Marken, The Netherlands

Marken is a fishing community slightly northeast of Amsterdam. It’s a rather unique settlement with no traffic apart from boats docking in the little marina. A quaint little town with cute wooden houses, a few shops, and a few restaurants. One of these restaurants serve typical Dutch pancakes, which perfectly suit our needs for lunch, so we sit down at a table overlooking the marina.

Ordering goes smoothly. Even the execution of the order, which in The Netherlands is far from a guarantee, also doesn’t pose any problem, and we enjoy our meal uneventfully. It’s towards the end of the meal that things take an interesting turn.

A waiter – a boy, probably in his mid-teens – has been given the task of bringing a tray with beer to a table outside. There’s a small staircase connecting the restaurant with the street. The last step of the staircase causes the boy to trip. Somehow he regains his balance enough not to end fall himself, but not well enough to prevent most of the beer to mercilessly fall to the ground. The boy does what most people would not: he remains standing with the tray in his hand, broken glasses of beer strewn all over the floor. Maybe he’s trying to exercise his waiting superpowers to undo it. Maybe he’s applying the fallacy “if I ignore it, it’ll go away”. Or maybe he’s wishfully thinking “if nobody saw it, it didn’t happen”. But given the otherwise quiet village ambiance, it was duly noticed by everyone within sight or earshot of the restaurant. A few kids point at the boy, laugh, and comment. This certainly aggravates him. Yet, he does nothing but stand there, as if paralyzed. A few minutes later another restaurant employee comes to his rescue and cleans up the mess. The boy moves on, as if nothing happened.

We’re about to finish our meal when the same waiter boy calls for my attention. “Are you finished?” he asks. “Almost” I reply. Apparently he interprets my “almost” as a “definitely”, walks over, and starts clearing the table. He brings his beloved – or cursed – tray. With a certain skepticism, having seen him in action with a tray, we lean back and let him do his thing. He starts putting things on the tray but seems to come to the – correct – conclusion that “hmm, this is not going to work”. Logic stipulates that if you cannot balance the tray, you need to re-arrange something. Re-distribute the things causing the imbalance until an equilibrium has been achieved. Or the even simpler solution of carrying fewer items and go more than once? Or how about putting the tray down on the table for support? The waiter boy opts for the very unexpected fourth option. He gives me – the customer – the tray and asks me to hold it while he’s loading it. Perplexed, and amused, I humour him, thinking I might be part of some unprecedented case introducing some waiting technique that will win the boy medals in the Waiting Olympics.

Granted, career opportunities in little Marken are very limited, and with my very limited waiting experience I cannot really judge. If I had to give him career advice though, I would probably tell him to explore his options, and dedicate his life to something else than waiting on people. Some people were simply not born to play the violin…