- Travel and Places
Hotel Assault in Amsterdam
I have neither told nor discussed this incident with anyone.
In fact, I once swore to myself that I'd bring this to my grave, together with the humiliation of it.
But I'm blogging about failures now. And the chirpy, sardonic language aside, what better place than here to finally get this over and done with? That, and in hope that nobody has to endure this sort of hotel assault in their travels.
(IMPT: Ethnicity and places mentioned here are purely to facilitate the narration. I have nothing against the British, the Dutch, or the wonderful city of Amsterdam. In fact, I worked with British people for over ten years and I frequently prefer their work ethics over those of my own countrymen. I also did not include "racism" in my tags because this post is not about that awful inclination.)
This happened three years ago in Amsterdam. It was the final evening of two weeks in Europe. I was scheduled to return home from Schipol the next morning.
No final night partying. Memorable dinner, etc. I was dead tired from walking miles everyday for the past fortnight, and anyway I was to reach Schipol at dawn, so I decided to return to my hotel early. Some information here about the hotel. It was a small establishment very near to the train station, Amsterdam Centraal. It was right at the fringe of the red-light district. I picked it purely for its proximity to Amsterdam Centraal. While planning the trip, I figured I would be most encumbered at that point, thus any convenience in reaching the airport is necessary.
More details about that stay. I was placed in the annex building. On the top floor. For those familiar with the canal houses of Amsterdam, you would know that while lovely on the exterior, those narrow steps to reach the top floor are serious business.
By 10pm my bags were packed and I had washed up. I went to bed only to be awaken an hour later. A group of guys was creating a ruckus outside. As most people would do out of curiosity, I peeped out of the window and saw a group of young men in the street below. Obviously drunk, possibly high too on you-know-what, and howling, singing, babbling at the top of their voices. The way the window opens outwards, and me being on the top floor, they very likely noticed me staring at them too. Not wanting to add to the scene, and well aware there was little I could do, I returned to bed, hoping they would go away. For the next three hours, they continued, getting increasingly louder and more violent. I remember grouching about the hotel at this point. You see, the room had no telephone, nor any information about contacting the owner. Not only was it an annex building, it seemed annexed away from the main establishment.
WHAT THE FUCK YOU LOOKIN' AT! I ASKED YOU A QUESTION! I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!
Time passed. I became increasingly annoyed. At around 2 am, I left my room to use the shared toilet. What would you know? There was someone outside the door. A young, loutish fellow, drenched in sweat with eyes glazed over. Yes, one from the gang responsible for the din. It was then that I realised that ass luck was truly upon me, as well as how stupid I was. Why else would they be lingering outside my hotel? Of course, they were staying in it too.
The drunken fellow glared at me and snapped. "What'cha lookin' at?" Something like that. In a thick British accent.
I said nothing. The sight of him stunned me.
"I ASKED YOU. WHAT'CHA LOOKIN' AT!"
Recovering sufficiently, I retreated into my room and attempted to close the door. No success. He leaped forward and used his foot to block the doorway. At that moment, another two of his mates came up the stairs. They clustered before my door, looking livid. I smelt tobacco, alcohol, and many other things.
"WHAT THE FUCK YOU LOOKIN' AT!" The original one continued to yell. "I ASKED YOU A QUESTION! I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!"
"I'm getting back to my room." Fear made me blabbed that dumb response. "This is my room. MY ROOM!"
Some incoherent curses from all three. More blabbing from me. Suddenly, they looked ready to assault, like a trio of hyenas. At that crucial moment, instinct took over and I threw myself against the door. It finally slammed shut. Fumbling feverishly, I doubled locked the door. Then I grabbed my camera tripod, ready to smack at anything that comes through.
They didn't break through. Despite the rather dingy condition of that room, it had a sturdy door. The trio didn't leave however. For the next minute, they continued to howl, spewing all sorts of racist curses and accusations. The original one hammered his fist against the door and screamed that I was a chink, Muslim coward, and yeah, GO HIDE BEHIND YOUR DOUBLE LOCK! Before they left, a vicious kick was delivered to the door. I remember shuddering, wondering what would happen if the door broke down.
End of encounter? Not entirely. Why else would they be on my floor, if they were not staying on it too? For the next hour, they partied in the adjacent room. More screams, more ranting, women shrieking. I was trapped. Not only because I couldn't risk leaving the room again, but also because there was no immediate way for me to request help. Pulling out my laptop, I hunted for the website of the hotel, and tried calling the land line. No pick-up. Looking out of the window, I saw another one of their buddies, singing poems in a sweet cherubic voice down below. As I fought to stay calm, a flood of questions started pounding me. Should I call for the police? Do I really want to have another confrontation, which might cause me to miss my morning flight? What if I sneak out at the break of dawn? What if I run into them again while with all my bags? And anyway, how was I to return the room keys if I leave before the reception opens?
Eventually, the miracle that is the Internet offered a solution. Through deeper digging, I discovered my hotel had a sister establishment nearby. One which operates a restaurant serving breakfast. At the break of light, I stumbled double-time down the stairs and made a beeline for that restaurant. There, I managed to get a burly Dutch gentleman to come out by banging on the windows. After returning the keys, I gave him a summary of what happened, then headed straight for the train station. He went to check, and I presume, later summoned help to deal with the punks. By the way, did I mention the punks uprooted a small tree and left that strewn across the stairs? Really obstructed my way when I was making my escape.
Other than my pride, and my vacation ending on a terrible note, you could say I escaped unscathed. Thus the sensible thing would be to forget about it. Easier said than done. In the weeks to follow, I brooded incessantly over the incident. It affected me to the extent I began to regard all foreigners with suspicion, while in my country. The culmination of this was when a rather drunk French dude stumbled up to me in the streets one evening and asked for directions. I was so tensed, he joked about not intending any harm, before asking me to relax.
What occupied my head? Questions. More "what ifs." What if I didn't manage to leave the hotel safely? What if I bumped into them while encumbered with my bags? What if I didn't manage to shut the door in time? And the worst questions. What if my folks were with me, like my mum? What if she was the one who ran into them? In her typical unworldly style, she would have insisted that we confront them about the din. What would have happened? Would she have gotten herself assaulted or killed?
Was there anything I could have done to avoid the incident? I don't think so. Even if I didn't peep at them from the window, I would still have to leave the room at some point.
In the midst of these, easy answers began to beckon. I was just plain unlucky to encounter racists. Intoxicated, violent racists. I could blame it all on colour and race. On white supremacy attitudes. But the more I thought about this, the more it disgusted. As I stated at the beginning, I've worked with British people for over ten years. And those that I've met always treated me with respect and hospitality. At the same time I'm also aware of the migrant issues Britain is having, and the sort of rhetoric organisations like the UKIP regularly churns out. So maybe those youths had some sort of similar experience in the past, resulting in their current dispositions. Maybe we were all victims of somebody else's unthinking actions.
So many, "maybes."
Ultimately, the only thing I did was to send an email to the hotel, a month later. The hotel administrator acknowledged the incident readily and promised two things. Firstly, they would ensure that all guests have information and means of contacting the hotel staff from the rooms. Secondly, they would send an email to the "leader" of the gang to request for an explanation. I never heard from the hotel administrator again. To be honest, I never expected to. Nowadays, I always book the best room I could afford for the "final night." And I ensure I don't leave the room when I hear drunken racket outside. Never.