This morning I was at the Central Trainstation in Amsterdam. When I came running to the platform to catch my train to Eindhoven, the doors just closed before my nose and it left without me. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for the next one in 20 minutes. No problem.
Then, I saw a small group of Arab looking men walk on the platform. They were not talking to each other, but they seemed to belong together. One of them sat down close to me. In one hand he held a cellphone, in the other a strange looking little orange device with a small digital screen and a button. He wore a long brown coat and seemed a little overweight. Or….my mind started rushing.
“What if this guy has a bomb-belt under his coat, and the little device is the trigger…?” I decided to get up and walk away from him into the station to get a coffee. When I returned, the train came in, and I watched the man and his little group of followers entering the train. I decided to see from outside where they were going to sit. They were walking at least 3 trainwagons down to the back of the train and sat down in first class. I decided to sit as far as I could to the front of the train. “At least when they blow up the last wagon, I have a chance for survival”, my crazy mind told me. I hesitated for a moment to tell the conductor about my thoughts, but I didn’t want to be the one that caused a whole station evacuation on my vague assumption.
The train started to move and still a little weary I hoped I was wrong. I got a phonecall and while I was talking, I saw the group of men entering my wagon!!! They were sitting down a few seats behind me. “What are they doing here now?, Why did they walk at least 7 wagons to sit here in the front of the train with me!?, ” If you want to crash a train with maximum casualties, wouldn’t you blow up the front, instead of the back of the train?” I felt a HUGE fear coming up.
A woman in front of me saw me looking very worried and I decided to tell her that these men were behaving strangely. I saw her getting scared too. Then I felt I had to do something out of two options. Either feed my fear by doing nothing, getting off the train at the next station or leave this wagon to move to the far end back side…OR confront my fear and go to these men to check my assumptions.
I got up and walked over to the man in the long coat, starting to talk to him in dutch. He didn’t understand me, but pointed to one of the others that could speak a little english. I said I was curious what this little orange button device was on his finger and that I got scared because of the Paris situation. It took a moment before they understood that I was afraid they were terrorists. Then they started to smile and explain that they came from Egypt and were tourists on a trip to Roermond to go shopping at the outlet. The little orange device was a counter for his prayers. And they were sent away from the first class wagon because they had second class tickets and all the other wagons were full. Pfieuw!!
After a little small talk, I went back to my place. The woman in front of me took a card out of her bag that said; I think you are GREAT! The whole atmosphere in the wagon relaxed. Probably I was not the only one who was checking out these guys.
What I learned from this experience is that your thoughts can make you crazy. And the only way to deal with fear is to go towards it, instead of away from it. The latter will only grow your fear. Share your feelings, check your assumptions and dare to connect to others.
These are my new Egyptian friends.
With Playful greetings,