Diary of a Greeter

Leg 5 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Here I was, well-rested, all set to see what I could show Millie about the love that not only dares to speak its name, but shouts it out loud with a few ohmigod’s thrown in for good measure.
Dear Diary,

That was a trip. In more ways than one, as you’ll see shortly. As I mentioned in my last entry, I got quite a bit of rest before the last Pit Stop. This meant that I was actually conscious and coherent when BVM came around with the press-gang, looking for help setting up the next leg. “Yo, greeter boy, you’re looking pretty fresh. Pack up. We hit the road in ten minutes.”

Crap, thinks I. Here I was, well-rested, all set to see what I could show Millie about the love that not only dares to speak its name, but shouts it out loud with a few ohmigod’s thrown in for good measure. Now I could look forward to schlepping around Europe with Phil, who, if you recall, had taken great joy in trying to fling me to a grisly death from the konkreter turm only days before. The only thing that could make it worse was if they got me to test drive the detours.

“Oh Bert,” says Phil, all Kiwi innocence. “I’m pretty sure he’d enjoy test driving the detours. Why don’t we give him a go?”

“Sure thing. It’s your lucky day kid.”

Yeah. Right.

A couple of airline hops later and I’m in Amsterdam with Phil, BVM, and the few Production Assistants unlucky enough to have made eye contact with him when he strolled passed the craft services table. We hopped into a van and headed north to a little town called Mohneki... Manneki... Monkey... a fishing village. “We’re still working out the Detour,” says BVM, “but the Roadblock is set. We just need to time it.” He turned to the driver, “Look for the statue called The Smoker.”

I spent the next ten minutes wondering why the Dutch would have erected a monument to Jaree. Turns out it’s just some guy roasting his eel. (Is that what the kids are calling it these days?) We stepped out of the van and were overwhelmed by the rich scent of the sea. Or, as I prefer to call it, stench. Like a Marseilles cathouse – and I know whereof I speak. Phil pointed into the hold of the nearest boat, crawling with eels. “Time to get stuck in lad. Twenty-five of them, with your bare hands, into the bin.” He looked at BVM, “That should set the maximum time nicely.”
Little did he know that after ten years on the bottom rung in Hollywood, slimy backbiting worms held no fear for me. I’ve got drunk at Belly.
Fuck this I said to myself. Little did he know that after ten years on the bottom rung in Hollywood, slimy backbiting worms held no fear for me. I’ve got drunk at Belly. Time to take the Kiwi to school. “You know Phil, you look like a man whose wrangled a few eels in his time. Think you could beat me?”

“In more ways than one, son. Just watch me.” He rolled up his sleeves and headed for the ladder.

“I find it much more motivating if there’s something at stake.”

He snorted. “I make in a day what you make in a year, boy. What could we possibly wager?”

And the jaws of the trap snapped shut. One word: “Wardrobe.”

He stiffened. “Oh come on now, win or lose we know you’ll be wearing some horrendous get-up. I hardly think that’s fair.”

“No imagination, eh? I’m sure things could be a lot worse for me. I haven’t even worn drag yet. Of course, if you don’t think you can beat me...”

“You’re on, kid. Bert, send a PA to the Amsterdam Sex Museum. See what they have in the way of chastity belts. I think we’ll be needing one... size small.”

Five minutes later we were up to our elbows in scales and slime. I’ll give Phil credit; he’s certainly game. But it’s been a long time since he’s had to pin down an agent who won’t return his calls. I had him cold.
I looked down the dock, and then I saw it. On the back of an old fisherman, just climbing off his boat. It looked like it had been knit by a colour-blind octopus with the DTs. It was hideous. It was awful. It was perfect.
“Better cancel that belt, Phil.” I looked down the dock, and then I saw it. On the back of an old fisherman, just climbing off his boat. It looked like it had been knit by a colour-blind octopus with the DTs. It was hideous. It was awful. It was perfect. “Hey Bert,” I said, “Why not see if Hans Brinker over there won’t loan us his sweater?”

Five minutes and a small cheque later, Phil was ready for his close-up. He stared darkly at me and muttered. I knew I was going to pay. But seeing him swaddled in that Jackson Pollock of a sweater, knowing he’d be wearing it on a million TV screens in six months time, was worth it.

We were off back to Amsterdam. Phil and BVM were whispering in the back seat. I didn’t like the look of it, but there was little I could do. We pulled into Dam Square and piled out of the van.

BVM cleared his throat. “JB’s thinking we should push the envelope a bit. Those trashy reality shows are eating our lunch. He thinks we need to be more edgy, so we thought we’d try something different with the Detour this time... something a little more... FOX.”

Phil grinned evilly. “We call it Red Light or High Flight.”

Next thing I know I’m heading straight into the Red Light District, a picture of a hooker in one hand and the address of a coffee shop in the other. The racers would have to choose between one or the other; me, lucky bastard that I am, got to do both. I was feeling a bit hungry, so I decided to try High Flight first: go to this coffee shop and eat a plateful of something called Space Cake. I figured it was just a typo.

