People Watching

Transit is like purgartory on Earth. 

Whether you’re on your way to the next station, or a passenger in your own car, it’s this weird situation where you kinda feel like everyone is watching you, but, like you, they’ve got their own places to be.

Purgatory is definitely what it felt like, waiting at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for 12 hours. I kind of did this voluntarily, but at the same time there was little choice about it. My flight to Rome was at 7am, this means a 5am check-in time. I was staying in Zevenaar, which is an hour from Schiphol, which is another 20/30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal. So, I would need to be on a train at 4am, at the latest. The only train that would arrive before 4am left at 2am. I’m not keen on asking family to go much out of their way for me, and I’m not keen on changing trains/platforms at that time of night. The next option would be to stay somewhere the night before. As mentioned earlier, the distance between the actual city and the airport means only airport hotels are nearby, and we all know they charge through the roof. Upwards of $320NZ to be precise. I wasn’t keen on looking for a hostel to stay in due to the inconvenience of not having a wake up call nor shuttle service etc. So the decision is made to just wait it out at the airport. It was a bad one, but not the worst. Something like purgatory.

​Waiting at Arnhem for a train, I use my hands to ask a girl if I can sit next to her. I thank her in Dutch and she starts talking to me in Dutch like I passed for a native! I mean, it’s not like it’s a long word or something, and you can say it pretty fast, but it is the only thing I have been making a point of actually saying in Dutch every time I’ve needed to. I quickly switched to English and said sorry and she was happy to exercise the language centre of her brain and chat for a while. It was nice. In the end we wished each other well, her on her music production internship and me in my travels, and then waved and made faces at each other as her train pulled away from the station.

I get on my train from Zevenaar to Amsterdam Schipol, and at 6.27pm a guy sits next to me and cracks open a can of Heineken and a pottle of pringles. Hard Friday at the office, friend? Haha, oh the life. It’s always so strange seeing how more relaxed rules are for some things but not others in other countries.

We stop at Utrecht Centraal and I watch a guy on the platform strapping a little fish skateboard to his backpack. He’s fumbling around, looking like he’s never done it before. The wheels are brand new – no signs of wear – and the underside is covered in gloss, nice and fresh. Note: it’s raining today. This guy did not ride this board to the station. I laugh to myself while he swaggers off looking “cool”, and our train pulls away from the station.

In Schiphol, I take a photo of two people standing close who are in different entourages, male and female, wearing the same shirt. I get a giggle out of it.

I slowly order a coke, and then some bitterballen, and then a hot chocolate at the Heineken bar in the airport. I start falling asleep while I’m sitting there reading so move to some hideously uncomfortable airport seats and get 2 interrupted hours of sleep. I check upstairs for better seats, having previously gone upstairs to get through security early as the massage spa and sleeping pods are on the airside of check-in and got told I can’t, but not taking note of seating arrangements there. It’s worse, so I sneak back into the Heineken bar (open 24hours) but the waiter catches me and asks if I’d like another hot chocolate. He remembers. I’m being people-watched. He probably saw me aimlessly walk past 3 times when I was doing loops, too. Not hard to miss with my bright red backpack.

So, I suffer through with a burger for breakfast and another coke (they don’t serve tea, only coffee, I cry inside)

I meet some Americans from Oregon, because when they sat down next to me the husband got up for a wander and the wife said in her thick drawl “you’re just gonna get lost” and 10 minutes later I saw him wandering around,  practically circling exactly where we were, but never connecting with his wife. I tap her on the shoulder and point to him asking if he’s lost, and she calls him over and we all laugh. We chat, and I leave to board my flight to Rome.

I slept through that flight completely (yay! Getting used to transit sleeping!) even after the surly looks from people who were told to stuff their handbags into their carry on due to only being allowed one item, while I stood brazenly with my two items in priority boarding thanks to the upgrade I purchased (having read all the carry on restrictions and knowing full well I’m not getting anything else into my backpack).

In the train station, while swiping my ticket to get onto the platform for boarding, a lady behind me asks for help reading her ticket. I try to decipher it with her and we come to the same conclusion but she thanks me by apologising for asking me in the first place, I just seemed to know what I was doing. I laughed and told her that’s how you have to get around to stop local guides hassling you. We chat easily, I save her a seat on the train, and that turns into a hilarious ride.

We sit across from a Dutch couple, with the wife originally being from Malta, and we all talk like old friends who haven’t caught up in years. We talk politics, with Sally from the platform being from America, and we talk about how slow this supposed “express” train is going. We poke fun at each other, and chat about our families. The 54minute ride felt like 10, and suddenly we’re singulars again.

The city of Rome greets me with rain. Big, fat, droplets of rain. It soaks me through in 20 seconds, so I wait in an alcove until someone walks past selling umbrellas and keep making my way to my hostel.

It’s really nice. Quiet, empty at the moment I think. I saw a girl checkout this morning, and another girl is sitting in the common room but she has all her packed bags at her feet. I have first pick of the bed in my room. Everything is really clean, the shower pressure is great, and the patio is adorable.

Honestly, I want to nap. I’ve flown halfway across the world to do what I would have been doing at home with the same time off. Reading and sleeping and eating.

But, its been a busy day and I do have plans set up for this week, and a small list of things to do tomorrow, and I have to go out again later for dinner, so maybe I can have a rest.




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