Malcolm plays the jailhouse blues

5th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

Expat Malcolm Wickens started his week with a good intention - to get to the office before 10am. He hadn't factored in a brush with the Dutch forces of law and order.

I think I have just redefined the meaning of a bad start to the week.

Malcolm rehearses for his upcoming gig in Folsom

It started off as the normal Monday morning feeling - waking up after not much sleep because my flight was delayed by 2 hours on the Sunday night, leaving me at Schiphol Airport with no transport home.  I had no milk for a cup of tea and nothing in the apartment for breakfast.

I decided to wear my black leather biker jacket to go to work, the weather getting a little chilly now.  Put the gym kit in the knapsack and walked to the tram stop.

I was trying to improve my timekeeping, having turned up twice the week before after 10am.

So, at 9am, I got off the tram outside work, in a somewhat dopey state and wandered across the road. I saw two policemen to my right, on the other side of the road, talking to some pedestrians. I turned left, however, checked for traffic, and crossed to the other side of the road.

Red light

I had not seen the two young police cadets on the other side.  The blonde she-cadet talked to me at first in Dutch, as they all do here, while her male colleague was talking to cyclist.

I said "What?"

"You have crossed the road on a red light.  You will be fined".

"You're having me on!"

"Can I see some form of ID?"


"You will be fined for that as well."

"Oh sod off" I said, moving on.

She tried to block my way. I tried to move around her, but she grabbed hold of me. Her colleague was moving toward me when I span away from her but was aware that I have a flower bed between me and the road. 

It was my only way away from them, so I tried to do a standing jump over the flower bed with my bulky knapsack over one shoulder.  I cleared the bed, hit the curb, and came down wobbly, hitting the side of a car, stopped at the traffic light.

First arrest

By now they had both grabbed me, each holding one of my arms, trying to put me in two simultaneous arm locks.  I tried the old T'ai Chi on them, but they would not cooperate.  The she-cadet screamed "You are under arrest!"

Suddenly, their comrades arrived from across the road, who acted just like real policemen - with raw aggression and a look of glee at the chance to kick some 'Johnny foreigner's' fat arse.

The she-cadet was jumping up and down now, saying "I made my first arrest, I made my first arrest!"  The other three were congratulating her.  I was beginning to feel a bit gloomy.

I was soon painfully handcuffed and had to stand there as everybody else went about their normal business in the street, including people from the bank filing right past me into my building. 

They roughly went into my pockets to find my wallet to look for some form of ID, and found my Spanish residency card and a Blockbuster card.

"The first one is valid under the Schengen Agreement."

He was looking at it like he had just found the missing link, or public enemy number one.

"So, what do we do now? Can I just pay the fine now?"

"You are coming to the station.  You are charged with crossing the road against a red light, not having correct ID, and resisting arrest.  It will cost you about EUR 500."

"I was not resisting arrest, I was running away."


I have never ridden in police car, until now.  My hands handcuffed behind me, I expected at least the Hollywood treatment, where they push your down to stop you banging it.  I can see why they do it - it is very awkward (and painful) getting into a car with you hands linked together half way up your back.

They took me to Amstelveen Police Station.  The car ride seemed last for ever, and all I could think of was that I was going to be late for work again, and have to walk all the way back to the office.  I thought, 'Perhaps I could ask for a lift back'.

Once there, I was shoved roughly into the reception room.  It was just a box room of four concrete walls, nowhere to sit and no windows.  I was left alone to ponder my fate. I checked my watch: it was still only 9:20.  It seems ages since I got off that tram.

Eventually, the she-cadet opened the door asked me to turn around so she could remove the cuffs.  Then a larger version came and asked me to turn out all my pockets.  They took my watch, wallet, mobile phone, trouser belt (so I could not hang myself, I assume), and the biker jacket, which he was eyeing suspiciously, and which I was  beginning to think had probably been the reason for my downfall.

Then some burly PC came into the room.  He was putting on rubber gloves and grinning maliciously.  I thought to myself, "It's cavity search time."

But all he did was frisk me, thank God.

I was shown into a bigger room and the door slammed behind me. Everything went quiet.  I looked around at my new lodgings. It was empty except for a wooden bench with the names of previous occupiers scratched into it.  Some one had managed to gouge out holes in the plaster with some tool.  I was alone in there - very alone.

So there I sat.  'What a silly thing to do', I thought.

I had no sense of time.  They had taken my watch, and there was no clock visible, anywhere - all part of the psychological torture.

I decided to do some stretching exercises, just like in the Shawshank Redemption.  Then I sat and did some breathing exercises.  I began to wander just how long I would be there, when the door opened.  The she-cadet was there and a very large guy with black,
tight curly hair. He held out his hand in a hand-shake offer.  I thought, 'Oh God, this looks expensive - they've got me a lawyer.'

I shall be released

"I am Jan, the Duty Shift Officer".

I stood up to shake his hand.

"Why did you try to run?"

I had had time to think about this, as it was a very stupid thing to do, after all. "I was frightened."


"I have heard about your methods with aliens".

He laughed.  "What, in the Netherlands!"

"It is true.  I have only been here three weeks, and everything is very new to me."

They left me again, and I went back to practice my breathing.  I thought of Nelson Mandela how they failed to break him, and whether I was made of the same stuff.

I had to watch the young she-cadet walk slowly around the station, having to ask her colleagues how to fill in the forms.  It also took a long time because they only had my Spanish residency card and my Blockbuster card as Id.  They would not let me go until they verified who I was.  Was there anybody at home who could bring my passport to the station?  There was nobody.

Eventually, she let me out.  It was 12 O'clock, but it could have been six hours later for all my sense of time.  I waited at the service desk until she came back with my things and a form for me to sign.  She said "I am only going to charge you with crossing the red light.  That will be EUR 35 fine.  Next time do not run away.  And you must carry your passport with you".

Only then did I find out that I had no money on me. Thankfully, being efficiently Dutch, the police stations here take Visa. I signed for them and asked for directions back to work. Then went on my way, thinking 'I must get those lights fixed on my bike...'

5 September 2006

[Copyright Malcolm Wickens & Expatica 2006]

Subject: Life in Holland

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