Half an hour later I stumbled back into the street. That was a lot of cake. It didn’t taste very spicey either. And suddenly the streetlights were very, very, loud. I tried to ignore them; I still had a job to do. For Red Light, I had to walk around the District with this picture, looking in the windows and trying to find the right lady. Once I showed it to her, she would give me the next clue.

I got lost. I got so freaking lost. For some reason I couldn’t keep track of which way I was going, I couldn’t keep track of the time, and the curbstones kept tripping me up and calling me “Asshole” as I fell to the ground. I fell into a canal. I knocked over fourteen bicyclists. I was totally, completely, screwed. I was all set to throw in the towel and head back to the square when I looked up from the gutter and saw her. Her. The girl. The picture. My salvation. I threw myself at the window, babbling like a fool, waving the picture, laughing, demanding my clue right fucking now. She gave me a long slow look, reached into the little bag hanging off her chair, and pulled out... a cell phone.

Interesting but little-known fact: While the Dutch as a people are generally non-violent and pacifist, the same cannot be said of their police officers.

Uninteresting and well-known fact: Truncheons really hurt.

Apparently BVM had some guys trailing me, because I had barely bounced off the back wall of the cell when he stormed in with a lawyer in tow, shouting about immunity and having paid all his fees. They quickly bundled me out of there and back to the van. The last thing I saw before passing out was that godawful sweater. It chased me through my dreams.

I woke up in wardrobe. Phil dropped fifty pounds of chainmail on my lap. “Nice going, boy. I knew that FOX shit wouldn’t work. After your little stunt, they went to the back-up. Fifteen feet of manure – now that’s what I call comedy.”

I had no clue what he was on about, but it seemed that we had achieved a truce. I put on my tinfoil tunic and headed out to the mat.
Millie was happy to hear about the cruise, but Chuck’s body language screamed “Another week with her? Please, God, let there be sharks. Or pirates. Or pirate sharks.” Memo to myself: is Millie in the market for a cabin boy?
First up were Millie and Chuck. Trouble in paradise. If you ask me, virgins or not, that relationship is screwed. Millie was happy to hear about the cruise, but Chuck’s body language screamed “Another week with her? Please, God, let there be sharks. Or pirates. Or pirate sharks.” Memo to myself: is Millie in the market for a cabin boy?

Much to my surprise, the Clowns came in second, again. All the mugging aside, those two have some serious game. If we could just get Jon to quit balancing PAs on his chin, they might be halfway bearable.

Kelly and Jon were team number three. Is this The Amazing Race, or The Amazing What The Hell Did I Ever See In You? Sure, they kissed, but you hear the ice cracking as they broke away. She went off to wash her hair, he hid behind a bush to be ready to stalk Tian and Jaree some more when they arrived. Whatever floats your boat, pal.

Turns out he had a while to wait. Reichen and Chip were next. Their relationship doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, but considering that they always hugged each other with a warmth usually seen only between the first and second place finishers in the Ice Dance competition, that isn’t saying much.

Monica and Sharee were the first genuinely happy team on the mat. Well, Monica was really happy. Or was it Sharee? I still can’t tell. Mutt and Jeff were next. They were even more bland than last time, and that is saying something. It’s like The Incredible Shrinking Personality.

Coming round the bend next, looking like they were being frog-marched by the Grim Reaper, were Steve and Dave. Will these guys never leave? I was stunned. Suddenly, just before the final approach, they stopped, stood up straight, shook off that bony grasp, and turned off the path. Dave spread out a blanket and Steve pulled a six-pack of Heineken out of his pack. They sat down, cracked open beers, and sparked up cigars.
Coming round the bend next, looking like they were being frog-marched by the Grim Reaper, were Steve and Dave. Will these guys never leave?
Phil was a little confused. “Hey fellas,” he called, “the mat’s up here!”

“We know it is, pal. Why do you think we’re down here?” cackled Dave.

“You want me on that mat before Tian and Jaree, you’re going to have to haul my ass up there yourself. And you’d better have a forklift!” added Steve. “Sequesterville, here we come!”

There wasn’t a whole lot to be done. Five minutes later when Tian and Jaree passed them, they were giggling and shotgunning Heineken’s. The girls figured they were just celebrating their arrival and ignored them. Big mistake. When Phil told them they were Team Number Seven, the blood drained from Tian’s face. She turned on the ATCs: “You bastards! That not fair!”

“All’s fair in love and war, honey,” Dave yelled. “See you in a few days! But watch it – those two guys, whaddayacallem, they’re looking a little slow. And we haven’t had a non-elimination leg yet! You might have a few more miles left in you!” He and Steve collapsed in laughter.

“That’s enough you two. I’ve got your damn Philimination right here. Come and get it.”

And they did. They made it all nice for the cameras, I welcomed, Phil Philiminated, they teared up. I went to sleep off the Space Cake and the beating, and they staggered to the Sequesterville Express, leaving a trail of beer cans and singing Roll Out the Barrell. Vaya con dios boys. And remind me never to fly through O’Hare again.