Any one who has been to Holland knows it is a very organized country. Maybe even over-organized. Both the Dutch weather and landscape are quite predictable, as is our infrastructure. Every thing really works quite well all though you would never believe it if you heard my fellow countrymen complaining about the train delays every day.
In some countries they wouldn’t bother to put out an announcement about a delay unless it is several hours overdue. In Holland we organize our days up to the minute which means a 5 minute delay is a big deal.
My job is located right in between two train stations, being The Hague Central and the Hague Holland Spoor. This means I have the luxury of being able to choose which route I take to work each morning and no delay ever really affects my plans for the day. All though I love the variety I always end up regretting it when I decide to start up my day by getting out at the central station. I’ll tell you why.
In the map provided above you can see the two stations marked in red and the area that I work in marked in green. If I choose to walk from the central station I walk through an area with a lot of high government buildings and offices. This is roughly the area marked in yellow. The shops and lunchrooms on these blocks are well adjusted to the many men and women in fancy suits that come buy for a quick coffee or more elaborate lunchmeeting. Wifi and superfoods all around…
People tend to be in a hurry here, and tight deadlines make for short fuses, I guess. When the train pulls in, people squeeze to the door and start pressing on the “open” button even before the train has come to a full stop. When the door opens the rush begins, in quite an unapologetic way. They push their way to the public-transport-check-out-scanners in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way and then click clack click clack their shiny shoes onwards towards their desks. I imagine their is a picture of their children there to remind themselves why they do this every day and some sort of inspirational card on eye-level as motivation.
I am not often in a hurry. On the one side that is because I always get up quite early and on the other side it is because my job doesn’t require me to be in at a very specific time. I also just don’t enjoy the feeling and try to avoid it as much as possible. If fate makes it so that on some morning I end up arriving at Den Haag Centraal station it is what I consider to a bad start of my day, because even though I am not in a hurry myself, the frantic atmosphere there does get to me.
It’s hard to explain how the sound of someone walking can spike someone else’s stress levels. I don’t see the person behind me. I don’t know where they are going or anything else about them. Just the sound of high heels in this determined, short-interval kind of way makes me want to turn around and slap them…. or trip them… or maybe give them a massage and help them relax. It varies. 😉
And there’s not just that one person behind me. They’re all over the place! Some are already getting their caffeine fix (and maybe a muffin) at their favorite coffee house. Some are smoking one last cig before entering the office building. Some are on bikes or even skateboards. And in that little moment in time I am one of them. One of the tiny little insignificant ants pouring out of the ant-hill that is the station. Following the flow. Walking, going, clicking, clacking. No eye contact allowed.
And then there is the other station; Den Haag Holland Spoor, on the other side of the city center. This side of town is more of a residential area (the blue areas in the map above) and some might even consider it to be a bad neighborhood (all though it’s definitely much better than it used to be). It is an area where a lot of immigrants live and the shops and restaurants illustrate this as well. People don’t rush here. They give you their blessings when you sneeze. There might even be some eye contact and an apology when you bump into someone. Either that, or you could get stabbed… at least that’s what people tell me… But I’m hoping that only happens to people with karma issues.
As soon as I walk out of this station and cross the street I am pretty much the only person walking there. The Turkish baker is already open as are the fruit and vegetable stalls. The hair dressers (for all types of hair) are usually still closed when I walk by but the occasional one might be open for the early cabbies or what not.
Sometimes I walk past the mosque where some activity might be taking place depending on the day of the week or time of year. Then I walk through China town where smells, colors and alphabet change again. Everything is still closed. The only shoes you hear are mine. I can also choose to walk another route that takes me past a park and an urban garden area. The last part takes me past the red light district where it is always surprisingly busy…
And then I arrive at work; completely chilled out but very much awake.