Man overboard!

Just a little anecdote while I’m on the road… I head to the Ukraine tomorrow, and I’m not sure what will happen there (hopefully fun).

Anyway, on my way to meet my old boss, I had to stop and take a picture of a particular bridge in Amsterdam which has a special meaning to me. It is pictured below:

The story I’ll recount actually took place several years ago. I had just arrived in Amsterdam to prepare for my new job there. My boss suggests, innocently, that we bicycle from the north side of the city to the southern suburbs, about a 40 minute ride.

Now, the Dutch are essentially born on bicycles. They ride them from childhood and can do things on bikes that most of us cannot even fathom (like ride one bike and steer another, riderless, bike at the same time). The city of Amsterdam is a treacherous maze of crazed bicyclists, oblivious pedestrians, aggressive drivers, and malicious tram operators. I hadn’t ridden a bike in 15 years.

Within 5 minutes of starting out, we approached this bridge. A car was on the bridge, coming towards us. If you look at the person in front of the bridge, that meant that there was about 3 feet between car and a canal swim. My postdoc advisor blissfully steered through that narrow gap, leaving me in a near panic. I swerved, wobbled, and veered towards the metal posts on the right side of the picture.

Realizing my predicament, I was faced with hitting the posts, or going over them. I chose the latter, and leapt over the handlebars of the bike into the space beyond. I was fine, much to the surprise of the crowd of Dutch who stopped to check on me and my (now embarrassed) postdoc advisor. I was a bit better on the rest of the ride, but I’ll never forget my first bicycle adventure in Amsterdam. Eventually I became comfortable riding in the city, but I learned two things on that trip:

1. “Once you learn, you never forget” is a bit of a fib.

2. The Dutch are very good on bicycles.

(post updated for clarity)

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