This evening we went to the IKEA to look at bookshelves and eat meatballs. They're having their sale, "Plundra." Fun to say. The ladies in front of us had a huge stack of place mats. I asked them how many and she told me she had thirty-six place mats, but they weren't all for her. Because splitting thirty-six place mats between two people make so much more sense than one person buying thirty-six place mats.
I expected all kinds of answers. She was bubbly bordering on nutsy, the kind of woman who is either your unpredictable and fun fifth-grade teacher or the neighbor who always drinks a little too much and embarrasses everyone else at the block party. Her share of the thirty-six place mats was twenty-four. She explained that the kids just go through them so fast, there's no sense having anything nice. They were on sale, a dozen for 1 euro. Can't beat that. Can't help wondering how many kids she has and whether you should consider a hard hat if you get invited for dinner.
This becomes one of the moments when I am happy I can speak Dutch. Life loses its luster if you don't have plenty of unexpected encounters with strangers to keep you wondering where they get their wacky ideas. Unfortunately, if you don't speak the language you don't hear their ideas! There isn't a single language class in the country that would have told me about this particular need for place mats, after all.