Our friend was coming to Amsterdam for a work trip and we invited him to crash with us for a few days while he was in the Lowlands. He turned up on a rainy Tuesday evening with a plan…. Visit the Rijksmuseum, see the sunflowers at the Van Gogh Museum and get depressed at the Anne Frank House. He was also gagging to go to a coffeeshop.

Being the lovely hosts that we are we helped him plan his trip & gave him the location of a great coffeeshop – by we, I mean my husband, The Sadist. He told his mate that this one particular coffee shop was a smoker’s paradise and that he’d really enjoy the local hipster-ish vibe and gorgeous decor. He waxed on about the smoothie menu available and how helpful bar guys were. He gave him the address, right next to the Red Light district, and our friend put the information in his phone…. I still don’t know if what came to pass wasn’t actually some old score-settler that my husband was administering…

Our friend had a long day of work meetings and art trips. He’d had a blast – being wooed by the city’s general Amsterdamishness. As evening fell, he followed his gmap and headed off for some recreational puff.

The coffeeshop seemed pretty grim and a bit brightly lit from the outside, but trusting The Sadist’s advice he headed on in. At first he thought that maybe he had stepped into a launderette by mistake – the stained walls, lack of dubreggae and garish lights threw him, so he walked back out the door into the evening street. He checked his phone and decided that he was indeed in the right place…and this is where it gets interesting, he voluntarily went back in….To the launderette-smoke-shop….. At this point the locals at the bar had ceased talking and had started to glower in his direction.

He said it resembled a fast food restaurant open after midnight, but without the food. For some reason he just stood there in the sudden glare, blinking & waiting for his eyes to readjust.

His brain registered just how SMALL the coffeeshop was. His brain also noted that there were not many places to sit, apart from one filthy table in the middle of the room. He felt as though he was committed to the experience though and still had faith in The Sadist. So he ventured to the bar.

The four locals sitting at the countertop refused to budge so he had to make his request over their heads. In the most middle-class, English accent imaginable he quietly asked for, ‘The weakest pre-rolled spliff available, please’. He was keenly aware of how the other people didn’t really look like the stereotypical, chilled clientele he would have expected in such a well-recommended coffee shop. In fact they were quite unwelcoming in their demeanour.

Our tenacious mate, still refusing to accept defeat, finally got what he needed and took it to his neon-lit, middle table. He perched cautiously on the wobbly, plastic chair and tried to spark up. He realised with horror that he had no lighter on him. So that was nice for him. He had to ask for a light. Twice. The first time the spliff went out.

He took out his book and proceeded to read the same sentence for approximately 40 minutes. When he told us how long he had sat there for I was pretty impressed. I think THE FEAR may have rendered him imobile…..At some point he tried to get a drink. Maybe he was still holding onto a faint hope of a strawberry-mango smoothie. The bar man pointed out the vending machine on the wall. Our now fuzzy headed, freaked out buddy discovered, only after putting his last euro coin in, that the drink machine was broken.

He smoked as much as his anxiety levels could handle and headed back out into the comforting gloom of the Amsterdam street. Stoned, paranoid and convinced that he had entered a very grim, smoker’s dystopia. By the time he got back to ours he wasn’t in great shape, but also too baked to argue, which worked out very well for The Sadist. We gave him chamomile tea and put him in front of the telly, which is all you can do really, when you have sent your mate to hell, isn’t it?

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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