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Head of Delegation Written All Over Her

I must confess, I’m exhausted.

I’ve just closed the front door after another visit from my delightful eight year old Dutch neighbor, Catarina. She stopped by to discuss Muppetpunten (Muppet points), as covered in my previous post An International Trade Representative’s Got Nothing On Her.

That makes two visits in eight days, which constitutes a new record. It isn’t often that she comes to the door, preferring instead to catch me out on the sidewalk as I’m walking Oli or heading to The Fred to run errands.

It’s just that I’ve been busy lately working on a number of small projects, so I haven’t been out and about in the neighborhood as much as usual.

I’ve been darting to the Albert Heijn for groceries an hour later than usual, around 6:00 pm. As fellow Adventurers (aka regular readers) know, that’s the nationally-prescribed dinner hour for all Dutch families.

No, seriously.

Probably a good 98% of Dutchies sit down to eat precisely at 6 pm. On. the. dot.

Stroll into a Dutch grocery store at 5:30 and it’s packed with people picking up a few items on their way home from work. Walk in at 6:01 pm and you’ve pretty much got the entire store to yourself.

It’s similar to when I’d deliberately plan on grocery shopping ten minutes before a Redskins football game on Sunday afternoons back in Washington, DC. The aisles would be empty, shopping took a fraction of the usual time, and I could still be home before the end of the first quarter.

It was much the same during Tar Heels college football or basketball games when we lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Except there, of course, the store manager would actually announce game scores and highlights over the loud speaker to those few remaining shoppers. All I can say is that some folks take their sports very seriously.

But I digress.

By shifting my shopping to a later hour, Catarina and I have been missing each other. Which is not to say that I haven’t been dropping off the beloved Muppetpunten in her family’s letter box, per her previous instructions.

I did so late last week. Then one evening earlier this week I managed to catch her father, Braam, as he rode his bicycle home from work the other evening. It was 5:57 pm, natuurlijk. Three minutes to spare.

‘Hoi Braam. Ik heb meer Muppet zegeltjes voor Catarina,’ I called out, walking up as he dismounted the bike. ‘Neemt je deze voor haar?’

He rolled his eyes, laughing, as he took the precious stickers and tucked them in his coat pocket. We all know how Catarina is about her Albert Heijn collections.

That’s why I was so surprised to see her at my front door again this afternoon.

Two visits. Eight days. The gal is serious.

‘Heeft u meer Muppetpunten voor mij?’ she asked, the slight furrow in her brow belying her calm demeanor. ‘Ik heb slechts vier meer naar een andere handpop te krijgen.’

She was like a junkie needing a fix. Obviously my failure to support Team Catarina with much-needed Muppet points was standing between her and her eighth Muppet puppet.

Yes, her eighth. She doesn’t take her eyes off her target; she’s continuously checking in on other neighbors, scoring a sticker here, another couple stickers there.

Her efforts have not been for nought. Slowly, they add up. I told you no international trade representative has anything on Catarina. In fact, she’s got ‘Head of Delegation’ written all over her. She is nothing if not relentless.

I carefully explained to her that I hadn’t gone shopping in a couple days, but would be going later today.

‘Ik zal ze in de brievenbus setten. Vanavond. Ik beloof dat.’

My promise to put whatever Muppet stickers I acquired into her mail slot tonight seemed to do the trick. She said her goodbyes and turned to leave, looking back over her shoulder at me as if to verify that I would keep my promise.

I tell you, Muppet puppet mania is reaching such heights that I can barely keep up. It’s a good thing for all involved that this particular giveaway doesn’t last much longer. The pressure is killing me.

But this much I know: when Catarina grows up and does indeed enter into international negotiations, none of us is safe. In fact, I hear that they’re tossing her name around to help clean up the Euro mess…

 

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