OK, not really–but I was locked in, and the cops were involved.
Monday night, I’m out biking around the north side of Amsterdam, on my way to a friend’s for a birthday party, starting around 8pm. I’m running late, but I happen to be right near a restaurant I wanted to check out. So I make a small detour over to this Aambeeldstraat on the map, only to find the “straat” is actually a big warehouse zone, right on the water.
So I bike in and scope out the restaurant. It’s closed. It looks cool, though. I take a couple of photos of the harbor, because the light is nice. Then I bike back out.
Or almost. A gate–which I hadn’t even noticed when I came in–is locked in front of me.
While I’m poking around, inspecting the realness of this gate and the true degree of its lockedness, two dudes amble up.
“Hey, the Hotel de Goudfazant–is it in there?” one asks.
“Uh, yeah. But it’s closed. And I seem to be locked in here,” I reply.
“Huh,” they say, politely wrinkling their brows with faux concern, and amble off.
I spend the next 15 minutes inspecting the perimeter: barbed wire all the way around, except for the water. I contemplate climbing up a big stack of pallets and jumping over the fence–but that only leads into another locked-looking zone. I contemplate clambering around the fence where it hits the water–but of course it’s protected with a vertical line of nasty metal spikes, just a bit farther out than the length of my arms. I wave hopefully at the security cameras. I also contemplate the teeny-tiny sign–way inside the gate–that mentions the closing time of 8pm on Mondays. And I call the number on the sign, but no one answers.
I call my party hosts.
“Happy birthday! Oh, and, see, I’m going to be a little late…”
I explain my situation, hoping they might be able to come grab me with a boat–if I were committed to swimming out, I could just jump in the harbor and go. But they’re wrapped up with the party, so they give me the non-emergency number for the police.
Guess what? It’s an 0900 number–meaning it costs 10 cents a minute to place the call! Hilarious. I guess it really cuts down on kids calling and asking the operator if his refrigerator is running.
The operator warns me that “it’s a busy time” (has a gang war erupted in Amsterdam? are 800 cats stuck in trees all over the city?), but the cops will come.
The sun starts to sink in the waaaay southwest. The wind is getting chilly. I’m wondering why I actively took those bananas out of my bag, why I wore such impractical shoes today, why I always feel compelled to get one last thing done before getting to any appointment. I take a few melancholy photos of my golden-hour prison, and look wistfully at a tugboat chugging by, just far enough away that I can’t see the pilot and mime-plead with him to rescue me.
Finally, the cops arrive, a young guy and an older woman, in a tiny, efficient car. They are amused and concerned.
“You present a bit of a problem,” the young guy says.
“Yes,” says the woman. “It’s not just you, but also your bicycle.”
I suggest I can leave my bike behind. They look stern and serious. Maybe they think it will be stolen (from behind the locked gate?), or that I am violating a Dutch code of honor. Abandoning a bike is Just Not Done. They declare that we will come out as a package.
Meanwhile, the operator has been rustling up the owner of the restaurant. After I make a bit of small talk with the cops, the operator radios in to say someone is coming over with the keys. More small talk, and then another tiny, efficient car arrives. Out jumps a man covered in plaster dust.
I apologize profusely, the gate is unlocked and the crisis is over. Time elapsed: one hour, 22 minutes.
So, once again, I nobly took a hit for guidebook research. Now I know the number to call for police help in non-life-threatening situations–though I’m not exactly sure that’s something an average tourist will need. But you can bet I’ll be expensing that 50 euro cents I spent on my own call.