Usually tram 24 and 16 won this race. Sometimes I wondered if anyone on those trams could tell that my loyalty rested with another. Almost every morning tram 25 picked me up; a choice does not even need to exist. My morning commute depended on its punctuality, and at this point, a perfectly timed connection sustained. I almost enjoyed watching the clock until the last minute necessary before leaving my apartment. After a day at work, however, this allegiance falters.
Stepping onto tram 16 and 24 my imagination wondered, acting as a distraction from probably more meaningful internal conversations, to project thoughts onto other riders of tram 16 and 24. In reality, let’s be honest, they probably considered the degree of their hunger or ran through misplaced comments from the day to even notice my presence. Nonetheless, in that moment and in this imagination, they suspected something; as if I were a spy for tram 25 trying too purposefully to appear inconspicuous. The delightful delusions wore off quickly as I sat quietly with my backpack on my lap, my arms wrapped around it, resting, memorized as I watch Amsterdam drift by. A sight that holds so much splendor for visitors usually overlooked by city commuters. Even I forgot sometimes.
The tram sped down the Damark, past the excessive tourist shops and bars: an Amsterdam Today, Teaser for Babes & Beer (according to them of course), Tours & Tickets, the Vodka Museum, and a couple of McDonalds. Marked a no local-man’s land with a supposedly great frites place as its only redeeming quality. The tram bell chimed as it sped past Dam Square and then Kalverstraat, along the way bikers and pedestrians waited for the go-ahead, anxiously piling behind each other as the light turned green. Less foot traffic populated the sidewalk before the roundabout and a stretch of never ending construction interrupted all movement, which, by now, is more of a norm: years not months, according to others, since the project’s initiation. Other grounds throughout the city germinated coincidentally by its seeds with construction at every turn and tram stop, including Albert Cuyp Market.
Did you know it’s “Amsterdam’s famous street market”? Every single time the tram approached this stop, a prerecorded announcement came over the speakers. I usually mocked it like a smart seven year old, looking over to my colleague and remarking, “yep, Amsterdam’s famous street market, looks like my stop,” as I, for whatever reason, tried to get up as the tram rounded a sharp corner. I then crossed the street haphazardly: a zig zag avoiding first taxi, then bike, and finally baby carriage.
Walking down Ferdinand Bolstraat, my mind wondered from shop to shop expecting the same. The same discount video store. The same small computer retailer. The same gelato place…wait a minute. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, perpendicular to a dad and his daughter inside. Leaning over the only thing preventing his little girl from grabbing the gelato herself, a sheet of glass, they made their choices and the two attendants prepared the cups. My steps continued, but faltered as I consider one for myself. It’s late though and my mind continued to project my path down the expected landscape.