Except this one's not down by the harbour in Amsterdam. It's in Schipol airport. And they've left off the Red Rose part and settled for Amsterdam Cafe. But it looks and feels exactly like the one in the song. It's hard to believe that it's inside an airport.
For the record, the date is 12th July, 2007. The time is 6 am or thereabouts. (I don't usually wear a watch, so no reason why I should do it now when it involves listening intently to garbled stewardess announcements about local time, one hand poised tensely over the screw to change my time and getting it wrong anyway. Airports have clocks.)
I can't believe that I'm actually in Amsterdam. You'd think believing that would require a leap of faith anyway, considering that all I'm in is another airport. But this airport has a vibe that can almost be called character. People seem relaxed, as if they were here by choice and not because an airline dumped them here at an ungodly hour to suit someone else's convenience.
I'm relaxed too. The famous Schipol Airport, stuff of myth and legend, giant hub of the travelling world, seems surprisingly small and manageable. Or I had dramatised and exaggerated the putative dangers as usual.
I'm the shortest person here, except for some eight-year-olds. Not all, just some. I'm also the fattest person here - America had better make up for this. The Dutch are a good-looking people. They're also an easygoing people.
There are no gas chambers here - only the Dutch would create a smoking section that's an open, comfortable space. In Dubai Airport, the smokers are losers. Here, they're shiny, happy types.
Watching people come and go, I noticed another interesting difference. Sitting in Dubai Airport, you notice - with envy - what people are wearing or carrying. Here, you cannot remember the details of what anybody's wearing, but I notice - with envy - how well they're wearing it. I just correctly identified some passengers as being Turkish and am feeling vaguely pleased at this sign of cosmopolitanship. You can also tell who's waiting to connect to a transatlantic flight by the way they light their cigarettes. They use matches. It's useless to bother with lighters only to give it up at this end and go hunting for another at the other end.
Also, how do people fall so easily into conversation with strangers? A pleasant hello is all that I'm willing to contribute. I find I've gravitated towards the only other Indian here. Now we're sitting at neighbouring tables and ignoring each other, while saying good morning to everyone else. In my defense, I did look at him but he ignored me first. He's wearing a t-shirt that says some Association of Umpires. Maybe he's famous in the cricketing world and ticked off at not being recognised. Anyway the Dutch guy on the other side is much better looking.
I suppose I should take out the camera I just bought and learn how to use it. I still have three hours to go.
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