March 15, 2020
So here we are! We finally made it to the last day of our vacation in Amsterdam although; I truly do not call it a vacation. I prefer to call it Millie and Peg’s excellent adventure because there was no resting involved in this nor would we have wanted there to be. There was always just too much to see and do and believe me, we did as much as time would allow! I have to add, we did more than I could have imagined, despite the few cancellations due to COVID-19.
On our last day, we slept in a bit but Millie was hankering for another American breakfast. Considering the last time we’d been to The Breakfast Club, they closed early due to the virus, we had to find an alternative so I began to Google. Low and behold, I found a place named Bakers & Roasters. This place is billed as a New Zealand style café but they had so many breakfast options that we could not pass it up. Off in the Uber we went!
Forgetting it was Sunday, when we got there the place was pretty jammed packed. The hostess was pleasant and led us to a table in the back which was 3 small tables pressed end to end and on each end was couple sitting opposite each other. We were seated opposite each other as well, between the two couples. Immediately, Millie was not feeling the close quarters but again, my gut instinct kicked in and I said, “Come on, we’ll be fine.” Of course this time, my gut instinct was in the positive and not the negative.
To my right was a young couple who was very quiet and seemed to not notice anyone next to them. On the other side was an adorable couple who were actually having a photo snapped by the waitress right after we sat down. As we had been doing all week, Millie and I whipped out our antibacterial wipes and proceeded to wipe down the entire area where we were sitting. By this point, we didn’t give a rat’s ass who liked it: if anyone was offended by our extra precautions too bad. We’ve been on home quarantine for 13 days now and both of us are still well so apparently we managed to stave off any unwanted germs successfully.
Latte Macchiatos, water and oh my bloody Mary’s to die for were our starters and the food was incredible. Again, we didn’t have a single bad meal in Amsterdam…at least not yet anyway. This restaurant was so cheerful. The atmosphere, the staff, the food, the drinks, the people—I honestly cannot say enough about it. The next thing we know as we’re eating, a conversation is struck between us and the adorable couple to my left. He was as cute as could be and his wife was absolutely beautiful…I mean model quality.
They were on holiday from London without their children and quite happy to get some alone time. However, he gushed about their adorable babies as he showed us photos of them and told us he missed them, as mom shared that she was happy for the respite. Of course being moms, we understood and we all had a few giggles. The man is a microbiologist and the woman is an electrical engineer. They told us about their home in England and how expensive everything is there. It was so nice to meet them and we really enjoyed getting to know them a bit.
After this delicious feast, off we went to explore yet another area on foot. It was a nice day so we wandered about, up and down streets and unfortunately, we began to notice a trend of shops closing. Not only were some closing early but many were already closed. We were a little disappointed because it was our last day but we did have our dinner cruise to look forward to that evening so after a couple hours, we made our way back to the hotel for a rest and a long, amazing, soul baring conversation that we both didn’t even know we needed. It was wonderful to be able to just be alone and talk about life, love, children, friends and just anything and everything. We shared a lot in those couple hours and it was perfect.
Upon our arrival at the hotel we noticed the lobby was completely empty. We knew a lot of people had only come in for the weekend but this was very peculiar as there were always young people milling about, using the kitchen and laundry or just sitting in the communal area on laptops or having a coffee. Apparently the hotel had started to strictly enforce the signs they’d put up a few days earlier that no one seemed to want to abide by. Millie approached the desk and asked if they could call to check on our dinner cruise. They called but there was no answer so they told us they would try again in a bit.
About an hour later we went back downstairs as hostels do not have telephones in the rooms, to ask if they would call again which they did and again, there was no answer. We decided to go ahead and get ourselves gussied up for the cruise anyway because we figured had it been cancelled, they’d have made some attempt to reach out to us to let us know. While we waited for our Uber to arrive, Millie even called her sister in law in the states who had set up the dinner cruise and she hadn’t heard anything either. We decided to ride down there and see what was up. After all, we were already dressed and ready so if our plans fell through, we’d try to find something else to do for dinner.
