Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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Amsterdam's Canals: A Drunkard's Deathtrap

Understand that Amsterdam is one of my most favorite cities in the world. In fact, when I lived in Philadelphia, I kept a bag packed for those weekends when roundtrip airfare to Amsterdam dropped under $200. It didn't happen often, but when it did, I knew I'd soon be eating breakfast at Cafe Luxembourg overlooking Spui, the cobblestoned square at the heart of so many of my Amsterdam adventures.

A "private" model from whatsupwithamsterdam.com
Heavy drinking and concomitant public urination is so common in the city, however, that residents have a term for it: "wild pissing" (wild plassen in Dutch). Despite the presence of outdoor pissoirs throughout the city, such pubic conveniences aren't always used. Anything is fair game when a full bladder demands attention — trees and buildings, for instance. Even the city's famous canals are not exempt from a good hosing down.

Earlier this year, Radio Netherlands relates a story from De Telegraaf that 51 people have died in those canals over the last three years. One was the result of crime. The other 50?
De Telegraaf newspaper concludes that the other deaths were the fault of the victims themselves: they fell into the water and were unable to get out...Most of the canal casualties are apparently men who fall in while attempting to urinate into the water from the side.
How is it determined that men fell to their deaths while urinating? The article doesn't specify. Of course, witness statements might help establish that. But my guess is that their open flies were the common giveaway.

The article makes no mention, either, of the obvious: many of these drowned men with their supposedly open zippers had to have been drunk enough to lose their balance at the canals' edges and, hands occupied, tumble into the dark waters below: an ignominious end.

Please, dear readers, should you visit Amsterdam, have a few drinks too many, and find yourself outside, use the public toilets. That's why they are there. If the completely open four-man pissers make you a bit shy, keep an eye out for older, more private ones like the one above.

And before your flight back home, be sure to piss on a fly in Schiphol Airport.


Anonymous said...

In Ontario, we have many boating related fatalities every summer. More often than not it is dudes pissing off the back of the boat while underway. Dude falls over, friends don't notice until the next fishing hole.

Matthew Rowley said...

Shocking! Canadian fishers (well, fishers in general) have such reputations for sobriety...

I was once capsized when one of my boat mates (who had been taking shots of Jagermeister all afternoon) decided it was time to catch up with our friends in another vessel and lost control. Splash! The rule for me ever since was that beer was fine, but stiffer drinks were for land. At least, when the drinker is in charge of the boat.