Pedro Ávila

How appropriate. It started when I woke up – there was no hot water and I don’t know about you but I don’t wake up right without a shower. I splashed cold water on my face and said fuck it, I will proceed. I worked frantically throughout the morning, getting stupid shit done and out of the way in anticipation that my new laptop would arrive this week. I’ll need a lot of time to get all of it configured properly and the way that best fits my needs. I have a lot of OCD-_esque_ behavior when it comes to having the task bar up top, for example, and the right shortcuts placed and everything basically within 3 clicks away.

Shut up. You can’t do what I do.

At about noon or 1 I went for my run. Pissed at the stupid apple headphones that never stay in my ears with my stride, I recalled the ones I’d bought over Christmas that turned out to be even worse. I can’t return the damn things for a variety of reasons and I am sort of stuck with $40 head phones that I neither like nor use, and they do not function properly. Ugh.

But whatever. I went for my run, and this always does me good. And it did. When I came home, expecting to take a warm shower and get started with some of the other tasks like getting a new florescent bulb for the kitchen light (which has been dark for 3 days now, since either everyone’s too busy, doesn’t know where to go around here for this bulb, or else all shops are closed at that time when we can go). But I remembered that there was no hot water. Again, fuck it. I sacked it up and took a cold one.

“Whatever,” I told myself, “these are little things. People deal with worse all the time.”

After my frozen shower, I noticed an email telling me I had a package way over at the office: could it be that my laptop has arrived? Sweetness. Tonight would be a perfect night to spend configuring this thing. Cool. Okay, fine, I’ll take the time to go out to Amstelveen and pick this up. I’ll make the time. Shit. But first I’d have to run to the hardware store around the block (in the red-light district) and get the light bulb.

As I turned the corner a street away in a swarm of red-light district tourists, a pretty female cop barred me from passing, saying that I would have to go around to the other side of the block, which is about 300 or 400 meters the other way. Ok, I thought. No big deal.

As I started around the block I saw a fire ambulance stopped right in front of the shop I needed to go to. Fuck.

You never see much from the outside, and I’ve come to expect minor things from ambulances because the codes tend to not happen on my shift… it’s relatively quiet anytime I get on a rig. At this point in the story, however, I’m just hoping I can get to the hardware store because I’m so close to getting all these little things done. All I need is this light bulb. And to mail a thing to one of the Katies.

But I went around. The fire truck was stopped literally in front of the store I needed to get into. A cop on a horse told me I’d have to wait. That was when I saw the man on the ground with his shirt ripped open. The medics were doing chest compressions and going, in my opinion, far too slowly. I didn’t see anyone bagging the guy, though he was intubated and there was an oxygen container nearby. Maybe there’s a line connected to the intubation tube thingy that I can’t see, I thought. I’m glad I did. It would would have done no good to try and cross the police barrier and have the horse cop trample me. Besides, this cop sounded like he didn’t speak English and by the time I explained that I’m an EMT (something they don’t have here), there would’ve been storms of trouble, confusion and probably a tourist or two shoved into the canal by the horse’s ass.

Horses have big, clumsy asses.

Flash forward to 10 minutes later. Everyone in the red-light district is staring, crowding – even the whores across the canal adjusting little straps on themselves that around here pass for clothing. I stand and wait, doing as I’m told and notice that the O2 tank is in fact, connected to the guy. Good.

It’s surreal to be in silence in the red-light district of Amsterdam, where it’s always bustling, even if it is with the snaggle toothed weirdos chasing cheap hookers and the coke peddlers. Today there is no bustle; instead, everyone is silent, curious, apprehensive, waiting for a shout or a cry or SOME kind of drama, release of this tension that is almost keeping the water in the canals still.

In front of me is a giant black police horse; behind and next to me are two prostitutes that have stepped out of their booths. They are wearing next to nothing but otherwise behaving very much like normal human beings: someone is down, we stop and stare. Some of us hope. Others write it off as a lost cause. Somebody prays, I’m sure, though what the hell good does that do? Somebody wonders why? Somebody wonders if they’re next.

