A last, weary breath of summer cloaks Amsterdam. The September heatwave has even the most zealous sunbathers clinging to their electric fans, and their freezers stuffed with Festini popsicles.
Outside, meandering over roads of angry trams and taxi drivers, a lone man braves the weather with utmost determination. His bike lets out a rusty whine with every push, but mercy is not on the man’s to-do list this day.
He one-handedly tugs at his handlebars with a heavy breath, bumping over a curb, notching another dent in his front wheel. The tram he narrowly avoids rings an agitated bell at him. He resolutely lifts a middle finger. The response was automatic, in the same way that his eyes immediately shift back to the phone in his hand. He is close now.
He doesn’t notice the white car that gradually pulls up next to him. A short burst of a siren makes him jump on his banana seat and nearly lose balance. He wobbles on his crooked wheels, and spots the words waakzaam en dienstbaar in between orange and blue stripes.
“Shit!” the man puffs. He urgently ups the pressure on his pedals.
The police car blinks its blue lights and rolls down a window. The woman in the passenger seat hollers something unintelligible. The man chooses to ignore her and looks straight ahead. He gulps, his Adam’s apple squeezing itself over the strap of his bowtie. He nervously peeks at the time on his phone.
The police car attempts to obstruct his way, and bumps onto the bike path. The man yelps, and manages to make a swift ninety-degree turn, quickly racing around the car. The cops maneuver themselves back on the road and continue their pursuit.
Clasping his precious smartphone, the man dashes toward his destination. “C’mon, c’mon!” he hisses through clenched teeth. Leidseplein is just ahead, the luminous white symbol of the Apple Store shining at the end of the street like a guiding star. His eyes dart hungrily between the road and the sign. He licks his lips. He can already taste it.
But time isn’t on his side, and neither is the law. The car overtakes the man with tires screeching, coming to an abrupt stop in front of him. The man smacks onto the hood and somersaults over the car. His brakeless bike crashes next to him onto the pavement with a funereal ping of its bell. The man lies curled up around his phone, still hopeful; he had succeeded in deflecting the blow with his body.
Behind him, car doors click open. Without second thought, the man scrambles to his feet and limps toward the Apple store, where a long line is already snaking its way past the iPhone 7-filled shopping windows.
“Out of my way, pussyfarts!” the man shouts as he elbows himself past the line.
“Hey, no line-cutting, mister!” a scrawny man in a black turtleneck yells. “We’ve been here since yesterday!”
An angry buzz spreads along the line, everywhere the man limps past. Approaching rapidly from behind, four black boots are slapping the pavement in his direction. The man makes the mistake of looking back at his persecutors for a moment and trips over the corner of one of the many tents. As he smacks to the sidewalk, his phone is sent flying. Flat on the ground, he is forced to watch as his phone plummets to the pavement in slow-motion, its screen bursting into thousands of fragments, the battery pack ejecting from the back. It was blown to smithereens.
“No! God damn it, no!” the man bellows as he is lifted to his feet. “I was so close!”
“Your days of traffic misconduct are over, mister,” one of the two police officers says, dragging the sobbing man back to the car. “You can get your stupid iPhone later, like everybody else. You’re coming with us.”
The man’s expression shifts to disgust, and he looks up. “Do I look like a want a bloody iPhone?”
The cop takes a look at the man, whose beard is long and round, his moustache curled, his suspenders digging deep into the shoulders of his plaid shirt with matching bowtie.
“Yeah, you kinda do.”
“Ignorant swine! The Ditto is right there, and they blew it!” the man retorts in audible agony. “They blew it!”
“Pokémon Go?” the turtlenecked man chuckles as they pass him. “What is this, July? Get over yourself, man-child.”
Another buzz breaks out in the line, this time a scorning laughter.
“Yeah, yeah, you know what? Enjoy those stupid iPhones! I don’t need ‘em! Know what I got? Thirteen gyms in this city alone, motherfuckers! Suck on that! You’re all quitters! I might be the only one left playing this damn game but know that I’ll be the very best!”
The cops press the squirming man down onto the backseat of the car.
“Like no one ever was!” he barks before the door is slammed shut. He rambles on arduously, muffled behind glass.
From a distance, somewhere in the line, one person can’t bring herself to laugh.
“You know? I kind of feel sorry for the guy. I think he just wants friends.”
Her friend raises an eyebrow at her, fanning herself with an iPad. “Darling, don’t. He had a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.”
“A what now?”
“I take it back. Let that proto-human rot in a cell.”
And peacefully they wait.