Ever since I've lived in the Netherlands, I've had a conviction that there is a monumental conspiracy going on at the highest of levels. I have no proof but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.
You see, this is a very small and rather overcrowded country. Most people are squeezed into apartments or at best, one part of a house. In fact, many of my acquaintances don't even refer to ‘apartments’. They are so used to this way of living that even a two roomed flat under the eaves in the attic is called a house. Stretching the point a tad, I know, but it’s all relative.
Now there is a risk involved with such population density. It is that you might, just might, have too many cloggies gathered together in one place at any one time. The potential for revolt and uprising is severe. I mean, can you imagine a bunch of revolting Dutchmen congregating and lurking with ill intent? It's a worrying (or even revolting) prospect indeed...especially for the powers that be.
I noticed this very early on in my life here. I also noticed that every effort is made by the authorities to prevent such a situation occurring. It works like this: If ever you want to go to the town hall for something simple, such as the registration of a change of address, you can never complete the task in just one place. You will notice that there is a constant flow of people on the way to different parts of the building where they have been sent by bored clerks who have clearly been instructed to keep them all moving. If you register at one desk, you have to go to another desk to pay your fee, and then to yet another one to collect the confirmation of your registration. This, dear readers, is just a minor example of the way we are continuously prevented from gathering in numbers of more than one or two in one place. After all, remember those revolting Dutchmen...
It happens with any procedure you attempt to follow. In extreme cases, or extremely small buildings, you might even be sent to other buildings on the other side of the city to fulfill a simple, straightforward administrative procedure. For some reason the distance to your next stop is always described as being "just five minutes walk". Well, flexibility is one thing, but I have never before experienced such an elastic concept of time as this.
Another example can be found on the highways. You will find that the moment the traffic begins to build up and develop a reasonable pace, the overhead signs on the road will suddenly start flashing to instruct you to reduce your speed to 70 or even 50. This, I am reliably informed by a former police commissioner of my acquaintance, is to disperse the traffic, and prevent too much congestion.
The authorities seem to believe that if everyone drives any faster, they will all end up in the same place at once, and cause (perish the thought) traffic mayhem. Why this should be true in the Netherlands when in Germany, there are no speed limits, and apparently no reports of riotous road rage due to systemic and chronic bumper bashing, I am not quite sure, but when I put my Great Dutch Conspiracy theory to my police commissioner, he nearly fell off his chair laughing...or was it shock that I had actually discovered and revealed their dastardly plan?
Nevertheless, the Dutch people, bless them, are not so easily coerced. Indeed, if you should travel out in the countryside of a Saturday or Sunday, you will see how they escape or circumvent these attempts to distribute and disperse them. Sure enough, you will see what I have affectionately termed the 'granny packs'. These are large groups of lively senior citizens who cycle furiously around the country roads in glorious throngs of what seem like hundreds. Are they revolting? Absolutely... but only against (or is it 'to'?) all the rest of us who are trying sheepishly and desperately to get past them in our cars, vans, buses or any other motorised vehicle. Needless to say, out here in the wilds and away from the rigorous controls of their masters, they will not be moved!