When we reached the boat dock, Millie was still on the phone with Cathy. We left the Uber and walked down to the pier where we were met by a young lady who appeared to work for the cruise line. She was very apologetic and explained to us that the government had ordered all establishments to close at 6:00pm so they had to cancel. She continued to apologize for not notifying us.
Chilly but thinking we could surely find something open where we could at least get dinner to go, we walked for several blocks and then realized we were in the red light district. I have to laugh here because that really wasn’t where we wanted to be considering what had happened the last time we were there. Everything was closed. The coffee shops were open but even the marijuana customers had to wait outside and they were only allowing one person in at a time to get their weed.
Eventually, we found our way out of that area and came upon a cheese and sandwich shop. The lady inside was very nice and we managed to snag some food. By this point we were starving because we hadn’t eaten since brunch so everything in the store looked good to us. I chose a pannini sandwich and Millie chose a sort of pizza bread. We hopped in an Uber and headed back to the hotel. Hoping we could at least get a latte, we were again disappointed to find out the bar was closed indefinitely. No more Jan. No more lattes. No more nuttin. We settled on drinks from the vending machine and some peanut M&M’s and malted milk balls.
So, there we were, our last night in Amsterdam having a pajama party in our room with a TV that worked when it felt like it, our now nearly cold food, some candy and each other, camped out in bed talking about our trip home and what an incredible trip we’d had. Neither of us was in any hurry to leave up until this point. Now, with COVID-19 having closed everything down, we figured it was good that we were going home and that if we had to suffer this, we’d rather suffer it in the comforts of home.
March 16, 2020
We’d decided to get up early and try to find a place that had food or at the very least, coffee. We had packed most of our things the night before and had showers so this morning was only a matter of hopping into our laid out clothes, putting on a bit of a face and doing our hair. We checked the room over to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything which in the end I HAD of course, but it was only a European USB power converter for my smart phone so thankfully it wasn’t anything major.
We called for an Uber and Millie noticed the prices had gone up. We believed it was due to the virus. There also weren’t as many running and some of the taxis were now working as Ubers because the taxi business had gone flat due to the closings of most of the establishments. The street was like a ghost town even for the cyclists. Most companies were closed as well so the whole city appeared to have come to a halt.
When our Uber arrived he searched his GPS for anything that was open and even called a Dunkin Donuts to see if they were open. We just decided to go for it as most people do when they’re starving and in desperate need of caffeine. This my friends was the start of a real adventure let me tell you!
This driver…we didn’t know what the hell was going on. I think at one point we thought we were being kidnapped. I’m NOT kidding. He took us on a ride that lasted nearly 30 minutes from one end of Amsterdam to the other. We knew there had to be a Dunkin Donuts closer to our hotel but he kept pointing things out to us and telling us this was the area he lived in and as such, he was more familiar with it. She and I just looked at each other and she told him to take us back to our hotel, STAT.
He did as he was told and then out of the blue he says, “Oh, there is a petrol station right near your hotel where I stopped on my way to pick you up. They have a Starbucks machine! You can get a coffee there!” Almost simultaneously we said, “Why didn’t you tell us that in the first place?!”
The next thing we knew, we were in the petrol station getting large latte macchiatos from a Starbucks machine. We weren’t worried about food at this point and figured we’d just get something at the airport. We just wanted a damn coffee not a tour of the city!
Back to the hotel we went and wouldn’t you know it, checkout wasn’t until 11:00…it was only 10:30am at this point, and yet our room key wouldn’t work! So we go back down on the elevator, have our key reactivated and retrieve our bags. We said our goodbyes to the sweet hotel staff and off we went to the airport.
We were super early but with everything going on, we wanted to make sure we were there and ready to go. Things were a bit hairy at check in but otherwise, we made out okay and even found some food. We had to ask the information desk what was open and they told us the only place was the grocery store. Yes, they have grocery stores in the airport. They’re named Albert Heijn. The place was freaking packed! People were not being COVID-19 careful and we were getting so pissed off. There were ready made sandwiches packaged in plastic and people were picking them, looking at them and putting them back! They were touching everything and putting it back! Millie was getting hot and even said aloud, “What is wrong with you people? Please stop touching things and putting them back! You could all be spreading this virus!”
