Monday, December 10, 2012


In some ways, the ownership of a car is more monumental than the arrival of Rijntje (sorry, little guy). In order to understand why, you have to realize that while Rijntje was merely biology at work, Karel obtaining his driver's license was an act in defiance of the natural order of things.  It may sound melodramatic, but one does not nearly reach 40 withou a driver's license without questioning whether such things were meant to be obtained.

Karel, after almost 9 months' worth of lessons (an appropriate number) and God-only-knows how many thousands of euros, finally passed his driver's exam.  The driver's exam in the Netherlands is notoriously difficult, not necessarily because driving in the Netherlands is all that difficult, but because the proctors get paid to be anal-retentive.  It must be said, though, that driving in the traffic circle of the Keizer Karelplein in Nijmegen (5 imaginary "lanes" wide) probably warrants a lesson or six.  First-time pass rates are a shade below 50%--and many people need more than 3 tries.  Most of Karel's friends who drive had to take their exam 5 times, and ironically enough, they are some of the better drivers out there.   Karel, happily, passed on his third try, and two weeks later bought a car.

The NS is a great system (at least, compared to SEPTA), but it has its limits:  as long as you're trying to get from one "major" city (in quotes because what counts as a large city here is kinda piddly compared to large cities in the US) to another, it's fine, but the moment you start factoring in stopovers and bus rides and transfers, it becomes infinitely more complicated and there is invariably at least one f*ck-up that causes you to arrive 30 minutes late.  And the schedules at the hours that Karel is most likely to commute (midnight, 6:00 am) suck.  Plus if you're travelling with a baby, you either find yourself obligated to grow another arm, or learn to juggle really fast.  There's just no easy way to manhandle a stroller onto any form of public transit.   And if you're on a long trip, you also have the to-survive-a-nuclear-holocaust-diaper-bag that also needs wrangling.  And that doesn't include a fussing baby.

So a car is a vast improvement in our situation.  Whereas before, it was possible to make trips to Kleve or further abroad by train, now it's easy.  OK, there's still the fussy-baby-issue to deal with, but at least nobody's going to glower at you for (not) doing (any-) something about it.  

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