Planes, Trains & Automobiles (Part 3)

March 12, 2007 at 12:21 pm 6 comments

peter_stringfellow.jpg

One-Armed Bandits

What is it with Rotterdam in the Netherlands and one-armed taxi drivers?

During one job with the Company I had to spend typically 3 days a week in Rotterdam. Which is a bit like spending a 3rd of your life in Stoke. Not that I have anything against Stoke in particular – it has a half decent multiplex cinema with a popcorn design on the carpet (although I suspect that that is not deliberate but a consequence of poor cleaning and the bad manners of the local inhabitants of the Potteries) – but I wouldn’t choose to spend 3 days of my life there every week either!

And so I became a Diamond Cardholder in the local Rotterdam Hilton hotel loyalty programme. Which reminds me…….I noticed, when checking in last night, that female hotel receptionists bring out much the same reaction in me as air stewardesses (see my earlier post). Which made me also think of a similar reaction when I was 16 or 17 and totally infatuated with the Avon lady (ding dong) who used to sell cosmetics to my mom at the door and flirt with me furiously. She looked great all smartly dressed and made up, and could turn this hormonal teenager into a blushing frenzy of sexual fantasy. (My dad liked her too). It is that whole uniform, make-up and sparkly smile thing. I must be spending too much time away from the missus and in the company of my own right arm! And speaking of right arms……

avonThe Hilton is just a 10 to 15 minute walk away from the office. I always walk to the hotel when I leave the office but, because I am inherently lazy and free with the Company’s money, I always jump in a taxi outside of the hotel in the morning to go to the office. I justify this to myself that a) it gets me to work some 3 to 5 minutes earlier, b) I have luggage with me, c) I don’t want to get wet/catch cold/get sweaty while walking, and, d) I’m worth it. Actually given my lack of exercise (other than walking the length of Schiphol airport twice a week) it is probably a health and safety thing – the walk could kill me.

Invariably I get the same taxi driver. A fifty-something, one-armed, ancient rocker. He looks like an escapee from a Status Quo tribute band (or Golden Earring for the Dutchies). He is not unlike Peter Stringfellow. He has long, grey flowing locks combed back so as to look wind-swept, and, to hide the bald spot on the back of his head. He listens to a Dutch radio channel that is trapped in a time warp somewhere around the beginning of the 1980s – all rock ballads and Scandinavian groups singing in bad English. And, more importantly, he has no right arm.

It actually took me quite a time to notice that he had no right arm. Well, I am not at my best first thing in the morning, especially after a typically sleepless night in a hotel. The things I have heard through hotel walls! And, oh for a hotel with a decent air conditioning system – one which actually controls the temperature without spitting, gurgling, banging, humming, and rattling all night long. Thinking about it, maybe I can just hear next door’s air conditioning through the hotel walls! No I didn’t notice his lack of limb at first because he has a poor man’s prosthetic. I say “poor man’s” because this is clearly nothing prescribed by the Dutch health system, which I am led to believe is quite generous with such things. This is more the kind of thing that you would expect to see on a bonfire night’s Guy. It looks as if he has stuffed his shirtsleeve with straw and attached a rubber dolls hand at the end. At first I thought he was just a bad driver – he tends to take the corners quite wide – and too surly to be bothered to help with my luggage, but then I noticed (well I work in security and am quite observant with such things) that he only ever had his left hand on the steering wheel, and, there was always a look of slight panic if his mobile phone rang while he was not on a straight bit of road.

Never mind, he has not killed me yet. Or anyone else to my knowledge.

Actually I am generally quite pleased to see him in the morning as he is one of the few drivers that accepts my request for a lift to 22 Blaak with good grace. You see, these guys often have to wait outside of the hotel for quite some time (the central railway station being within easy walking distance, even with luggage) and are rather hopeful of bigger fares, such as to the airport or to the Hague, Amsterdam, etc. My quick trip round the block is hardly worth their while. However, Mr One-Armed Rocker knows that I tip generously with the Company’s money and will get my own bags out of the boot……

Imagine my surprise, however, when I left the hotel one morning and found Mr One-Armed Rocker stood waiting with two other taxi drivers and they had just 3 arms between them? I am glad to say, however, that they did have one upper limb each (but not necessarily the same one). I think that being driven around by a guy steering with his teeth, or, Heaven forbid, his bare feet, would be too much for me in the morning.

Rotterdam must have a club for them – One-Armed Drivers R Us. Or the local council must offer special incentives to attract people with specific disabilities. Well, at least it explains why Rotterdam has traffic lights on every junction (which is bloody frustrating!) – it is to slow these guys down sufficiently so that they can never get up to killing speed when taking the next bend a little too widely!

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Planes, Trains And Automobiles (Part 2) Shameless

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. oonai  |  May 8, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Comparing Rotterdam to Stoke. Retard!

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  • 2. Middle Man  |  May 12, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Dear “oonai”,

    Being a “retard” I do not quite get your meaning. Are you aggrieved on behalf of Rotterdam or Stoke?

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  • 3. Tony  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    This whole essay was an educational experience for me. Thank you for your good graces. Rotterdam and Stokes.

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    • 4. Middle Man  |  May 8, 2009 at 8:18 am

      Tony, thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment.

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  • 5. LO:Ci  |  May 8, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    hey Mr. Middle Man,

    thanks for your comment, but unfortunately I don’t agree very much with you, I still think Rotterdam can teach any city in the UK an awful lot!

    cheerio!

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  • 6. weelmilky  |  December 31, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    C наступающим Вас! Пусть Ваши мечты сбудутся!

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