Murphy’s Law, Rube-Goldberg Style

My airport saga never would have happened if I weren’t such an overly-efficient freak.

It all started at the laundromat in Amsterdam. I returned, all my hostel luggage in tow, to pick up items from the dryer. Brilliant genius that I am, I saw an opportunity to help my “quick dry” towel  release its shower dampness back into the air. I hung it from the dryer handle while I folded my fresh wardrobe.

Afterwards, I made my way back to my friend Nelienne’s for one last Dutch evening. The next morning – again being such a brilliant genius, not to mention expert houseguest — I realized I could save my hostess some laundry by breaking out my “quick dry” towel. After fully unpacking my entire bag, I concluded said item was still hanging from the dryer handle at the laundromat.


rtw packing list contents

My bag contents inside Nelienne’s North Amsterdam apartment… conspicuously lacking little blue travel towel.

I googled my little heart out, calling all numbers listed for the laundromat from two different phones using every combination of local and international dialing protocol I could find. My results ranged from no answer to no-longer-in-service. Boo.

I now had two choices:
1) Leave early for the airport, swing by the laundromat, hoping the towel hadn’t already been repossessed.
2) Give up on the towel and just buy another one in the U.S. They aren’t cheap, but neither are they expensive.

Well… failing to attempt a towel pick-up would be ridiculously lazy and against my principles. To the laundromat I go!

amsterdam locks bridge canal houses

At least the walk to the washing machines is entertaining and gorgeous!

I should mention here that I’m one of those inexhaustibly hopeful individuals, a side-effect of which is consistent tardiness. I respect schedules, I just also believe that I am a superhero with the ability to accomplish 10 minutes of tasks in 2 minutes.


Bottom line: I left later than I should have for the laundromat. As a result, my pulse raced as my bus arrived at Central station. Do I squeeze in a quick out-and-back foray via tram and arrive at the airport just in time? Or do I ditch the towel and go for the guarantee of sitting placidly at my gate for a solid 45 minutes?

Obviously we do the hopeful thing and hop on the tram!

Obviously Murphy’s Law applied immediately. The usually quick tram was stopped repeatedly by over-sized pedestrian herds, an ambulance parked two inches too close to the tracks, and unlucky timing at traffic lights. My eyes flew from my clock to the blocked tram path repeatedly. I envisioned the journey being equally slow back to Central station. Worst case scenario — I’d get back to Central seconds after an airport train departed, have to wait 15 minutes for the next one, arrive late to the airport, rock up to the check-in desk just after it closed, and miss my flight to Portugal.

scared worried stressed panic

Get. out. of. the. WAAAAAYYY people! I’m going to miss my flight!!!!!    photo: pixabay

My inner MacGuyver worked double time to find a solution. Glancing around the tram, I noticed lots of people with suitcases. A quick look at the transit map showed that we were moving in the general direction of the airport.

A solution?!

I hustled up to the fare collector’s window and asked, “Excuse me, Sir. Does this tram go to the airport?”

He hesitated, then said, “No. Not exactly. You take it to _dutchwordican’tpronounce_, then switch to bus 69 which goes to the airport.”

My inner child leaped for joy. I’m going to make my flight!

little girl kid excited happy elated

Even Muprhy’s Law can’t keep me off that plane! photo: Alexandre Normand

I hopped off, discovered the towel was still at the laundromat (YAY!), and jumped on the next #2 tram.  I asked the new fare collector to  clarify the mystery airport connection stop.

She had no idea.

She radioed the tram driver who also had no clue which stop connected to the airport.


My pulse doubled as I mentally flipped through dozens of scenarios and possibilities. My safest bet, I concluded, was to take the tram to the end of the line. In many places in the world, buses wait at rail transit terminus areas to expand the public transit network. Logically, bus #69 will be waiting for me at the end of the line. Yes. I’m sure that’s what will happen.

Unless”¦ it’s like my tram terminus near my apartment in Croatia. In which case it will just be an empty field where the sounds of crickets chirping break through the heavy silence. Where there is a complete lack of human activity and development. And certainly no onward busses.

tram car old tram car san francisco croatia

End of the line in Croatia… not a taxi, bus, or plane in sight!

