So here I was, at an Italian restaurant in the Jordaan, a hip little neighborhood with a very charming vibe. It was a fantastic location for my last dinner in Amsterdam – and my last tango with cigarettes. I sat at a table for one on the sidewalk, drank wine and ate a delicious meal. I had only two cigarettes left, but I knew I wanted to have just a few more than that.
After dinner, I crossed the street to get cigarettes from a machine at a coffee shop. The very kind guy working there counted out the change I’d need. I kerplunked all of the change into the machine. And to my dismay, my brand of choice – all three buttons of them – were sold out. I couldn’t get my coins back, so the very kind guy suggested I just take a different pack. It wasn’t at all what I wanted, but I selected not my brand and went on my way.
This was it. This was going to be my last night as a smoker. I was about to leave my habit in Amsterdam. For whatever reason, I turned right at the corner after I left the coffee shop, and walked toward the canals. Perhaps my last night wouldn’t be as magical as I had imagined, but I was walking in Amsterdam, right?
As I headed to the next intersection, I heard music and laughter in the distance. Curious and smiling, I walked toward the sounds of Dutch singing. As I rounded the bend toward the canal, I saw a corner bar with a rainbow flag out front – and 100 people outside near a stage – drinking beer, dancing, and singing along. It was as though I had been transported to this spot by a guardian angel of sorts.
I walked through the crowd with a little spring in my step, and someone took my hand to swing me through. Sitting halfway down the street from the party outside a pub I’d visited the day before, I decided this was my spot. I ordered a very large stein of Heineken, smoked some of the not my brand cigarettes, and felt at peace about my journey. As I lit the last cigarette I was ever going to smoke, the Dutch singer began singing a rousing rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way in English. Dumbfounded by the moment, I smoked, smiled, cried a little, and extinguished that cigarette with every ounce of courage I could muster. I did it My Way, and the moment was magical.
I left half a pack of cigarettes and my lighter on the table outside the bar. As I looked back to take a picture of the place I left my cigarette habit, I realized the night couldn’t have been scripted better. And that the guy sitting next to me was grabbing my cigarettes.
I walked toward the tram to head back to my apartment as the band kept playing. The laughter and music was comforting as I walked away from my friend and foe, the cigarette.
As my plane lifted into the sky for home the next morning, I swallowed hard, cried a few tears, and envisioned myself becoming the Voiceover Artist I am today. All was behind me, peacefully. And so very much was ahead…