Thursday lunchtime, we served some toasties, tea and coffee outside the containers. We did it as a prototype, knowing that this simple act would bring forth the possibility of further, more developed acts in the future. After all, some of our bigger interventions will invariably take some more forward planning and we could end up doing all that planning and find out, for instance, that no one really walks past at the time we choose to set these things up.
For now, we wanted to get a feel of the dynamic on the street. For that, toast is easy. Toast is toast. And coffee is easier still. But even despite its simplicity, with things like this we can get a real understanding of what the dynamic was on the street in a nice, non-intrusive way. It’s a kind of research on the fly, a simple offering which would provide invaluable information for future acts. But even despite its simplicity, there was a loose theme behind the toast: talk about Europe… Euro Toast, Euro Talk, Talk Toast, as the signs went. Because no one really talks about Europe in an everyday setting. We wanted to see how the conversation would go.
To be honest, the conversation started out quiet. We greeted a few people, but the cyclists cycled on and the pedestrians were few and far between. But even in those first moments we were active, discussing what we could do next to improve the way the whole idea functioned. We talked about what we were saying to passersby. First we said “toastie”, which was then modified to “coffee” on the basis that this would be an easier thing to take away for the passer by. Then we graduated to “Would you like a toastie?” More polite and besides, it worked better. We discussed how we were positioned, what we were offering and when we were offering it. While I was there I even wrote an e-mail inviting a local organisation to the next Euro Toast.
But soon enough, people did actually stop. We had some good conversations. A lady who had lived in the area all her life spoke about it to Anna and a man who works for the navy in the Marineterein spoke to us about the building and expressed a certain sadness about it being opened up to the public and the fact that he would have to move his place of work to somewhere near Schiphol after the Marineterein is opened to the public. Another couple of ladies from Germany (one who lives in Amsterdam, the other a visiting friend) spent quite a while with us, talking about Europe and asking us what we were doing here and where we were from.
These last two relayed a sweet encounter with the billboards, first thinking they were adverts, but upon passing the third, realising they were part of an exhibition, and by the fourth really snapping to attention as a man on a motorbike stopped momentarily to look at the billboard they were looking at, a picture of some fellow bikers, only to ride on with a roar. We spoke for a while with them, they were really nice, and Stefan was even able to converse with the Bavarian ladies in his native Austrian High German.
In the end we went on for quite a bit longer than anticipated. As we packed up we took with us some concrete ideas for improvement next week and a certain sense of satisfaction at the success of the modest enterprise. What’s more, we not only made ourselves noticed but made a handful of people take better notice of their own surroundings. It really showed the basic importance of venturing outside the containers and reaching out to passersby.