I stand there and consider how I fit into all this.

I was disappointed in myself for two reasons: even though it wouldn’t have done any good, I realized that I wish I was brave enough to act without so much concern for myself. Consequences be damned. I want and feel an urge to do something, but I, very practically, weigh options and move towards logic. It’s a quality I recommend and admire for others but I hold a double standard for myself; I wish I was less like this. More John Wayne, less Bruce Wayne. More Captain Kirk, less Mr. Spock. More Vincent Freeman, less Jerome Morrow. More Hunter Thompson, less ordinary men.

This might not make a lot of sense to anyone but me, I realize. I’m learning to be ok with that.

More importantly and less existentially, I was disappointed that what was frustrating me at that moment was the fact that my day was being inconvenienced. That my plans were being thwarted. It didn’t occur to me until I saw the man on the ground that someone was struggling for their very life, and losing, and all I wanted was a fucking light bulb.

Eventually – and still compressing an intubated man on 100% O2 at a rate of no more than 35 beats a minute – they got him on the rig and took off. The crowd scattered and went about their normal affairs, whores being whores and degenerates being, you know, weirdos. After the scene was cleaned I proceeded to my hardware store to discover that even with a wall the size of a couple of hummers filled with light bulbs, mine was out of stock.

“I could order it,” he said in broken English, but it would only arrive Friday.

Ok. Fine.

Defeated, I went home and got my things to go across town and pick up my laptop. I put Katie’s letter into the mail slot on the way, though I might have put it into the wrong box and I hope they figure out that the UK is not anywhere inside of Holland. I’m always amazed that the postal system works, and always very wary when I drop that letter into the slot.

Really? Someone is really going to come at 4pm and take this thing to where it says to go? Wow.



A good friend invited me out to coffee as I was already on the train heading out. I had to pass it up since I was going to pick up my laptop. Another time, she said. Maybe, maybe not, I thought. People are always saying “another time”. Few of them follow through. You hang on to the ones that do.

A while later I was at the office, picking up the package. The strange little Dutch man in a gray suit and a brown tie with a 1906 mustache and a strange elongated skull handed me the box. Oh no! I thought, as soon as I touched it: too light.

You know when you pour yourself the cereal and then you pick up the milk container and realize there’s not enough milk? Just like that.

“What is this?” I asked him. He shrugged. I read the fine print. The memory card for my phone. I remembered now that it hadn’t been shipped together.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

This card was about the size of my thumbnail and just as thin. but the box he gave me could’ve fit a couple of laptop computers.

Inside the box that could’ve housed the laptop was a smaller box… easily 1/6th the size of the larger box.

Inside of that one was another box. You could’ve fit 5 of those little boxes in the larger box.

Inside that small box was a plastic envelope with a cartridge that was 4 times too small for the small box.

Inside the cartridge was the memory card.

They’d used 120 times the necessary packing for this thing, and made me think I was taking home my laptop, for which I’ve been waiting for over 12 weeks now. Meanwhile, my fateful loaner machine continues to overheat and threatens to blow up at any moment – literally, to explode. I live in constant fear and perform backups three times a day.

Further defeated, I got right back on the train and went home to finish work. No point in trying any more for the day. Time for a sip of bourbon and to imagine what I really want: the rest of the night with no thoughts whatsoever.

I think I’ll go get to that.

Bah, it’s no big deal – don’t listen to me. Nothing is injured, health abounds, except for that poor gentlemen, and I still have a full fridge and a roof over my head, as well as a working heating system, though no hot water for a shower. And no light in the kitchen. But you know, those are LITTLE things. They just bothered me at the time. But my landlord told me something yesterday that helps:

I told him I was having a problem with my mobile phone and he said: “What do you mean you’re having a problem? People have been living and dying for 1000′s of years with and without cell phones and now YOU have a problem?”

aahhh, the Dutch. Fuck ‘em. Bless them. I can’t really decide.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


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