No one cared. No one listened. We decided to grab the next couple of sandwiches that were put up, get a coffee, and she found some cream cheese and prosciutto ham rolls in a sealed container and we hurried to get in line and get the heck out of there. We found the spot where we had sat to wait for our driver the day we arrived and barricaded ourselves behind our cart with our bags on it. The sandwiches were amazing and the coffee was okay and we were feeling much better. When we were finished, we made our way to check in and unloaded our suitcases and headed off to see if any of the shops were still open. Thankfully they were so we grabbed some snacks and soda and settled in to wait for our flight.
Our flight was on time and our seats were great. All in all it was a fantastic flight…all 9 ½ hours of it. At this point, I was pretty paranoid about the virus and only used the rest room once in all those hours and cleaned everything in it before I used it. This time, we were in the second row comfort class and we had the whole row of four seats to ourselves so we spread out and relaxed. At some point during the flight, the flight attendants handed out health questionnaires that we had to fill out and have ready upon our landing in Atlanta. UGH…Atlanta airport…the airport of my nightmares. Little did we know that the first little episode we had on our way to Amsterdam was nothing compared to what was in store for us when we landed.
Upon landing, the pilot came on the PA system and told us there would be a delay because the CDC was coming aboard to collect our health questionnaires. Needless to say, that was a little unnerving. However, they weren’t geared up in hazmat suits. They were wearing plain uniforms and face shields. They were cordial and efficient; going row by row collecting the sheets of paper. At some point, we noticed the people from the CDC leading about six people off the plane. We do not why or what happened after. All we knew was something must have been amiss with these people for them to have been escorted off ahead of the rest of us.
Finally, after at least 20 minutes, maybe more, we were getting a bit antsy because we had to meet our next plane in like 45 minutes. It seemed everyone else on the plane was getting that way as well, because as soon as they gave the all clear to deplane, people started acting rude, pushy and stupid. We were in the front of the plane, directly behind first class and people all the way in the back were literally pushing their way through to the front while I was trying to get our bags down from the overhead! I was not happy. I made a few comments about chilling out and please let me get my bags but they weren’t having it and just kept on coming. Finally, a young man stood and blocked the aisle so I could get our things and even though he didn’t look happy about doing the favor, I thanked him anyway.
What you are about to read beyond this point is absolutely true and I am relaying it to you honestly and to the best of my recollection. You can choose not to believe it or think what you will. However, it is OUR experience. I pray you never have to go through this.
From there, we were met by airport staff in masks and gloves, herding us like cattle through a maze of roped off areas which led to customs, a few of whom were barking at us like dogs quite rudely. “This way!” they shouted through their masks as they pointed. We looked around and it appeared our plane was the only one in the whole terminal! The only people in this line were those that had arrived on our flight.
Then it got worse.
We were informed our luggage had to be picked up in baggage claim which we HAD NOT expected at all and immediately we were like…holy hell, we’re gonna miss our flight to BWI. There was no explanation given as to why they’d done this but again, we just went with it as we had no choice, and were herded into a line to go through customs.
There were I believe only 4 desks open. Each was occupied by a border patrol officer. If you were traveling with a family member, you could go up together so that’s what we did. We were pleasant and even a bit jovial towards the officer, in hopes the whole process would go smoothly and we could rush to get our luggage and make our plane. The clock was ticking and there was no time to lose. Unfortunately, this particular officer had other plans. I guess he wasn’t in the mood for smiling people who were happy to be home in America.
We handed him our passports and greeted him with, “Good evening! Hi!” Below is the entire exchange as I can remember it. I’m not gonna lie…I was traumatized and nearly in tears by the time this whole thing ended. This is all to the best of my recollection:
US: “Good evening! Hi!”
HIM: (No answer as we handed him our passports. The man never even made eye contact with us unless he had to. He just stared at the computer screen typing. He did look up at me once and compared me to my passport.) “Do you have anything to declare? Any food…etc. etc.”
