It has been a long day's night. Work in Boston, Logan shuttle to JFK, 8 hours to Schiphol, we emerge blinkingly into early morning Amsterdam dragging suitcases we are eager to
dump for the day. We spend 20 sleep- jagged minutes trying to get the train ticket kiosk to accept our non-chip credit card for a one- way to Centraal Station and when it finally does, we grab the ticket and run for the train.
We enjoy the fast ride to the busy train station and find the left luggage room fairly easily. Turn left and keep walking, when you arrive at a locker room that oddly resembles the one in which you left your junior high gym clothes you're in the right place. Although it is only 9 am there are a limited number of lockers and desperate crowds hot on our heels. We commandeer two lockers; a his and hers. There are only two sizes in lockers here, mini and small. The absolutely last thing I want to do is to take out half of my painfully packed belomgings to shove in one locker and the other half in locker number two. His fits. Mine appears not to but after some serious shoving it is (perhaps permanently) wedged and the door closes. Italian and Russian and Japanese voices are echoing similar challenges. Whomp, clank.
In order to keep the door closed we have to navigate the exact order of events on the mini-screen that electronically deducts key fare from our credit card. It takes us ten minutes to convince the machine to speak to us in English, although we would be fine with a universal picture demo. I press a button and we get sent back to Dutch. The locker room nearly empty when we arrived is now full of sweaty tourists speaking a milllion languages, trying to do what we are trying to do--lock the door on our suitcases.
We, like our tired tourist brethren expostulating in tongues at the inanity of what makes these things work, are getting cranky. Looking over my shoulder and hoping there are no webcams or patrolling gym teachers, I kick my locker. It closes, hurrah. Now to make it lock.
Tom, still navigating the tiny computer screen which is telling us to do something but as it is in Dutch we are clueless about what the something might be, starts randomly hitting the screen. This is highly unusual behavior for him as he generally takes a more logical approach to problem solving. I am leafing through our Lonely Planet Amsterdam looking for guidance or translation. It is now steamily hot as frustrated tourists stuck in locker room limbo impatiently raise the temperature with bouts of exclamation and what are clearly other attacks by Luddite on machine. Thump, thump, curse.
Heres' what we finally figure out:
1. Find locker room (by left luggage). Get there first.
2. Secure empty locker (good for only 36 hours and Not Cheap at 7.80 Euros a day)
3. Put (squash) bag in. Close door.
5. Look at screen which asks for credit card. Whoops.
7. Realize it is really, really hot so while bag is out, put sweater in. Stuff bag back in locker.
8. Close door.
9. Look at mini-screen until locker number shows up. Hit language button for English a lot and when that doesn't work, just hit buttons until one works.
10. If locker number does not show up on screen enthusiastically open and close locker door for a while which will work both to alleviate stress and might possibly jog the brain behind the mini-screen.
11. Locker number shows up. Put card in card reader and press OK (apparently OK in Dutch means OK) twice. Get ticket and receipt.
12. Write down locker number. Put ticket receipt carefully away.
14. Cross street, go down to canal and eat pancakes instead.
Alternatively for those traveling on by plane there are roomy lockers at Schiphol OR we discovered, we could leave bags at big museums or at the Dam Square Bijenkorf Department Store (by tram 4,9,16,24, 25 to tram stop Dam) or at some Rijwielshop (Bike Shops). That all changes in high season when, like bikes in Amsterdam--there are only so many places to stash your stuff.