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The State We're In

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Public phones are OVER

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The Seven Kilometre Walk to find a public phone in Mississauga was about making plans with a mobile phone user on the assumption that at the convenient time, I would be able to find a public telephone, and make it work.

The assumption is that public telephones are plentiful and easy to find, and that they are easy to use even by a foreign devil, and that they are functional.

None of this is true anymore, but nobody except us tourists have noticed, because all residents have mobile phones, and don't need them.

My plane took an extra hour to fly to Frankfurt from Toronto, so I missed the connecting flight to Amsterdam and had to wait three hours in a smoke-friendly airport. The plan was to phone Helen using a public telephone if anything changed, AND to meet her.

I tried six phones at Frankfurt airport, and failed to make them work. I even had my guidebook helpfully tell me that "00" was the international dialling prefix. I was able to find some flight attendants supervising the boarding of a plane, and after they were finished, they kindly helped me with the phone. It turned out that the phones needed my credit card jammed very forcefully into the slot, almost to break-point. However the phone worked, and I was soon talking to Helen in Amsterdam.

Here is where its evident that I should not be travelling alone while I'm brain damaged from Ciguatera poisonng, despite the help provided by hydrocortisone.

After explaining my new flight would arrive in Amsterdam at 5:30pm, I agreed to use a public telephone in Amsterdam airport to phone her again on arrival, to coordinate actually meeeting up with her. I was not sharp enough to catch the reliance on public phones in yet another country. I should have asked her to meet me at the airport, after phoning Lufthansa to check my arrival was on time.

The flight touched down in Amsterdam at 5:30pm. None of the public phones worked with cash or my credit card, and the internet terminals had misaligned touch screens. I even managed to get an English operator on the line, only to be told he believed my credit card was invalid, only three hours after I'd successfully used it in Frankfurt. The one Euro coin was rejected by every phone I tried. I was getting tired, and actually forgot to remove my $10 palm from the top of my suitcase after checking the phone number again, and it went clattering to the hard tiles. Luckily they made them hardy in 1999, and it survived intact. However I found that the Metro program I had proudly loaded up with an Amsterdam public transit route finder, did not have Der Haag HS in its database, just the very different station Der Haag CS.

I followed the ticket seller's instructions and went for the train. I was directed up and down the lifts for two hours and tried more non-working phones before my train finally arrived.

An earlier train had a sign saying it was only for "reserved passengers", I made the mistake of asking an American couple what that meant, and was not only told that I was not allowed to board the train because I had 2nd class tickets (they proudly showed me their airline-like 1st class tickets), but hustled my luggage and myself into a lift before I could think to complain that I would risk getting on the train anyway. The experts who had never been to Amsterdam before were "helping me", while maintaining their privilege of 1st class travel.

At 7:40pm, the "international" train arrived. I wasn't certain that I was allowed to ride it, and wasn't certain that it would release me at DenHaag HS, merely because that was a name on the list of destinations. I had been travelling for 15 hours and awake for more than 24 hours. I risked it, and had to wrangle my two suitcases, backpack and cooler onto the train. Because this journey started in August, and ends in October, I had to pack a heavy suitcase with a representation of a year's wardrobe. Of course would never have travelled in this condition if I'd known I would be travelling alone.

I met up with Helen at the Den Haag HollandSpoor station at 8pm. Luckily she'd guestimated when to show up when I didn't call.

So I spent 2 1/2 hours trying to phone Helen and get on the right train. Partly because it isn't documented anywhere that in order to use an Amsterdam phone number from within Amsterdam, you have to put a "0" in front. Partly because the phones don't accept valid credit cards or euro coins, despite signage saying that they do. Partly because I'm too slow to verbally defend myself from pushy people while my brain is fried.

I went home with Helen, and we got some food. I slept soundly, with no burping at all. This is wholly remarkable as I have not slept without overcoming long periods of burping for nearly two years. I put this down to the magic Coriolos mushroom capsules I've started taking.

Yesterday we slept in and went grocery shopping, and watched TV.

Today, jet lag and reaction to leaving Toronto alone have set in, and I slept all night, woke at 9am to wave Helen goodbye, and then slept on and off until 5pm. Then slept some more.

Its Emma's birthday today, and while I was able to contact her successfully by email, I don't have the code for affordable Canadian telephone calls while Helen is out tonight, and I can't run up her phone bill. It would have been nice to talk with her on her birthday.

Hopefully Emma will phone me, although she's caught lurgi while snagging the apartment in Toronto she wanted, so she's likely not feeling like it, and its her day.

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