Monday, May 06, 2024

2. Over-Organized


2. Over-Organized


The fear still lingers in my bones. . . .

We have a neighbour, Jan Mol. Like us, he is a Dutch immigrant and a member of the household of faith. But he can hardly be called a member of his own household since he is seldom home.

Jan is the source of my fear, not because he himself is terrifying, but because of the way he drives his car.

He owns a Volkswagen, a vehicle that has become a public menace in the neighbourhood, given Jan’s reckless driving habits. He’s already received two traffic fines and seems to take pride in it. If he gets a third one, according to the traffic laws of the province of Alberta, he’ll lose his driver’s license and will have to retire his beloved Volkswagen to the garage.

Jan is truly a hazard.

One evening, as I was returning from work and crossing our tranquil street, Jan and his Volkswagen came hurtling around the corner. He didn’t honk his horn, but the screeching of his tires was warning enough. Neither did he see me, likely because he was fixated on his speedometer. The vehicle charged straight towards me, and I would have been hit if I hadn’t leaped out of the way, a jump that far exceeded any from my childhood. I landed in the flower bed in our front yard, much to my wife Katrien’s dismay. 

Meanwhile, Jan had exited his vehicle and nonchalantly said, “Sorry, Arie.”

Furious, I sprang from the flower bed, hurling a barrage of reproaches at him, until I realized I was making a spectacle of myself in our quiet street. Jan stood there, somewhat bewildered but silent. He didn’t react even when I called him a “crazy maniac.”

When I finally stopped ranting, he spoke: “Really, Arie, it wasn’t intentional. I have nothing against you. But I’m always in a rush because I have commitments every night. I barely have time to wash, dress, and eat before I have to leave again. Listen, it’s Monday now. Tonight, there’s an emergency meeting of the D.E.L.; tomorrow evening I’m off to our A.M.D.G.; Wednesday evening I have a diaconate meeting where we need to tally Sunday’s offerings; Thursday evening a board meeting of the C.L.A.C. Well, all the best, Arie. I don’t have much time.”

It was dizzying to hear his schedule and his recitation of the alphabet. I knew that D.E.L. was a Dutch credit union, and A.M.D.G. was our local men’s choir, where he sings tenor. I.S. and C.L.A.C. refer to our immigration society and Christian labour association.

Jan Mol is involved in everything. He’s an organization man, a club enthusiast. No wonder he’s always in a hurry. Thankfully, he has a speedy Volkswagen. He also has a wife, a kind woman, who alone bears the burden of taking care of their four children.

And the children? They adore their father, although the eldest can never have a quiet conversation with him, and the youngest doesn’t know the comfort of sitting on his father’s lap. They’ve been trained not to disturb their father when he’s busy. And he’s always busy.

Once I tried to talk to him about it, but he said: “Excuse me, Arie, but I have to go; there’s a meeting of the C.L.A.C.” I managed to tell him: “Think of your wife, Jan! Remember your children! Think about yourself and your primary responsibilities.”

He had just enough time to respond as he was heading to his garage to start the Volkswagen: “Arie, it’s the same here as in Holland: I’m over-organized. And once you’re in it, it’s like being drunk: You want to get out, but you only sink deeper.”

The Volkswagen roared in agreement, then shot out of the garage like a fighter jet.

The Catechism says that we are to promote our neighbour’s good wherever we can and may. I wonder if I should be praying for my neighbour’s third traffic ticket.


"Over-organisatie," pp 10-12, Arie en Katrien in Canada, Guardian: Hamilton, Ontario, 1958; 
Originally published in Calvinist Contact (; 
tr. George van Popta, 2024.