Job Klijnhout 1941 – 2012 by Eric Sampson Many people are able to tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first met Job Klijnhout and where I was when I heard the news of his terrible illness and the awful inevitability. Richard Harris and John Miles have written a lucid account of Job’s numerous contributions to transport; this note records some more personal memories.

Way back in 1987 I had gone to the old Berlaymont building for my first meeting of a Transport Officials Working Group and over coffee before the start had committed the UK Civil Servant crime of having a public argument with another Department. I was unimpressed by support for a proposal to fund a particular line of work on the grounds that it would contribute little if successful and I was certain that I had seen some results from similar work elsewhere but I hadn’t been able to find any evidence. The meeting started and after a short time an envelope travelled round the room addressed to me c/o the UK delegation.  Inside was a note saying “hope you don’t mind but I heard what you said earlier. You are quite right; a waste of time and money as the Netherlands project in this area showed that you spend lots and get littles(sic) “  It was signed ‘J J K’.  Armed with this I grabbed the microphone at a suitable point and torpedoed the proposal saying loftily “And I believe the Netherlands Government has conducted some trials in this area which support my point of view”.

Afterwards I went to thank him and we ended up sitting together in a group over dinnerand formed a friendship that lasted 25 years. For a lot of that time we served on various EC Committees and I would like to think we enabled progress in many difficult areas by assembling small groups of experts outside the formal proceedings to take problems apart.  Job would lead the dissection and I would break pencils taking notes to write up the results as a “bout de papier” to be given to the Commission officials the next day. During this time I became aware of Job’s love of the English language and in particularEnglish humour and television comedy shows. I doubt there are many Dutch folk who today could recite the words of the Monty Python “Cheese Shop” or “Dead Parrot” sketches. Some years later I introduced him to the works of Tom Stoppard and he telephoned me at home to enthuse about the section in “Travesties” where four characters each make sensible coherent speeches but they are interleaved so that the result is a series of limericks. “You can only do this in English!”.

He was also an enthusiastic fan of A. Milne and could recite long tracts from “Winnie the Pooh” with no difficulty. He was fascinated by what he saw as the precision of English and said to me once “The Inuit are supposed to have 30 different words for snow but only in English are there 30 ways to write something nice about someone while being rude in a way they do not understand”. From time to time an e-mail would arrive from Job asking me to look at his English and if necessary change it so that he could be apparently nice to someone while delivering a severe reprimand. He relished puns and I borrowed his official envelope routine in an FP4 meeting sending the Netherlands Delegation the question “What’s brown and sticky?”  I returned his reply “Hunny” [a Winnie the Pooh quote] and he laughed out loud to the Chairman’s bewilderment after he read “No; a stick”.

I can’t recall when I became aware of his love of music. He followed the Royal Concertgebouw and Haitink around the world and I remember sitting in the Festival Hall in London waiting for their concert to begin when my wife whispered “there’s a man with amazing hair waving at you as if he knows you”. I used to think that he listened only to Bruckner and Marler and occasionally would send him a CD to widen his tastes. He responded to receiving Hilary Hahn and the Bach Partitas with “I used to think only American men could play the violin properly; now I know better”. Paul Lewis’s Beethoven sonatas were rewarded with “I think it’s time for another visit to the UK. Where have you been hiding him?”

He was very knowledgeable about art and history too. When we had the ITS World Congresses in Chicago and Turin those of us intending to make cultural visits asked Job first for recommendations and among the treasures he revealed are the ‘canal boat’ trips and Monet collection in Chicago and the underappreciated artist Morandi in Turin.

I haven’t mentioned his professional work. As Richard and John have illustrated he was a pioneer; a visionary; an evangelist for a new way of thinking. In a world where too many are worried about the trivial consequences of failure he focused on the much larger benefits from success and constantly argued “let’s try it.  If it turns out not to work as we predict then we stop it”.  And it did work: the standard Netherlands intersection controller the Motorway signalling system the section control system for speed enforcement in the Netherlands the small national architecture experimentthat developed into the European standard. The Netherlands’ excellent road safety record rests hugely on his innovations.

Job believed in cooperation especially international cooperation and he was a founding member of ITS America ERTICO and ITS Netherlands. During a spell working with Minnesotan colleagues he attended a Rural ITS Congress in Colorado where a surgeon explained the benefits from immediate trauma help after traffic accidents and introduced the term ‘Golden Hours’ – no trauma help within 2 hours is invariably final. Job immediately recognised the significance of this which led him to press the case for changes to the management of emergency services which we all now take for granted and which are visible as the globally accepted 911 and 112 numbers. The ITS World Congress was his idea as was “ITS in Europe”. He was disappointed that the original title as used in Amsterdam of “IT’S in Europe” was suppressed on the grounds that it didn’t translate into French. His comment was the somewhat acerbic “French isn’t the language of Europe; English is”.

And suddenly he is no longer with us. He announced last year that he intended to retire “properly” so would not work on the Austrian World Congress and we sent him off with our best wishes. He was planning various trips with Tineke including tastings at selected Scottish distilleries and we exchanged mails about which ones should be included and in which order.  Suddenly in early May we had the news that he was “seriously” ill and it soon became clear that this really meant “terminally”. I gather that the doctors estimated three or four weeks but Job was in good general health and he had the last laugh in proving them wrong by more than doubling their estimate. 

His funeral/cremation was a sad but not a despondent event. Karen and Inger his daughters each gave a short address about “my dad” – and huge thanks to whoever secured their texts and translated them for the considerable number of overseas mourners – accompanied by a short piece of music. They were followed by Tineke and Jette a longstanding family friend who likewise spoke with associated poetry and music. And then at the end we were spared the artificial ‘transition’ involving conveyor belts curtains descending coffins and instead had a quiet civilised moment to pay personal respects with Bruckner’s Fifth one of his favourites in the background.

How we miss him. He contributed so much in so many areas. He was truly a Renaissance Man.

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Original Publication Date: Tue 24 Jul 2012