We live in shelter, shielded from the common people

We needed a new sofa. In the car we drove to Zitmaxx in Ter Aar, south of Schiphol, between Aardam and Korteraar. One Saturday, it was not possible to park in the immediate vicinity of the furniture boulevard because they attracted too many customers. There was room for the car five hundred meters away, we joined the procession with other customers.

Who are the people walking through a business park in Ter Aar to a store like Zitmaxx on a Saturday afternoon? We went behind a family where they discussed the weather. The father thought the sun was shining, according to the mother it could get a little colder later. The eldest daughter told that she had put on an extra T-shirt under her vest. And before they just drove off, she had heard from the neighbors that it might rain a little tonight.

I never know how I will react when people say such statements out loud in public. Do they know that others can hear it? Or do they just not pay attention when you tell them something to do? By walking next door in a business park in Ter Aar, it is as if I legitimize this, as if I now also belong to a world where it is considered valuable to exchange this type of information.

Lynn walked beside me and looked at me sideways. She could see on my face what time it was. The last time we ended up in such an environment, I think it was at a bungalow park in Drenthe, I had told about Sander, one of my friends. He had ended up in an amusement park with his children.

“Then you see them suddenly up close,” he had said. He found it confrontational. And he explained that we all lived in shelter, shielded from ordinary people, from the families who wear Ajax or Feyenoord training suits in groups and who without irony believe that Jannes, John de Bever or Django Wagner make beautiful music. We lived among the part of the population that does not know who Jannes, John de Bever and Django Wagner are.

Zitmaxx was busy. We were led through the store via a walking route. When buying a sofa, it is helpful to ‘try it on’ first. Each bank was occupied by a family that was very busy trying. They did so by collapsing on such a couch indefinitely and everyone stared at their phones.

After a few minutes, I said I wanted to leave. Lynn would not allow it. We had not quite come here to give up right away. She had seen a sofa that was worth trying. After we had stood next to each other for a few minutes until the previous group was willing to hoist itself up from the bench and continue walking, we were allowed to take a seat.

For several months, it was all about Ukrainian refugees. They suited our culture so we wanted to accommodate them. Syrians, Afghans and other refugees were nothing like us, so we did not want them inside.

Now we were sitting on the couch. Testing consisted of sitting, making a short movement with arms, legs or hips and sitting again.

I asked what our culture was then. The people around us? Were we included?

Some of the people were already waiting next to our couch. They wanted to try it too.

Lynn thought I should stop talking. I had to focus on trying it. I said I lived in this country all my life, but no one I saw here today belonged to my culture. What did it really mean, what was our culture? It was just as indescribable as people talking about “the Jewish community.” What was the Jewish community – two Jews having intercourse together? In that case, I would never have been a part of it.

Did I say that out loud? Apparently yes. Lynn said again that I should shut up. Because the people next to us started looking at me strangely. And they were eager to try the couch.

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