Friday, November 19, 2010

Where's Wally?

Who remembers the "Where's Wally?" ("Where's Waldo?" for all My Fellow Americans) books from their childhood? The long stretches of time spent finding a tiny man in a stripey shirt within a large picture of assorted candy canes, factory components, beach paraphernalia, city buildings, and other objects that made him really impossibly hard to spot. That is, until you were 8 or 9 and the whole search for Wally/Waldo could be completed in record-breaking time. Then it was time to move on to the wonderful world of I Spy books. Wow, nostalgic moment...I sure do miss those.

(Random aside: Sebastian and I found - I think in Salt Lake City - a museum exhibition on the scenes that were created for the I Spy books. They had huge pieces of the sets that the guy designed, large posters of the finished photographs, complete with the rhymes, and other optical illusions with which to compare them. It was pretty neat.)

Anyway, back to Wally and where on earth he was. So last night involved a trip into London. Alas, not to see our friends but to attend the Classical Extravaganza concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert set list was nice, and introduced me to at least two works of classical music that I hadn't previously heard, but enjoyed thoroughly. And it was my first time inside the Albert Hall. My problems begin long before the concert (yes, it's time for a brief list of grievances):

1. The first we heard of this concert was in July. It sounded pretty interesting, but we made no formal commitment to ourselves or anyone else to go. Apparently that wasn't clear as tickets were purchased for us and we broke our budget this month to avoid recrimination and awkwardness. At least, though, the concert felt worth the ticket price, so it was nice.

2. After the concert came our game of "Where's Wally?". Wally is an 80-year-old man in our congregation who absolutely LOVES going to the Classical Extravaganza concert. Incidentally, his wife refuses to accompany she's one of the choristers at church, I find this quite telling. Anyway, several of our party - a party amongst whom, I must add, we were the youngest by about 30 years with one exception - met up at McDonald's in town to carpool into London. Yay saving money on fuel! So we volunteered to take Wally in our car and meet everyone at the concert hall.

After some mind-numbing traffic (we spent an hour inching 10 miles along the M4) we got into the city only to find that between emergency sewer work and the general construction on Exhibition road, we would still be inching along towards the Albert Hall. Having not checked our tickets for a while, Sebastian and I assumed that the concert started at 7, (which had passed 23 minutes ago), and told Wally as much when he asked. He and his cane promptly hobbled out of our back seat and beat a hasty (and surprisingly quick and nimble!) advance upon the Albert Hall. Having just passed the parking garage, we executed a highly illegal and marginally dangerous 5-point turn to get the car in the other direction so we could park and make our way there. Mind you, the reason we'd passed our parking spot before Wally got out was because we assumed we had to drop him off in front of the Hall on account of his nearly crippled state. Lies. The concert, we discovered, actually started at 7.30, so somehow, Wally and his cane made it (a)halfway up Exhibition Road to the Albert Hall, (b)up 4 flights of stairs and (c) into his seat in the row all in the 6-7 minutes before the first song began.

The concert proceeded along fine until the end. Wary of our car being locked in the church garage (our old church building is conveniently on the same street as the Albert Hall), Sebastian booked a pre-emptive retreat to make sure that we didn't have to beg a place to sleep at Angus' or Jake's place. Returning successfully with our Clio, I joined him only to inform him that shortly after he had left, Wally made another swift and nimble exit and was now nowhere to be seen.

On the chance that he may have just nipped off to the little old men's room, Sebastian circled the Albert Hall to look for him; on the hope of being able to inform him that his place in our car for the ride home was still available if he needed it. I kept watch on the nearest door and saw our party scarper in two large groups. Sebastian came back: no Wally. My report: others had left, but I saw no Wally either. He found some other people we'd met up with and asked them, "Do you know where Wally is?" upon which, the full humour of our situation was revealed. Alas, they hadn't seen Wally either. And when we called the first group to depart, none of them bothered to answer their mobiles! Honestly, old people. What are they like?

After some more waiting and another swift circuit of the building, we decided to call it a night, and if little 80-year-old Wally was left in London to fend for himself against some fierce and resourceful homeless people...well, upon his own head be it. We even had other responsible adults agree to back us up if anything untoward happened after we washed our hands of the magically vanishing Wally.

So what, class, is the moral of this story? For the love of all that's good and decent, PLEASE remember that it's good manners to inform the people who were kind enough to give you a ride there that you don't need a ride back! To ignore this action is unkind and irresponsible. Seriously. When you're that old, you're old enough to know better, forget that you know better, and forget that your forgot at one time so that all previous lapses in judgement are conveniently forgotten under the guise of senility. I swear, some old people grow up to be juvenile delinquents.

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