This is actually not about the bridge at all, or even sailing for that matter.. But I just could not enter another post without a pic! However, for the record, this is a pic taken as i was about to go under my first draw bridge.. I asked the operator what the current clearance was.. he said 28 feet. My mast is at 30 feet, so I told him I would wait for him to raise it on the half hour.. 10 minutes later the bridge began to rise.. as i was passing through the operator got on the radio and told me that it was not necessary for him to raise the bridge for me next time.. ok.. let me think about that for a minute.. clearance = 28 feet.. i need 30 feet.. maybe i was at the bottom of a swell when he happened to look out of his window??
well. on to the story.. the opening scene from this story actually took place.. the rest is the product of my imagination 🙂
The meeting never would have occurred if Ralph had not allowed technology into his life. He was somewhat philosophically opposed to owning a cell phone, and he had long resisted the daily advertising pressure ,which suggested that he was the only living being on the planet who did not posses one. But, in the end, he broke down and purchased the simplest phone that he could find, the one with no frills. He simply could not imagine ever needing to take a picture with a phone. And, what was so great about texting – a word that had yet to be included in his personal dictionary.
That evening, Ralph had barely made it through the front doors of Barnes and Noble when the obnoxious tone of his phone sounded, accompanied by the harsh vibrating action which he had yet to figure out how to eliminate. A glance at the screen indicated that the person on the other end of the line was his son. He answered the call saying, “Hi Erik, hold on a minute.” Quickly he turned to exit the store, still feeling self-conscious about talking on a phone in such a public space. As the door swung closed behind him, he pondered the appropriateness of the phrase “ other end of the line” it just did not seem applicable when the call was, in fact, wireless!
Ralph leaned against the ledge beneath a window on the far end of the building as he raised the phone to his ear. “How are you doing?” he asked. Even Ralph had to admit that the cell phone enhanced his ability to keep in touch with family, and it was always a pleasure to catch up with his son who lived in a distant state. Soon, the father and son became engrossed in conversation so he was only vaguely aware the first time that she passed in front of him. Perhaps it was the slow pace that caught his attention, but she continued on her way, and he quickly returned his attention to the conversation.
She walked in front of him a second time. Again her pace caught his attention. It suggested that she was in no hurry, that she had no destination. But this time he also felt her gaze. He did not lift his head, but he sensed that she was studying him as she slowly passed by.
Ralph turned to watch her after she had passed. Slim, wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes and a crisp button down blouse, she could have stepped from the page of an L L Bean catalog. “Where are you going?” he sought clarification as his son described plans for a hike through the White Mountains the next day.
A few moments later, he was aware of her a third time. He looked up to find her, not more than 5 feet away, staring at him. “hold on a minute, Erik” he spoke into the phone. Lowering the phone from his ear, he asked. “ Can I help you?” “Forgive me for interrupting, “ she said “ My name is Suzie. Are you Dave?” He smiled slightly and responded “ no, I am sorry, I am not Dave” She headed back toward the doors leading into the store, taking time to glance at her watch and then she stopped to observe a man getting out of a small Toyota that had just pulled into a spot across the parking lot. He looked up and headed towards her. He was dressed casually, wearing jeans, sneakers and a polo underneath a jacket which left no doubt that his loyalty was owed to the Wilkes Barre – Scranton Penguins, the local minor league hockey team. As he stepped up on the curb he reached out and shook the woman’s hand. She shifted her purse to her shoulder and stepped aside as he held the door for her and then the couple disappeared inside. “Ok Erik, I have to tell you what just happened.” Ralph said into the phone. …
When the call was over Ralph slipped the phone into his pocket and headed inside. Stopping by the magazine rack on his way to the café, he selected two history magazines. He was fond of history, but he was too frugal to order magazines. A trip to Barnes and Noble every other week satisfied his desire to read about the Civil War and World War II . Sitting down with a hot cup of tea and his favorite history magazines was an evening well spent in his opinion. He settled onto a bench at one end of the café and opened the first magazine. Glancing up, he was surprised to see Suzie and Dave making their way along the row of tables to his right. They took seats across from him. She was facing away and could not see Ralph. Dave was looking right at him, but, of course, he had no reason to suspect that his identity was known to anyone but the woman who shared his table.
