I was bicycling home from work, during the evening rush hour, when I came to the busy intersection of the Wibautstraat and the Oosterparkstraat. People were pouring out of the Metro station, from the grocery store there at the corner — and, of course, pulsing through the intersection on car, bus, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, and on foot.
But there was one person who stood out in the midst of the crowded scene: a gray-haired man, walking across the Wibautstraat’s six lanes of traffic, wearing nothing but a navy-blue terry-cloth bathrobe and white sneakers.
The scene was interesting enough, in and of itself. But I was especially interested to observe the reactions — or actually, the lack thereof — on the faces of the others on the scene. The man himself was walking along very casually — not at all self-conscious. But oddly enough, no one else at the intersection seemed to notice anything unusual at all. They were all just anxiously watching the traffic light, waiting for their cue to go home, or talking on their mobile phones, or staring blankly ahead. I felt like I was the only one who noticed.
Such is life in Amsterdam. The extraordinary is ordinary. The unusual is usual. And men in bathrobes-and-sneakers are, well, just men.