On Trying to Make Sense of Modern Culture
After an 8-hour flight from Chicago, I arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. I came to Holland to participate in a conference on the family. The organizers had arranged for someone to greet us and help us—me and a few other Midwesterners—find our way to the hotel. She wasn’t there, for we had arrived earlier than expected (6:15 am), so I decided to find the train to the hotel on my own.
The train-ticket vending machines took credit cards. After pressing the “credit card” (and not “debit card”) option, I was asked for a PIN number, which my credit card does not have. I was stuck.
No problem—there was an open AMBO bank right there; I’d purchase Euros and pay cash for my ticket. The teller told me to use my credit card at a nearby ATM to buy Euros. But again, I couldn’t get past the PIN number request. I returned and told her, and she accepted my credit card so I could buy Euros.
I rejoined our group and was greeted by Dace, our guide. She had only arrived the day before from Latvia; this was her first visit to Holland. She had already checked into the hotel, so at least she knew how to get there. She handed me a 4-day train pass, compliments of the conference organizers. She had to wait for someone whose plane had just landed, so I thought I’d try the train again on my own with my pass.
Many trains run through the airport station—bound for Amsterdam, or other cities in Holland as well as throughout Europe. I could not tell from the signs which train I needed and where to catch it. So I asked a man in uniform how to get to Amsterdam’s RAI Centre. I went down to the track number he gave me.
However, none of the route maps on the train platform included an RAI Centre stop. So I went back upstairs to a ticket window to verify the track number with an agent. It was wrong! She handed me printed directions. I also showed her my train pass, just to verify that I could use it on that train. She told me that it was not valid for that train and that I’d have to buy a ticket for the RAI Centre for 3 Euros, which I did.
I found the right platform, and the train came exactly on time. On board a conductor asked for my ticket. She accepted my 3-Euro ticket. Curious, I asked her where I could use the 4-day train pass. She looked at it and said I could have used it on that train. I exclaimed that the other agent told me I couldn’t. “She should not have told you that,” the conductor said.
So I was out 3 Euros, but I did arrive at the right hotel. What was frustrating was that I was given misinformation several times by people who I had every reason to believe would know the right answers. Had I not kept pursuing answers and verification, I might have ended up in Germany!
I think my experience was a bit like young people trying to make sense of modern culture: As they move into the uncharted territory of adulthood, they are given a lot of misinformation about how men and women are designed to live. Many assume, or perhaps are reassured, that their teachers, counselors, government leaders, respected media elites, and other “authorities” know what they’re talking about when it comes to important questions that determine the paths of their lives.
This is why Salvo’s mission is so important. Our purpose is to help readers and weary cultural pilgrims navigate the maze of choices and information, so that, ultimately, they may arrive safely at the destination they’re meant for. It’s best to keep asking questions, to verify, and to double-check—and not to give up!
It’s the hope of the staff and writers that this issue of Salvo will provide helpful signs pointing toward the one worldview that really works. And it works because it’s true. Thanks for reading Salvo, and please, help spread the word! Contact Julie—[email protected]—for sample copies and flyers. •
From Salvo 10 (Autumn 2009)
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is the executive editor of Salvo and Touchstone magazines.This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #10, Fall 2009 Copyright © 2021 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo10/terminal-confusion