Friday, June 03, 2005

nee, niet, neen, geen,

Or Ja, Jawel.
Does it matter? Not really.

Woensdag 1 juni.
I woke up this morning very excited. This was going to a historic day. Ok, so am exaggerating. But the Dutch were going to have their 1st national referendum in 200 years! (Or so I read somewhere). Besides - it was an awesome sunny day, just right for getting out of the house, and exercising your right to, ok an opinion.

I nearly tripped over myself in the newfound rush to get to the city hall to check the proceedings - only to bump into my cleaning lady on the way out. I stared at her, and asked her in my unique blend of a hint of Dutch, a few rolled R s (remnant from the Boston days), and sign language - "have you voted?"

She nodded, responded with a broad smile & led me to the bathroom instead, and as if to explain how she voted, she picked up a bottle of lily- of- the- valley body splash and asked, "Van de winkel in de marktplaats? Read as: did you buy this in a shop in the market place??

I responded with a niet and stepped out in anticipation of meeting a few civic-minded souls at least. The Den Bosch marketplace was crowded - it was a Wednesday, which is market day for fresh produce, flowers etc. I looked around expecting to see long lines winding around the City Hall. No signs of any lines there! I did spot a line outside Hunkemoller though (the lingerie store in a corner of the marketplace). When I investigated - I discovered some Dutch folks in line to buy bathrobes being sold for 10e a piece!

Then made my way over to the Bossche Broeke - pretty certain that it would be deserted. Shouldn't people be at work or voting? The answer looked like it was neither - they had decided to take the day off to sun bathe instead!

I came back exhausted, and a little disappointed. Just as i was getting into the elevator I met one of our geriatric neighbours who greets me every morning with a "hood morning, I am so sorry, ghoood morning! " I was pleased - was pretty certain he must have voted. He responded to my query "of course, I voted. The song you see. The song."

Figuring the old man had finally gone barmy; I pushed the elevator button till my thumb was blue. Once upstairs, I retired to my laptop, a little sad. A one time ardent follower of Pericles, Rousseau and their ilk, I was depressed by this apparent apathy to the referendum.

I needn't have been though. As I discovered a day or two later. A whopping 63% of the Dutch came out to vote. And 62% of them voted "nee".

So what if the if the vote hinged on an Eurovision Song contest? The Dutch message to those watching was size, or in this case, a song does matter!

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