ME: “I have some gifts but that’s all. Do you need to see them?” I asked as I rummaged through my shopping bag. I had put everything in one bag just in case they needed to go through it. I’ve never done this before as I’ve never traveled abroad this way.
HIM: “Take your glasses off.”
ME: (Takes my glasses off.) At this point, I started to get an uneasy feeling like this dude was giving me these angry, nasty vibes so I wasn’t about to make it worse. I looked up and noticed a small camera on the desk.
HIM: “I’m taking your picture.”
ME: Smiled and complied but then said, “Oh no I made that stupid Kermit face again.” It’s this dumb smile I make when I’m nervous.
HIM: Ignoring me, and still not looking at either of us, says to Millie, “Picture.” As he’s holding her passport and then looking at her.
ME: Rummaging through my bag not really paying full attention.
MILLIE: “Excuse me? Oh my picture! Yes that’s me,” she giggled. “I looked much cuter in that pic.” She was just joking a bit to try and lighten the mood.
All the while, we are still being polite, friendly, compliant and patient as this guy was NOT “Officer Friendly” in the least.
HIM: “I need to take your picture.” This time, his voice was louder and very stern.
MILLIE: Steps in front of camera. “This is different. I’ve been overseas numerous times and never had to have my picture taken.” She was only commenting on the fact that through several trips, this had never happened before. She was smiling when she said it.
ME: Still looking through my bag, kind of listening but in some way, scared to death because this guy was NOT being the least bit nice. Okay basically what I’m saying is, he was a dick.
Now here’s where it got CRAZY. Did I say crazy? I mean insane.
HIM: Leans back in his chair and shouts, “All right listen up!” Now mind you, there are lines of people waiting. They all looked exhausted…9 ½ hour flight. Stressed…many catching connecting flights…surrounded by staff in masks and gloves…etc. etc. but they were being patient! No one was saying or doing anything wrong.
HIM: “Eveybody’s gotta go through here and I am not putting up with anyone’s crap or attitudes! Do you hear me!” Yes, he shouted at us. The words may have been slightly different but this was the gist of it and he was angry!
ME: I turned around like WTF? What happened?
MILLIE: “Who’s he talking to?” In a curious tone.
ME: “I think he must be talking to the people in line.” I assumed because he was so loud that I thought he was talking to the people waiting about ten feet away.
The rest of this is a little fuzzy because I started to feel sick at this point like I was gonna puke.
MILLIE: “Excuse me, what did you say?” Directed to him.
HIM: “You heard what I said.”
MILLIE: “Who are you talking to like that?”
HIM: (It was kind of inaudible so I’m not sure what he said.)
MILLIE: “I know you are not speaking to us like that. Who do you think you are?”
HIM: “I know who I am!”
MILLIE: “You can’t treat people like this! No one did anything wrong!”
An exchange started between them in regards to his assertion that he could basically say and do whatever he wanted to us and she insisted that no, he could not and that he had no right to speak to us like that. We were nice and friendly and did nothing to be spoken to so disrespectfully. I swear to God we were as nice as could be, even though he was definitely NOT from the moment we approached him. Well, the niceties were now over.
She was 100% RIGHT.
However, I started to feel like I was having a panic attack when I realized this was serious. All I could hear was yelling. Up until this point I thought they were just bickering but he got louder and she got louder.
ME: “Please come on you guys! Please can we just go?”
HIM: “Oh I know your kind! I FIX people like you!”
I FROZE. I stood there starting to shake a little. This mother fucker was not only a dick, not only completely unprofessional…he was THREATENING US. Millie lost it.
MILLIE: “WHAT? What do you mean you fix people like US?!”
HIM: “Oh I’m gonna fix you all right!”
MILLIE: “You can’t threaten people! We didn’t even do anything! What’s wrong with you?!”
At this point he waved to another officer and said, “We’re done here!” The other officer came over and said, “Come with me.”
MILLIE: “What are you doing? We didn’t do anything to him and he started yelling at us and then he threatened us!”
ME: “Sir he threatened us. I swear we did not say anything wrong to him.”
