An Amsterdam Surprise - 405 Magazine

An Amsterdam Surprise

Adventure Grandma with Elaine Warner


I slept with a drunken stranger in Amsterdam. My husband, our adult daughter, Zoe, and I had booked berths on a canal boat. Most European hotel rooms aren’t built for three, but the canal boat had one available, and it sounded like a cool experience. I was half right … it was an experience. 


The boat had 10 regular cabins accommodating two guests each, with two shared bathrooms. We were in the bow – two bunks on either side of the front of the boat – with a ladder to get down into the cabin. Unlike the regular rooms, there were no windows, just two vents in the roof. Only one opened.


It was in the 90s in Amsterdam that week. When we asked the captain about ventilation, he suggested that we leave the cabin door open. “This is a really safe area and we’re at the very end of the pier,” he told us.


The boat didn’t have a fitness center, but we got a workout anyway. A middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom meant climbing the ladder – being careful not to bang our heads on the small door – getting off the boat, walking down the dock to the main section of the boat, climbing up onto the main deck, and going down a short ladder to the bathroom. Zoe and I made that arduous trek at about 3 a.m.


In spite of the heat, we slept soundly, exhausted from our long flight. Zoe and I woke up first the next morning. She commented, “Boy, I slept so soundly I didn’t even notice when dad changed beds.” I was thinking about our plans for the day and the comment went right over my head. Until…


Zoe, in a strange voice, said, “Mom, why are there FOUR PEOPLE in our room?” Sure enough, there was someone sleeping in the bunk above mine – and it wasn’t Jack, who was still sacked out on the other side.


How fast did we head up the ladder to corner the captain in the dining room in the other part of the boat? In a tone an octave above my usual, I shouted, “Why is there a strange man in our room?”


The captain hustled down the dock toward the bow, with us following close behind. We waited on the dock while he scrambled down into our cabin, coming up with a dazed and confused young man. The exchange, in Dutch and featuring mumbled responses from our unwelcome guest, revealed that this kid, probably a student, had been celebrating the available pleasures of Amsterdam. He had obviously booked a cabin on a boat somewhere … but there are dozens of docks and many boats in the area. Apparently, the open door looked inviting and the empty bed called his name.


So, while it was briefly exciting, it wasn’t dangerous (though we slept with the door closed the next night). But you have to admit, it provided a great headline.