A Change of Plans

By John-Paul Marciano

“What are you doing here?”

That’s what I was asking myself while staring at the Munich U-Bahn map with no destination in mind.  I was 2½ weeks into a four week-vacation and I was supposed to be vacationing in Italy with my friend Matt.

My plan was to fly to Amsterdam, rent a car and pick up Matt.  From there we would spend three weeks touring the west coast of Italy.  Sounds like a great vacation, doesn’t it?  I sure thought it did.  “So why aren’t you in Italy?”  Let me tell you.

Two weeks earlier I arrived in Schiphol Airport on a flight from JFK.  After I picked up my luggage, I rented a car and drove to Matt’s apartment located on a dead-end road not far from Amsterdam Central Station.  On the drive over I thought we could go out for breakfast then go back to his place to load his stuff in the car.  What the heck?  We’re on vacation so what’s the rush, right?

I happened to find a parking space in front of his apartment building which, in Amsterdam, is a minor miracle.  I was excited.  Here I was two hours into my vacation and I had a smooth flight over, my luggage made it across the ocean on time and intact, it was smooth sailing through customs, my rental car was waiting for me when I got there and I found a convenient parking space in Amsterdam.  What could possibly go wrong?

I walked into the building, rang the bell to Matt’s apartment and waited to be buzzed in.  No answer.  I waited a couple minutes and buzzed again.  No answer.  “Maybe he’s in the shower,” I thought to myself.  So I went outside and sat on the stoop.  I smoked a couple cigarettes and enjoyed the crisp morning air while waiting for Matt to come out of the shower.  I walked back into the building and rang the bell.  No answer.  “Hmm.  Maybe he had an errand to run.”  I went back outside and lit a cigarette.

I sat on the stoop and considered my options.  I really didn’t want to leave until I found out what happened to Matt.  A whole slew of scenarios crossed my mind; some of them quite unpleasant.  I decided to wait until I could talk to one of his neighbors before leaving.

I don’t know how long I sat there but, judging by the number of cigarette butts I flicked into the gutter, I’d guess close to an hour.  A young man rounded the corner and walked toward me.

“Hello, are you John?” he called out.

“I am,” I replied getting to my feet.

“I’m Peter, Matt’s neighbor,” he said extending his hand.  I shook it and he continued.  “I just dropped Matt off at Schiphol.”

“That’s funny.  I was supposed to pick him up here.  What’s he doing there?”

“He’s flying to America,” was Peter’s response.  “He wanted me to apologize on his behalf.  Something came up and he had to leave.”

“I just talked to him yesterday morning and he never said anything,” I said while rubbing the back of my head.

“I’m sorry but I don’t know anything more,” he said apologetically.  “Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?” he offered.

I mulled things over for a few seconds and made up my mind to go to Germany.  “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.  Where’d you park your car?”

He looked perplexed but replied, “A couple blocks from here.”

“Why don’t you get your car?  You can have my spot,” I said pointing to my car.  “I’ll wait.”

He hesitated and said, “Thank you.”

“No problem, I won’t be needing it.”

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