For some reason my mind was back in 2003 the other day. Lately I’ve been sleep deprived, so there’s a chance my brain, at times, actually thinks it’s 2003. Whatever.
Anyway, during the first few months of that year I was studying abroad in London (thus beginning my obsession with the city). If there’s ever an opportunity to be completely free in life, it’s studying abroad in your twenties. Think: no job responsibilities, four days of classes (and by days, I mean a few hours each day), living with friends on someone else’s dime, and usually in a pretty awesome city.
What does one do on three-day weekends when living in a centrally-located European city? Travel to other awesome European cities. My roommate from college, who was “studying” in Italy, and I planned to meet up at some point during the semester, and decided to do so in Amsterdam. We booked flights to the Netherlands for Easter weekend. Good to go.
Here’s when things got ridiculous. Not in a complete shit-show kind of way, but in a totally adolescent I-Don’t-Know-How-To-Manage-My-Life-Yet kind of way. First up, I lost my cell phone the week before the trip. Perhaps it goes without saying that I misplaced it while I was out drinking – remember, the drinking age is a glorious 18 years in Europe.
Many of you can relate to that feeling of waking up from a night out, paranoid that you’re not in one piece. Well, I woke up without a phone, but otherwise unscathed. No big deal. The semester was ending in a few weeks. I could survive without my crappy, temporary, pay-as-you-go cobalt-blue phone. Besides, my roommate knew when I was arriving in Amsterdam. We had communicated all the necessary information to rendezvous at the airport.
Since it’s been over thirteen years since this happened, my memory is a little foggy, but the second hindrance came the morning of my flight. Before leaving I used a payphone to check my voice messages, and received a message from the airline to this effect: Ms. Fenton, your tickets for flight 840 from London Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol have been cancelled due to insufficient funds on the card used to make the purchase.
Note that this was the third time I had overdrawn my bank account that semester.
Immediately, I peaced out to Heathrow. I had no means to contact my roommate, who had already left Italy, so I charged a twice-as-expensive ticket on my emergency credit card for the only available flight to Amsterdam. This flight got me to the Netherlands a few hours earlier than my previous flight. I could do this.
At Schiphol, I walked up the Customer Service desk and sort of explained my situation.
“Can you page a Krista Porcelli* and tell her to meet me at this counter?” I pleaded to an English-is-my-second-language customer service rep. She ended up paging Krista twice, but Krista didn’t show. I scrounged up some change and tried her cell from a payphone (they had those back in 2003). She finally picked up after about forty-five minutes of repeat dialing and way too many Euros.
“I thought I heard my name!” she told me when we connected. “I kinda ignored it, because I wasn’t expecting you for another hour.” Fair enough.
We spent that night at a hotel waaaaaaay outside the city, because it was the only one we could find when we booked the trip. Apparently Amsterdam is a really popular place. The next day is comprised of walking, smoking and eating. Oh, and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
“I feel I should at least walk into a church today,” a high Krista explained, remembering that it’s the holiest day in Christianity. And so, we stood in the entrance of a church for a few minutes before grabbing second breakfast at a random restaurant. Crepes (see below)!
It didn’t strike me how foolish this whole weekend was until later in life. I realized the flexibility to be so irresponsible and somewhat reckless had a very short shelf-life and the more I thought about it, the more grateful I was to have experienced it.
I would now find it appalling to be out of money, without a phone, and alone in a foreign airport. But, a clever somebody once said, “How can I be old and wise if I’m never young and crazy?” These days I’m feeling more old than young, but I’m happy to report my life’s in order. Still, I’m glad to think back to my younger years, to the ridiculousness, that I will be laughing about until the day I die.
*name has been changed for privacy