News - May 8, 2013

Dumb Zone in the Dutch train

I thought I knew everything about Nederlandse Spoorwegen. I was wrong.

Stiltezone on the Dutch train
Two weeks ago I went to The Hague by train for a conference. During my transfer in Utrecht, I easily found the train for The Hague and randomly got on a carriage. I took a seat and flipped through the free SP!TS to kill time. When I found the train was standing still for a bit too long, I looked up and checked the time in the little train TV. Suddenly I yelled at a high pitch: 'hey Maurice!' Maurice, my classmate, was getting on the train. I beckoned him to sit beside me. But meanwhile I noticed the surrounding passengers staring at me with hostile faces. 'Anything wrong with my greeting in the cheerful Dutch way?' I asked myself.
Finally the train started to move, and I began to talk to Maurice. It turned out that he was heading for that conference too. 'Wat toevallig!' I couldn't help but yell again. Then the woman sitting diagonally opposite to me knocked at the train window and said something to me. My mind was too stuffed with the happy sunshine to understand what she said. So I just asked her, with a smile, in Dutch: 'wat zegt u?' She patiently repeated, but I still failed to grab her words. Maurice, however, nudged me with his elbow. 'She said this is a silent zone. Speaking is forbidden here,' he whispered.
When I looked up at the window, I finally understood what she said. There was a strikingly letter "S" with two words aside, 'silence' and 'stilte'. 'Oh sorry, I always thought it's just another non-sense decoration,' I said to the lady. I guessed she must consider me as an awful illiterate.
It was not my first time to be in a silent carriage. But previously, if my memory serves, I just saw people talking loudly there. That made me never get the purpose of those frosted words on glass. And I have another excuse for it. The UnDutchables told that 'if you are hoping for a tranquil train journey, don't bother about a designated stiltezone, you will get a headache from the racket. '
Hmm, I seem to have gotten too nerdy from the Dutch academic education. Genuine knowledge comes from practice, although sometimes at the expense of making mistakes.
Vid of the Week This clip tells you nothing is impossible; stilte zone could also be a singing zone.