Murphy’s Law.

Of course we got to the end of the line in a grassy field. Of course the tram conductor told the few stragglers remaining to get off. Of course we were all confused and wanted to know how to get a return tram. Of course they shooed us off and told us just to wait. Of course eight nerve-wracking minutes later, a new tram opened its doors. Of course my Portugal-bound pilot was probably just finishing his flight plan.

My plan”¦ E, created in the agonizing eight minutes? Take the tram back several stops to a place where I saw a few taxis parked near an empty lot. Hope the taxis are still there. Take taxi to airport.

I would have given my right arm for one of these glorious chariots. Or maybe I'd have given something less dramatic. Like, oh... I dunno... a quick-dry towel?

I would have given my right arm for one of these glorious chariots. Or maybe I’d have given something less dramatic. Like, oh… I dunno… a quick-dry towel?

A backstory tangent — I said at the end of the VIP Bitch post that one of the great things about the Dutch being so organized is that flowing between transport modes is relatively easy. Many transit vehicles basically have a public smartphone on the wall with “Connexxions ” handed to you on a silver platter.

Well, as I practically shook with  nervous tension, I happened to glance at the screen and see  the upcoming stop had a “Connexxion” to bus #69. No way! I was pretty positive that was the number of the airport bus the knowledgeable fare collector told me about. Out the window, I saw the tram stop was in the middle of a concrete plaza. As in not on a road. As in no immediately identifiable bus stops. While  the tram slowed to a halt and the doors slid open, I thought:

Do I take a chance that I’ll be able to find the stop, and that it will be for airport-bound (vs. city-bound) busses? Do I take a chance that it’s the same bus #69, and not part of a different system?

Just before the tram doors closed, I decided the answer was”¦ “of course!”

risk risk taking man jumping off cliff

I’m already “all in.” Why not just keep gambling and tempting fate?          photo: Eric Chan

I leaped onto the platform and listened to the tram clack away. The plaza was completely devoid of human activity — no open store fronts, no pedestrians. Finally, several hundred yards away I spied a tell-tale  transit shelter and hustled over. A man was there with a small child and a duffel bag. I strode up to the schedule, fingers crossed that the #69 runs every 10 to 15 minutes.


Every 30. And I either just missed it or it was about to arrive. I asked the man if he knew my fate. To my delight, Mr. Spanish hottie was also airport bound, and he confirmed the bus would be arriving any second.


victory relief relieved fist pump

Making an international flight… winning an international tennis game… basically the same thing.        photo: johnwnguyen

Yes, I checked in with time to spare, arrived at my gate before the plane doors closed, and made it happily to Portugal.

Do I recommend changing your airport arrival plans and methodology at the last minute? No.

Do I recommend winging it? Well”¦ kind of.

Is this the first time I’ve nearly missed a flight. Oh, hardly.

Do I have dreams almost nightly where my adrenaline races with secret-agent deadlines and risks? Absolutely.

Do I secretly thrive on these situations and unconsciously seek them out? Probably.

Are my days of airport close-calls nearly through? Let’s hope not!  ♣

May 28, 2015


  • September 1, 2015 at 1:27 am

    This is so delightfully fitting that I can only assume you haven’t referenced it due to leading your life having inexplicably not read the best book ever: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Get onto it ASAP woman!!!

    A towel is the most important item a Hitchhiker (or in this case, a backpacker) can carry. You did well securing yours Jema, the risks are always worth it for a towel.

    Towel: The Guide’s Description:

    “Just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

    More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

    • September 2, 2015 at 4:04 am

      You are brilliant and so right. Now I’m completely vindicated for having gone back for the towel. I’m keeping it forever!!!!

  • August 31, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    I just sprang from my seat and cheered when you made your flight! The other diners here at the Churches Chicken in downtown Tucson think I’m crazy! This is your falt. ;)~

    • August 31, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Hahaha… awesome! Glad I could raise your heart rate a bit 😉

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