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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Fourteenth letter: Vibrating cars and a Fat Controller


Today I experienced genuine frustration at being a none native in the Nederlands.

 During my weekly Dutch lessons, I endure my teacher’s regular looks of pity and notice, although she tries to hide them (bless her) her increasingly, frequent sighs of irritation. Andy might be swayed by my new ability to ask for a table for two or an English menu. But my teacher and I know different. If I’m honest, I’ve been content with my slow progress, after all I’m English, we’re not supposed to be good at languages.  Well, today I’m not content; in fact I wished I could pick up and throw the guttural sounds  around with the natives.  All because of a little rage – car park rage.

Earlier today, I drove down the ramp into our car park, and only just managed to avoid hitting the blue Citroen parked in the middle of the subterranean road.  Initially I was happily tapping to the radio and content to wait for the car to move.  But after 5 minutes, I began growing decidedly twitchy. I tidied my bag, searched the car for chocolate, found none and then, feeling a touch hard done to, nervously beeped my horn. The Citroen started to vibrate, that wasn’t the reaction I expected, had the driver fallen asleep or worse, while I’d been searching for chocolate had a stroke or heart attack. Jumping out of my car, I ran to the blue Citroen; the car looked empty, but then the vibration returned, I peered into the back and spotted a small, blond child fearfully trying to melt into the corner. My imagination ran wild. Had the child been abducted, or worse. I peered closer to see if it was hurt, and it's tiny chin began to wobble, as it shrunk even further into the upholstery. It wasn’t masked abductors the child was afraid of, it was me.

15 more minutes passed during which I tried to manoeuvre around the blue Citroen, but my car just wasn’t having it. Eventually a door opened, and out pottered an old-ish chap carrying a bicycle pump. Finally. He walked up to the Citroen, peered inside then walked off in the opposite direction. I’d been waiting 20 minutes for this old dude and he was going to leave me still waiting while he pumped his bicycle tyre. I couldn’t prevent the loud beep that emerged from my horn.

                The, not so old-ish chap placed his bicycle pump carefully on the floor and slowly turned to face me. I reluctantly wound the window down, in response to the rapping of his knuckles.

It’s very difficult to maintain annoyance when you have to start the conversation with:

 ‘I’m very sorry, I’m a stupid English women and I don’t speak Dutch well.’
‘No problem,’ he replied, ‘ madam with the car, is upstairs with her mother, you will find, I’m sure.’

I used sign language to show I was fine sitting here for another 30 minutes and to apologise for the loud beeping. He smiled, definitely not in a condescending way though.

Reversing space minus Citroen (it looks bigger than it actually is)
15 minutes later the women appeared, mobile phone stuck to her ear. Not even glancing in my direction, she jumped in her car and slammed it into reverse, forcing me to retreat.  I managed to reverse up the ramp on my third attempt, and then some perverse, bitter segment of my brain (Irish part?) drove me to yank the handbrake, cross my arms and glare at the Citroen. I held the glare for oh.. at least 30 seconds, before throwing up my hands and mouthing ‘you selfish woman’ (shocking) and driving off. I had to drive off because I can’t do rage when my opening line is always.
‘I’m very sorry, I’m a stupid English women and I don’t speak Dutch well.’

Later, while nursing my wounds of indignation, the internal doorbell rang, and I opened the door to a man the shape and size of Jaws from the James Bond films, sporting a nifty, navy blue boiler suit and carry a metal box.
Before I had time to begin my ‘I’m very sorry….’
He lifted his metal box and said in a deep voice, ‘Controller.’
I gave my best smile, recited my best line and waited for him to respond –he did.
‘Controller’ he said, this time louder.
I felt a moment of panic, wasn’t this a scene from Se7en, I had a vivid image of my head in a box.
Almost a doppelg√§nger for the man at my door only my one didn't
have blood on his shirt - yet!
The large man gave me a hard purposefulness stare and this time shouted, ‘Controller’.
I had no idea what to do, so, like a woman who’s never listened to the news, read Steven King or watched a horror film I stood back and invited him in.




He seemed to know my apartment, marched through the living room, the kitchen and into the utility room.
‘Controller’ he said pointing.
‘Ah controller’ I smiled as he took the lid of the boiler and began its annual service.

Okay so he wasn't fat, but I couldn't resist the picture.

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