Monday, January 17, 2005


Daniel is leaving on Thursday for a week away on business. He will be going to the UK and will be in Amsterdam for the weekend. It’s nearly two years since I was there.

Just this last week I was reminded of the magical Amsterdam summer in 1995 when we were living on a houseboat on the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). My friend Brenda from South Africa came to spend time with us and have a reunion with her daughter Jacqui who had been traveling around Europe for 8 months. In an email I received this week from Brenda, she told me how her cousin Lynn had found a postcard we had written to her from Amsterdam and how hilarious it was. I replied to Brenda and told her that I do recall us writing it, but that the contents escape me.

I think one of the most bizarre experiences I had in Amsterdam took place in the bathroom, loo, w.c., or what ever word best describes the bog to you. For those people who might not have had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam, it is really hard to adequately describe how limited space is in that city. In good weather, cafes set tables up on the sidewalks and it is a treat indeed to sit there and watch the world go by. One such summer day, Jacqui, my newfound friend, a female version of Crocodile Dundee, Carlia, from Australia and I, were sitting and enjoying the sunshine and drinking endless cups of delicious Dutch coffee. I got up and excused myself and headed for the bathroom. The whole café was not much bigger than a parking garage for one car. In the right back corner was the bathroom. If you had not been there before and asked to be directed to this room, you would be surprised as until it would be pointed out to you, you could safely have assumed those doors in fact opened onto a broom closet. Fortunately the volume of the music and conversation would drown out all and any bathroom symphonies.

A few seconds after I sat down, I felt the most excruciating sensation in my armpit or was it my right tit? I had no way of being sure immediately but all I knew was that I was in serious pain. I put my hand into my t-shirt and as my fingertips got to my right armpit, I felt it. The flutter and rrrrrrrr of wings. “Shit!” was all I could think to say and I now realized I had in fact been stung by something that felt larger than a bee. By no means do I consider myself a tall person. Under normal circumstances, sitting in a closet with my pants and underwear around my ankles and my knees touching the doors would not be challenging or uncomfortable. Suddenly, however, I felt the size of a giant and all I knew was that I needed to get my t-shirt off and this flapping, stinging monster out of there and away from my tit. I started lifting my t-shirt off but was really scared of the monster biting me on my face on its way out of my shirt. I had to pay close attention to my elbow movements because free thinking, smoke clouded Amsterdam or not, there was no way I was letting the doors burst open onto a full café with me topless, by this time braless, on the bog, with my pants round my ankles. No one in the café was stoned enough to survive this picture, believe me.

In what felt like an eternity, I freed myself of the t-shirt and as far as I could tell, the flapping monster. I finished up all remaining matters, put my bra and shirt back on, and if I say so myself, sauntered out the closet showing not the slightest sign of having been innocently attacked in possibly one of the most (or maybe second most) compromising positions you could ever find yourself in, in a room the size of a broom closet.

I approached the table, stood there in a well contained state of shock, and explained to my friends that I had just been stung on the tit and that I really needed to get home as a matter of urgency. Home was fortunately a very short distance from where we were. I felt a strong need to call Daniel at work and told him that I was not sure if I was still allergic to bees as I had been as a child. By this time, my tit was starting to feel like it might have been bitten by what could have been an alligator who hung out in the broom closet they had chosen to place the loo in. Let’s not forget people, this was downtown Amsterdam.

Daniel suggested that I get myself to a doctor as soon as possible. I knew there was one a short distance up the canal so Jacqui and I started making our way over there. We got to the house and followed the directions as written on the sign above the door to the basement entrance. There was no-one in the waiting room so we stood at the bar type counter and waited for someone to come out from the back office. A gentleman came through, greeted us and I launched right into it. I lifted my t-shirt, exposed my tit, and informed the gentleman that a bee had just stung me. I was shocked when I saw how my tit had swelled up and the flaming red skin tone lead me to believe there was indeed some kind of allergic reaction taking place. With a gentle smile and a slight frown on his brow, the man said quietly, “You must be looking for the doctor. He lives next door.’ “Oh, really?” I said, “Well, thank you and dowee.” I looked at Jacqui and recall saying something like “I don’t frigging believe that I just walked into some man’s house, assumed he was a doctor, and took my tit out in his living room!”

We eventually made our way over to the pharmacy and returned to the boat with a tube of cream of some sorts. Daniel came flying down the stairs a few minutes after us and was very relieved to find me alive and well. I had survived the loo monster and my tit made a full and speedy recovery.

Just to clarify, “dowee” is a Dutch greeting pronounced do-wee. It’s their answer to “see ya”.