Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Punctuality counts

“Aren’t you having just a wonderful parents weekend? Isn’t it great? What have you been up to?”

Lynn had just run over and given me a massive surprise hug. What a wonderful welcome!

I was out on the football pitch at Aphrodite’s school Saturday afternoon, enjoying her soccer game and the wonderful crisp autumn weather. Well, not SO crisp, actually, because this was England, but good enough. Everyone was greeting me, hugs and smiles, and all were so curious. “What did you do this morning? Did you and Aphrodite do something fun? How’s Jo’burg? Tell us where you’ve been!”

And there I stood thinking, “What part of Magistrates’ Court on a Saturday morning in Redhill, Surrey, can I possibly explain?”

I smiled, and said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s been fun. Interesting, even, with a capital ‘I’...”

So. I dropped A off at school at 7:30 am Saturday for her SAT II exams, then zipped back to Ascot station to catch the 8:13 to Wokingham, for a transfer to the Gatwick Express (second to last stop: Redhill). I figured I was going to lose my license that very day, so I’d better leave the car at Ascot station, close to Sooz and Don’s, so I could get someone nearby to drive it back to the house later on.

The train ride was endless. Endless. And I had so much time to think about all of it. Insurance. My driving license. My new arrest record. The size of the upcoming fine. What were my parents going to say? My kids? My friends? Yuk. What a mess. Of course, I was sure I could think of something good about it. I thought. I kept thinking.... not much, really, is good about this.

I needed my Mom to show up, in some kind of shimmering vision, with one of her familiar and soothing sayings. “Every cloud has a silver lining?” Could work.

So! There! Good material to write about, hey? I won’t be worrying about writer’s block any time soon! Trala! I felt so much better. Thanks, Mom!

But somehow, the train just didn’t seem to be getting there fast enough. I was supposed to be there by 9:45, and it was 9:30 and we still weren’t close yet, and I had no idea how to find the Magistrates’ Court House, and almost no money on me. Only euro and rand, I suddenly realized as I looked through my wallet. How utterly inconvenient.

I got pretty tense, because you really can’t pace on a train the way you can in a jail cell, take my word for it, but the train finally arrived in Redhill at 9:40. I tore out of the train, down the steps, out of the station, threw myself into a cab, and said, “Take me to Magistrates’ Court! Please! As quickly as possible.” I could have said “on the double”, but that seemed over the top for Britain. And I’m sure we could come up with another cinematic film reference here, but none comes to mind at the moment. Suggestions? Some flick with Bogart in it? Or Jimmy Stewart?

The taxi driver gave me a look.... and off we went. For about 1/4 of a mile. Gave him the fare (£3.50, all the change in my purse), ran up to the door of the courthouse, yanked it open. (Pant pant pant. Good thing I’ve been training at high altitudes. I’m much quicker than I used to be!) The clock in the lobby read 9:44 am. Whew! Made it! What a sense of accomplishment! Beat the deadline by ONE MINUTE. I was flooded with pleasure. Something had gone right. At least I could be PUNCTUAL. Perhaps my only remaining good quality?

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