Page 82 The meeting

                                  The Meeting Place.                                   5-16-11

                                                                     Roy Garde.

Audrey Higgins was in the town’s shopping center one morning when she met – by coincidence – the wives of two of her husband’s colleagues. Their meeting was purely by accident because the other two women usually got together to do their jogging around their local streets, after putting their children on the school bus, but the threat of heavy rain had made them both decide to catch a ride with their husbands to the shelter of the mall to do a serious number of laps knowing that there was a convenient bus-stop near the entrance that would take them back home at around lunchtime.

It turned out that Audrey was the only one of the three who had a car there – she’d dropped her children off at school earlier on and was in the Mall to do some shopping – so they all agreed that when the two runners had completed their agreed on number of laps and Audrey had finished her shopping they’d meet up for coffee in Starbucks and then Audrey would drive them home.

Everything worked out fine and two hours, or so, later they drove out of the parking lot and went across town to pick up the freeway and stay on it for one exit because that was the quickest way to get to the residential district.

When they got on the fly-over that would let them get to the north bound freeway they were slowed by heavy traffic that was caused by about ten inches of water that had not yet run away even though the rain clouds that had produced it had passed on through much earlier.

Obviously there was a drainage problem and one of the three women in the car was amused by the situation. Her name was Janet Carpenter and she said, “You know, I don’t think that the designer of this fly-over will ever be called brilliant. All he had to was to drill a few holes and this water would have run out through them because there’s a lot of space underneath.”

The third person in the car, Cathy Prescott, was of a more practical turn of mind and she said, “I don’t think it’s the designers fault, Janet. Most probably the drainage holes are where they should be but they’re blocked by garbage or something and it’s sometimes too big a job to try to clear them while traffic is still moving.”

The incident reminded her of a similar one and she repeated it for them after saying. “You know, there’s danger in the most unlikely places. Listen to this story that my husband told me the other day . . . . ”

Her husband, Bob, was a policeman as were all of their husbands, and he’d told her about the time that he’d been sent to a building and he’d found that its Superintendent had gone up to its roof, for some reason, after a prolonged and heavy rain storm and had seen that it was covered with two feet of water. He’d waded over to the drain to clear it and when he’d done so he didn’t pull his arm away quickly enough and the tremendous suction caused by the weight of all of that water combined with the height of the building grabbed at his arm and shoulder and pulled him down so strongly that he couldn’t lift his head above the surface and he drowned.

The sad story stilled Janet’s amusement effectively but it also reminded her of one that her husband, Jeff, had told her once. She said that he’d been called to a building where the Superintendent had found that the garbage chute that fed the recently installed compactor had become blocked about twelve feet up from the bottom and so, to try to clear it, he’d gone underneath the chute and had opened up an access panel and then he’d poked up at the blockage with a long piece of pipe. “Well,” she went on, “he cleared it all right and the accumulated garbage above the block – much of it was wet – came down in such a massive rush that it knocked him to the ground and then completely buried and suffocated him.”

It was then Audrey’s turn to come up with a similar story about people reacting stupidly in unusual conditions.

She’d already thought of one, while Janet was relating hers, and so she had it at the ready.

She said that her husband, Harry, had told her about a little old lady who had been given a television set by a kindly neighbor and it was three times as big as the one that had recently quit on her after many years of use. Because of the size of the new one she’d had to ask his two sons, who had manhandled it into her home, to put it in the living room instead of where the other one had been in what she’d come to call, but only to herself, the ‘media’ room.

When the two young men had left she’d tried to plug it into the only wall socket that was near enough and she found that it was blocked up with something. She looked around for a tool to clear it with and what she came up with was one of her thin, steel knitting needles.

The shock that she got when she pushed it in stopped her heart.

They kept inching forwards until, at last, the way was clear for Audrey to pull over and onto the long, sweeping ramp that led to the freeway and so they all stopped talking so as to not distract her and she expertly eased her way over and onto it. When they came in sight of the set of traffic lights that were at the bottom of it she saw that they were red, which was unusual because they were only there to filter cars through, one at a time, in rush hours. She knew that it wasn’t anywhere near that time of day yet and so she assumed that there had to be a fault in the control box.

She didn’t want to appear timid in front of her friends and, also, she had a hair-dressing appointment a half hour later and, seeing that she had a traffic cop for a husband she wasn’t much bothered about being given a ticket anyway, she pulled out and passed the other waiting cars, on the outside, and went on through.

There was no fault with the traffic light control box.

The lights had been manually switched to red by a patrolman, as had all of the other freeway entrance ramps between there and the city, to allow a heavily escorted group of visiting high level Middle-East diplomats – they’d been to a factory two towns south of there where they’d been given a demonstration of a clever new portable computerized machine that had remote probes that passively and surreptitiously identified and analyzed, and, most importantly measured accurately, oil flow in pipe-lines – to pass on through with no delay and at high speed.

It was at the same time that Audrey was getting onto the Freeway that the four stretch-Cadillac limos and the three Lincoln Town cars with their motorcycle escorts, three in front and three behind, came on through at better than 70 miles an hour.

The three leading motorcycles were being driven by the three husbands of the women in the car because, purely by coincidence, they had been the first three to show up in the station that morning and had been given first, second and third positions in the escort detail.

So, to sum up:- Earlier that morning, Audrey and Janet and Cathy had met up by coincidence – as had Harry and Jeff and Bob – and all six of them met up again before noon by accident.