It was only a year ago, but it already feels like an entirely different era.
It was April 19, 2019. Sunset in Amsterdam was already 8:45pm and getting 15 minutes later each progressive week. The trees had come alive with the first buds of green leaves. Blooms blossomed galore. Pink wine was back in season.
So when Dave invited me and my wife to join two other couples for a boat cruise of the Amsterdam canals on his sloop in the late afternoon of Good Friday, well, he didn’t have to ask us twice.
You know what they say. The only thing better than having a boat is having a friend with a boat. Like Dave.
Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday rate highly enough even amongst Dutch Calvinists to merit being three of the Netherlands ten stingy annual national holidays. At least they have the common sense to pack 7 of the 10 national holidays during April and May as a reward for surviving the soul-crushing drab darkness of the Northen European winter.
With the temperature in the teens (60s), this particular Friday felt like the unofficial beginning of Spring. It wasn’t Good Friday. It was Great Friday.
After a majestic 3-hour tour (a 3-hour toooouuur), the Skipper docked the boat. Having lost track of time, it had gotten late and I was looking to hustle back home to scrounge some food for our hangry teenage boys who’d expected us much sooner.
The sun had set and while it’s glow was gone, ours still remained.
I’m useless with boats and ropes and knots. But I was eager to contribute.
I wanted to be a suitably appreciative guest — so as to secure a future invite on said boat. So after disposing of garbage and recycling, I stood on the bank of the canal, feebly watching Dave go through his routines tying things down and butting everything up.
By now it was getting dark, and I figure the least I could do is turn on the flashlight on my phone and lean over to give him some light from the edge of the canal where he was tying up parallel along the edge.
In adjusting my grip, I fumbled my phone. As it dropped, the twirling spotlight caught everyone’s attention.
The other seven glanced over just in time to witness my phone bounce on the grassy bank, then flop twice like a break-dancer doing the worm, b-lining to the edge, then plunging itself with determination into the opaque waters of the canal.
Everyone simultaneously groaned.
I laughed like a hyena.
I was embarrassed, for sure. But I’ve long had a tic where stress and trauma bring an inappropriate and unwelcomed giggle.
The phone was gone. Just gone.
Into the depths of 5 meters of mucky water to rest amongst God knows how many rusty bikes at the bottom.
I guess I didn’t care all that much.
It was a several-year old late model Samsung Android phone which didn’t owe me anything. I’d been thinking about replacing it anyway.
Rather, my first thought was the eco-disaster of bone-headedly dropping an electronic gadget into the canal. And, a small disappointment of losing the blurry photos I’d just taken on the trip which I’d never see again.
The others were suitably horrified and sympathetic.
Dave mentioned that he thought he could find it, as he said there was a shelf on the edge of the canals about a meter deep and maybe it was sitting there. Whatever.
I unsuccessfully tried to convice everyone it was no big deal.
I was feeling strangely copacetic. It was Friday night of a long weekend. I had a head full of effervescence. And it actually felt liberating to be sans phone.
That could have been the Amstel beer talking.
Later that night as the buzz of the beer and sun wore off, I awoke and became quite restless at around 4am. But, then again, who knows what time it actually was because, hey, our watches didn’t become phones like Maxwell Smart promised, but rather our phones became our watches. Hmmm.
I tossed and turned, going through a series of mental calisthenics, calculating all of the things I’d need to do to get back and running. Work was in a demanding phase, and I realized I’d need my phone to authenticate access my laptop and important work files I needed.
Stores are typically closed on Sundays in the Netherlands (go Europe!) and Monday was a holiday. So, I’d need to get on it first thing Saturday morning, or it might really become a bigger problem.
I rose around 8:30 (my alarm didn’t go off!), had a quick cuppa joe, and hopped on my bike and cycled across the Vondel Park to the Verizon store on Kinkerstraat — about 10 minutes away. As I’m pedaling through the park, I coincidentally spot Dave’s wife (“Hey Rhonda!”) who was on a nice Saturday morning stroll with a friend. I sheepishly but cheerfully hollered at her that I was off to get my new phone and she laughed at me and waved me on.
I’m more of a hunter than a gatherer when it comes to shopping.
After a quick scan of the phone inventory, I chose a suitable mid-range model, had the store throw in a SIM card, reprogram it to my number, and I was back in business. I was back home in under an hour, and by 10:30am I was already part way through a lengthy process of syncing, logging in, downloading and such.
Ding dong. Door bell rings.
I open my front door, and there standing is Dave, huge smile on his face, phone in hand.
My phone. Still on. With 43% battery life. Fully functioning.
It seems Dave had also gotten up early. He took his diving mask to the canal, and fished around in the dark water finding my phone exactly on the shelf along with other discarded canal junk where he thought it might be.
The mensch got in the damned freezing water, to fish this thing out.
You see, Dave is an optimist. He insisted that in the Exumas he once rescued his favorite pair of sunglasses that flew off his head while on a catamaran in 20 feet of water by going back the next day and “triangulating” his way to the exact spot on the sandbar where his shades reliably sat below, awaiting his arrival. A tall tale, for certain, in the aptly named Carribean isles.
So, while I pooh-poohed him, Dave fully expected to find my phone.
What he didn’t expect was that it would still be on.
It was Samsung’s first waterproof model. Respect to the engineers and manufacturers. A year later (yesterday), I booted it up. Yup, it is a tank.
To see that phone in his hand, after having physically witnessing its plunge into the depths of the Zuider Amstelkanaal just off Stadionkade a mere fourteen hours prior, was just utter Black Mirror mind-fuckery.
Like Jesus rising from the dead.
An Easter miracle.
Just one day early.