The other day I was eating a salad in a diner café. How’s that for an introduction? I stranded there when the rain got too heavy. I’m crazy about salads. Beetroot with goat cheese. Oh boy. With roasted nuts and all. I guess it’s not really relevant, but what is on a Sunday stroll through the city? Well, I’ll tell you. To start with, this was not the most regular café in town. I stumbled upon it when I got to the (really small) red light district. The street the café is in was deserted: there weren’t any prostitutes. Most of the windows had their curtains closed. But some were still open and allowed you to peek inside a mysterious world. Most of the rooms looked like really small, untidy student dorm rooms: a lost bottle of shampoo, a bag of Mentos, a bottle of Sisi. Dirty laundry piled up on the floor (I don’t want to imagine just how dirty). It’s a silent reminder that all people are the same in some ways, though totally different in other ones.
I guess for most things the Dutch have warning signs
Halfway down the street was a regular house, a little note on the door: Please do not stand here, this is our front door. I guess for most things the Dutch have warning signs, and for all the other things they make them themselves. Even unwritten rules are written down. How convenient. At the end of this street was the diner café. It started raining and I hurried inside. This is such a place where people come to drink at noon. Only regulars that seem slightly xenophobic. Perfect. While I was enjoying my salad, this one guy in particular got my attention. He displayed a peculiar pattern: at first he had a full beer. Everything was alright. When he finished the first quarter, he started a conversation with the person next to him. By the time it got half empty, his voice would raise a little, and he’d sort of start to accuse the other of something. With only a quarter of his beer left, things got out of hand and he got mad. You could see the other person cringe. To settle things and keep peace on this lovely Sunday, the accused offered him a beer and tranquillity returned…
Don’t expect me to buy you a beer once you start yelling
He pulled this trick three times while I was eating my salad. By the time I got to paying the bill at the counter, he was next to me while I was waiting for my change. ‘Say, you from around here?’ he asked me. I replied: ‘Sorry, sir, but don’t expect me to buy you a beer once you start yelling.’ He looked at me with puzzled eyes. Two other regulars started laughing and gave me a short nod. I left my change on the counter, turned around and walked to the door. A sign next to it said: Beer! Because no good story ever started with eating a salad.