“I wonder if his name is really Dave?” he thought to himself. He focused his gaze on the page in front of him, but he failed to see any words. Their conversation was audible, and fairly predictable. It was a first date, a blind date, blind because their only interaction previous to this was in a chat room on the internet. It all made sense now. She did not know what Dave looked like, and he happened to be taking a call right in the middle of their pre-determined meeting spot!
Their conversation was stilted. Perhaps the words flowed more easily on the keyboard without the pressure of face-to-face conversation. The date was not going well. It became obvious to Ralph that Dave was looking for an out. Apparently, Suzie was not all that Dave had envisioned, although she seemed pleasant enough, and her conversation indicated that she was intelligent and thoughtful. The frequent glances at his watch betrayed the words that Dave was speaking. “ it was really wonderful getting to meet you. I am sorry that I have to run, but something unexpected came up. I will look for you in the chat room later on…” The Penquins had a game that night which would be starting in 20 minutes. Ralph wondered if the unexpected event happened to be a friend who called to tell Dave that he had scored two tickets to the game.. He watched as Dave gulped down the last of his coffee and then shook Suzie’s hand. Another glance at his watch and he headed for the door. He was in a hurry. With luck, he might even make the opening face-off.
Suzie sat there with her hand on her half empty cup of tea. Ralph wondered what was going through her mind. Was this the first time that she met a computer correspondent for real? It appeared that she was ready to leave. Without thinking and weighing each of the possible outcomes of his actions, Ralph jumped from his seat. He caught her as she was turning to get up from her table. “ Excuse me, Are you Suzie?” he asked, unable to contain a grin.
She relaxed and sat back in her chair, recognizing him as the man that she had approached earlier in the evening. “yes” she replied. “For real?” he persisted. “yes, for real, she said.” He just needed to know because he had read that most of the population uses aliases when visiting chatrooms. “ I am Ralph, for real” he responded. The grin had turned into a broad smile. “May I sit down?” “Sure” she said. “So how did it turn out with Dave?” he asked. “Somehow, I think that you already know the answer to that question” Suzie said. She was smiling too. Ralph looked at his watch and said “ My guess is that he is taking his seat at the hockey game right about now. They must have been good seats. I can’t imagine that he would leave you sitting here for a balcony ticket”.. she laughed out loud. He was relieved that she had a sense of humor. Another woman might have taken his attempt at a joke the wrong way.
The conversation seemed to flow easily. His original estimation of her as a thoughtful, intelligent woman was dead on. She had a sweet smile and deep blue eyes to boot. “Attention Barnes and Nobles shoppers. The store will be closing in 15 minutes……” he knew the drill. He had heard the announcement frequently before, but how could the time have passed so quickly? “Do you have an email account?” she asked? “no, I never had a reason to have one till now” he smiled. “I do have a cell phone, however, and I would be glad to share my number. (wait, did I just brag about having a cell phone? He asked himself) Better yet, I would love to meet you here on Monday evening if you happen to be free. “ “ I would like that” she replied.
Ralph asked Suzie if he could escort her to her car, and she readily accepted. He held the door for her as they exited the store. Suzie thanked him for a salvaging what seemed to be a doomed evening. “Good night” Ralph said as she got into her car. “thanks again” she responded just before closing the door. After starting the engine, Suzie rolled down her window and said “ where shall I meet you” Ralph said” over there seems like just the right spot” as he pointed to the ledge where he sat when she first walked by. They exchanged smiles once again and then Ralph watched as Suzie’s car disappeared in traffic.