticed my own apprehension was significantly less than it was at the start of the evening.
The evening ended early because we had all agreed that we would celebrate all the birthdays we had missed during the quarantine as well as my sister’s birthday which was coming up, the next day. And so we went back to Amsterdam; we said goodbye to Robin and Luba and went to our hotel.
The following day Joasia had a million and one appointments (as well as every other day of our stay) and I briefly went to see Moulsari for brunch. We had read that the UK had taken the Netherlands off the list of origin countries where travellers would have to go into a two week quarantine. France had also been taken off the exemption list and we read about half a million British tourists scrambling to get home. We decided not to go that route and simply accept that we’d have to quarantine. It wouldn’t be that much different than what we had been doing for the past twenty-something weeks; it just meant we couldn’t go out for our run three or four times a week.
For the evening we had arranged for a dinner with a bunch of people. There were going to be a lot of people we would like to see and no time in which to see them all. With the restrictions on reservations the only option we had was to make a deal with a restaurant so that we could hold an event, which would allow us to have the place to ourselves and space out a bit. Samuel had been introduced to a great Japanese restaurant and he had made the arrangements. While the service was bad, the quality of the food was amazing and more than made up for it. It was delicious.
I got a chance to meet Samuel’s new girlfriend, Mounir’s new girlfriend, and Moulsari’s new boyfriend. All three people seemed to be fun and smart, and it was good to see each of them doing so well. It was good to see Alina and Bodil again as well.
During dinner, we started making some plans for afterwards and I was quite surprised to see that most people were game for a drink somewhere. We ended up going to the World Class Room, which was supposed to be empty according to Mounir who was doing the planning. When we were in the taxi on our way, we drove through De Pijp, a trendy neighbourhood, and it was bizarre to see just how many people were standing outside of bars, clubs and restaurants. It was a warm night, sure, but people seemed to care little for social distancing.
When we got to the World Class Room we found that it wasn’t empty, but there were a handful of people inside. The place was clearly not going to be able to keep distance between all their patrons, but the bartender who was minding the place didn’t seem to care too much. By that point, I was getting a little tired of worrying about it, and I had noticed the same about a few other people in my group. We decided to stay, and luckily it didn’t take long before the other patrons left and we had the place to ourselves.
It had been a while since I had a decent drink (that I didn’t make myself), so I decided to enjoy myself. People seemed to be in a good mood and I had a few good conversations. My sister was having a good time and I was happy to see she missed her last train which meant she was in for the long haul, which is always mood enhancing.
Eventually, the World Class Room was closing, and in the meantime, Mounir had arranged for us to go to Door 74, where his girlfriend had started her shift around the time that our dinner had ended. People were getting properly tipsy now, and I started to see the carefree attitude take hold of people. Maybe it was also the fact that we had already been together for a couple of hours that made people a little less careful. Whatever it was, it was interesting to see that develop, in others as well as in myself.
When Door 74 also closed, most people went home. Samuel invited us to come back to his place, as he is want to do. Joasia decided to call it a night, so I joined my brother, sister and Bodil for a nightcap at Samuel’s. It a bit before six when I decided I was too tired, and said goodbye to the rest and hopped into an Uber to the hotel.
The next day I had the morning to myself while Joasia went for another one of her appointments. In the afternoon we went to Pikoteo where we sat outside in the sun and had lunch with Lisa and Neil. We had not seen them in a long while and they had decided not to risk it with the dinner the previous evening, so it was really good catching up with them.
At night, Joasia and I went to De Italiaan to have dinner with just the two of us. There, too, we sat outside on the wonderful Bosboom Toussaintstraat. The terrace was arrange rather nicely, with enough distance between the tables. Across the street, however, we noticed another restaurant that wasn’t doing the same. The owner of the place came over to our table and we had a little chat. I told him I was happy to see that they were still open and that they had survived the initial lockdown. He said that he was happy too, but that he wasn’t so sure that they would survive a second lockdown.
He told me that the police was going to be monitoring restaurants more closely and no longer letting them get away with a warning. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Mounir about the warnings Feijoa had gotten for not abiding by the rules, and how frustrated he was that he was the only staff member that seemed to care.
The rest of the night went by quietly. The next day I went to Robin’s in the morning as we had a gaming session for the first time since February. It was unfortunate that Eugenio wouldn’t be able to make it, but seeing as how he was enjoying a much needed break with his partner at the beach somewhere, it would have to do. Richard and Dennis came over and we had a pretty good gaming session, which reinforced to me that while playing over video chat and with a virtual tabletop was pulling us through, it could never replace face to face gaming.
I had the afternoon free and was looking for something to do. It was my plan to go to Hiding in Plain Sight on Monday evening, but I had found out that they would be closing for a summer break as of Monday, so I decided to swing by the bar by myself. Roxanne and Artem were working and the place was empty. It was good to see that they had gotten permission for a terrace outside, so the three of us sat outside chatting. I had two drinks and then it was time for me to head over to dinner with Robin and Luba. We went to Pompstation and we had a lovely meal.
After dinner we were talking about getting another drink and saying hello to Mounir. To my surprise, Robin said that he wasn’t feeling up for it, so Luba and I went together. It was good to spend a little time with her since we had not been getting along as smoothly as I would have liked, mostly due to some unfortunate miscommunication. It proved to be an excellent moment together. Feijoa was quiet, which suited me fine, but as the bar closed a few people stayed until Mounir was done cleaning, including his girlfriend, whom I got to have a chat with.
We joined Mounir and a few others to Law & Order, a relatively new bar that I hadn’t been to yet. I think that may have been a mistake. Apparently it’s a well known bartenders bar, and not for the first time I was confronted with the fact that while I have a few friends that are bartenders, they generally are not my type of people. The bartenders I’ve befriended tend to be the exception rather than the norm, and the norm is loud and vapid.
It was about 2 o’clock when we decided to head out. I’m not entirely sure how Luba did it, because she had to get up for work the next morning. I certainly did not. I did, however, agree to have a breakfast across from our hotel together with Lisa and Neil, which was lovely.
I had another chance to hang out with Moulsari for lunch, and we went to de Hoftuin, and we got to sit outside having lovely food and chat. The evening was boring, BUT…! I did get to have an absolute pile of junkfood. Oh em gee. So good. Before flying out the next morning, we had to fill out a pretty serious form in which we had to explain how and where we would be quarantining. The British aren’t messing around, and even though the situation in England is definitely not looking as good as it does in the Netherlands, it makes me feel better knowing that people are taking it a little more seriously.
The next morning we had an early morning check out, and we made our way to Schiphol. Robin and Luba came to say goodbye before we hopped on the train to the airport, which was really sweet.
What a weekend.