The man led us away from the desk and around the side. At this point I’m thinking we’re going to jail tonight because of that son of bitch. I was somewhere between a mental break down and wanting to cry.
MILLIE: “This is ridiculous. I cannot believe you’re treating us this way.”
The outcome…they made us go all the way to the end of line and start over because this asshole yelled at us and threatened us and Millie called him out for it. They wouldn’t even listen to anything we tried to tell them. Our side of the story did not matter to them. Then and only then did they give us our passports back.
After going through the line again…the clock is still ticking…we get a different agent/officer and we both get the sneaking suspicion this guy is stalling us. We had already been checked through. Basically, we had been punished when they put us to the end of the line and now this guy was going to stall us even further. Now, we were really getting pissed. There was no reason for any of this. This man did not do anything but keep us standing at this desk for as long as he could. We remained calm, dealt with this man and went along peacefully with his questions so we could get the hell out of there and make our plane.
Once we finally got away from him, we were the LAST and ONLY people left in customs. We had to run to get to baggage claim. Once we got there, there were only a few other people in the whole baggage claim area so we easily found our suitcases, loaded them on a cart and were heading towards the exit to find out where we could check the bags for our next flight. Suddenly, this young man who moments ago I’d seen chatting it up with a couple other airport personnel walks right up to us and stops us. This boy was NOT TSA. He was also NOT customs. He was wearing an airport employee uniform.
ME: “WHAT?” I was exasperated by this point.
HIM: “I need to ask you some questions.”
ME: “What questions? What questions could you possibly have to ask? We’ve already been through customs.”
HIM: Looking down at our bags. “Do you have any food..etc etc etc.”
ME: Completely hip to this whole game that’s being played on us at this point. “WHAT? Listen young man, we are AMERICAN CITIZENS and we will NOT be treated this way. We have already answered all of the questions! We’ve been through customs!”
MILLIE: Asks him, “Okay, what questions?” I think she was smiling at this point but not because she was amused but because of the absurdity of the lengths that so called customs officer had gone to in order to “FIX” us.
ME: “We don’t need to answer any more questions! This is ridiculous!”
HIM: “If you’d stop talking and answer the questions you can go.”
ME: At this point I was ready to just run him over with the cart but instead, I said, “Okay what? What questions?”
Then, this little prick says, “Do you have any cigarettes?”
Millie and I look at each other like, “Holy shit! That son of bitch has enlisted yet another person to make us miss our flight! He really is following through on his threat to FIX US!”
HIM: “Do you have any money?”
MILLIE: “Yeah $20.00!”
ME: “This is nuts. Move, we need to go.”
To which he backed off finally and we raced out of there and who do we run into right around the corner??? You guessed it…Officer A-hole. He just so happened to be right there in the vicinity. What a coincidence right?
There are no coincidences.
This was also an opportunity to get his name, and Millie walked right over to him and got his name from his badge, at which point he proceeded to spell his name shouting towards her as we were walking away. She replied, “Oh I can spell your name (insert his name here). No worries!”
A complaint report has been filed.
Thankfully, we made it in time to get our luggage checked and we saw a lady there as well who nicely mentioned she was sorry for what had happened to us. Apparently she’d witnessed the whole thing along with everyone else in the line. Did I mention they were making people put their cell phones away in the line at customs? Gee I wonder why?
From there, we literally had to run up an escalator and then about another half mile to make it to our gate…BUT we made it. The plane waited for us so a big FUCK YOU to officer A-hole who did everything within his power to try and make us miss our flight.
I guess you don’t know how to FIX people like US after all now do you? We’ll give you an E for effort though!
Our flight to Baltimore was smooth as silk. We had wine, relaxed and two of the sweetest flight attendants ever. Delta was absolutely fantastic as was KLM. The Delta employees at the gate were so apologetic and kind.
Well…there’s our horror story. Yes, in America you can be berated, treated like trash and then threatened at customs…American citizens…treated like garbage…talked to like garbage…punished for speaking up and harassed until you almost miss your flight…in one of the biggest airports in the country…