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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rule Breakers [2of 2]

At the crossing, at the end of the street, I saw a tram arriving at it's stop. I knew now where I was and it would be quite a walk to reach an area that I liked better... Why not, I thought and picked up my speed. Not too much... there's a tram in the direction of the station every couple of minutes, so there's no point in running like mad to catch a tram. The driver however patiently waited and let me hop on. I thanked him and took a seat. I didn't even check the line number. “Second stop” I said to myself. “No matter what stop it is, I'll get out and continue my impro tour of Amsterdam.”
I felt a bit disappointed when I found myself at the Leidseplein, but this time I stuck to my plan. This square is always humming with activity and completely surrounded by large cafes and restaurants. All too obvious, not the kind of small adventures that I'm looking for. I left the square as quickly as I could, taking one of the smaller streets. 
Grotere kaart weergeven

I had left the park, so I was entitled to my cup of coffee, but it wouldn't be in this street I concluded. It held only restaurants offering food from all corners of the world. Japanese, Brazilian, Argentinian and a multitude of supposedly Italian restaurants. It was just after three, but they were all beginning to serve warm meals on the tiny narrow terraces. Waiters were standing outside, watching people walk by. I guess they are supposed to attract customers, a custom I never understood. The ready-made look is more appalling than welcoming to me.
My stomach reminded me that I had taken a tiny and early lunch. Maybe I should look for a restaurant that still served pistolets or sandwiches. After having checked out some of the menu's, this idea was given up. For this street anyway. As I walked on I tried to recall which streets on my way to the station could have one of those typical “brown cafes” that would serve just those items.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed a pair of dark brown ones. They belonged to a waiter of yet another Italian restaurant. I wanted to ignore his look, but he didn't let go, he asked me a question with his eyes... I shrugged to tell him no. He shrugged too. “Have it your way” it said. What was happening here? We were having a private conversation, no matter how short. I slowed down. Halted. And turned. “Why not?” I thought and asked if he could serve lunch for, while being pretty sure it wasn't on the menu. 
He said I could and invited me in. Presenting me the dinner menu....  it took some explaining in broken english on both our sides before I finally got what I wanted: an off the menu lunch, befitting someone who likes to stay off route in her life whenever she can.  Life's a journey, not a guided tour right?

After a great lunch... big enough for dinner... it was time to pay up. This time comes always, whether stay on or off  the menu. The risk of off the menu meals is... you don't know how much you will be charged. But at this restaurant, Porto Carrara, they were real modest, more than fair. I was prepared to give my kingdom for such delicious capuccino's. Yet I had to pay even less than ten euro!
NonchalantIy I drew my bank card from my wallet. I only carry enough cash with me to pay for the use of a toilet. Emergency money. I saw the boss frown at the waiter. I couldn't pay by bank card, the waiter explained. I waved my credit cardquestioningly. The men shook their heads. "Is there a cash machine nearby?" I replied.
"And then you'll come back to pay?" the waiter completed my plan. Of course, that's how we do things in the small town I live in. He nodded in agreement and explained to his boss. But this man frowned even worse. Started an argument about me leaving behind my identity card -or was it some other card?-  In a language that was definitely not italian. The outcome was that the waiter walked with me to the cash machine. It was still early, no customers besides me, so he could be spared. While we walked the length of the narrow street, the waiter, greeting a great number of colleagues at other restaurants, shrugged. "My boss wanted you to leave your credit card with him." The waiter was against such distrust and had talked his boss out of it. "So stupid," he went on shaking his head, "taking no risk over such a small amount of money."
"You're right." I gave a short laugh. "When you don't take risks, you rob yourself of good experiences." The owner of the restaurant had just robbed himself of experiencing the honesty of another human being. He didn't believe in honesty and missed out on proving himself wrong. 
The waiter, Bruno, nodded agreeing wholeheartedly. He didn't need my explanation. He had taken risks: he came from eastern europe a month ago to start over in my country. Already knew a lot of people who were obviously fond of him. He drew customers to the restaurant by breaking the rules: daring to go off the menu.

The owner had eyes that watched... making sure he wouldn't get hurt. Shutting out life.
Bruno, his waiter, had eyes that see. They saw me walking by and recognised me as a fellow rule breaker. We communicated without words, got to know bits of eachother and had one of life's small adventures. The positve experience of meeting Trust and Honesty.  

Trust and Honesty... they go off the menu too you know. They are rule breakers themselves! 

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