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If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

Earlier columns: August 14 / August 7 / July 31 / July 24 / July 17 / July 10 / July 3

(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


21 AUGUSTUS, 2016

Wie is op de Beurt (Who's next?) - Waiting your turn

DELFT - The British stand in queues, and Americans stand in line. The Dutch cluster but know exactly who is next. You see this best in the markets. But if you hang back when a vendor asks 'next?', you will never get served.

Almost every town has a market day; in Delft, it is Thursday. The big square between the 'new' church and the city hall fills with booths crowded closely in long rows. If you need it, you can likely find it on the market. I am a regular at the candy stall, the potato vendor and fish caravan. I can get cheap socks and fresh flowers along with things I do not need but have caught my fancy, what we call 'stuff' in the U.S. - objects of art and brick-a-brac.


"When I was living in a rental place and my household goods, such as dishes, glasses and cups, were in Texas, I made do from the Saturday street market along the canals."

Well, I could take the apple unless there is another kind said the first. Yes there were and each had to be examined and considered in terms of the desserts already stacking up. Everybody is standing there listening to them work it out. Inside, my American is screaming impatiently; outside, my foreigner is standing calmly and relaxed.

People expect to have as much time as they need when being served in a shop. The ritual is polite when asking for this or that (I would be happy to have...), when handing over money (if you please) and getting change (thank you very much). It is the same when answering folks on the street wanting you to subscribe to a paper: no, thank you very much. Dutch are polite.

Buying from the street vendors on Saturday is relatively easy: you like something, ask the price and buy it or not. You may have to wait briefly while a sale is already going on, but it is not noticeable. In a shop, that is different and is purely Dutch.

I like to buy my bread at the corner bakery and try to go early for still-warm fresh. Some days fate does not award being so clever. A customer bought a cherry cake and was undecided over just what sweets were best for a party later today.

Another at the counter wanted a cherry cake too and was dismayed to hear it was the last one. The shop is beginning to fill, but I know I am next after the other two customers; so, I paste a smile on my face and prepare to wait. Time slows then stops.

The two and the counter folk get into a winding discourse: the first would not dream of taking the last, had she known. The second thought she might be able to settle for apple pie. What kind of party? Oh, just family and a few friends, nothing fancy.

I did get my Desem Wit Brood, of which I am more than fond, and the two other customers settled it amicably: the first one selected apple and the second got the cherry. It took a while but was interesting seeing things settled so civilly.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved -
In memory of Herb Caen