He waited for her by the fountain for over an hour. She said she’d be there. After the first 15 minutes (the standard in college to wait for the professor) he checked his watch again. Maybe it was fast? So he asked a bystander, a mother watching her children frolic in the little geysers that were part of the park. She switched from texting to the homepage on her phone and showed him the time. 2:15. His watch was right.
Then he wondered if he was in the right park. “Excuse me ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you again, but is this the only Coolidge Park?” She assured him that yes, it was, and gave him a funny look which he ignored. He didn’t feel like explaining that he’d once waited for someone at Nashville’s Centennial Park, having not correctly heard Bicentennial. They were less than 3 miles apart, but because he was on foot it might as well have been 100 miles. It would take him an hour to walk there, and then he would have been truly late.
He had learned from his Papa that you could be at the right place but if it was the wrong time, you were still wrong. Later he learned that everything depended on the right amount as well. Something might be the right time and the right place, but too much or too little effort and you might as well have not done it at all. Or you can have the right amount of effort in the right place, but too late or too soon and it wouldn’t work out.
He had plenty of time to ponder this while he waited, but an hour was the most he was willing to sit around. Was she making fun of him? Did she not want to meet and sent him on a a snipe hunt? Maybe it wasn’t like that. Maybe she forgot. Or worse, he thought with a shiver, maybe she’d been in an accident. He would have called her if he could find a payphone. Of course he had a couple of quarters with him. His Mama had taught him that. Too bad her good advice would only have worked well in the era she grew up in. Then it was easy to find a payphone. Now, because everyone (everyone except her son, he mused grumpily) had a cell phone there was no need for payphones everywhere. And how was he supposed to find one? With a smartphone you could turn on ‘maps’ and ‘location services’ and type “payphone” and you’d have a handful of little red dots all over the digital map in your hand telling you which way to head towards. But (he thought ironically) if you had a smartphone you wouldn’t need to know where a payphone was.
Maybe he’d have to bother that distracted mother again and ask to borrow her phone and give his (maybe) girlfriend a call. Or maybe he would just walk home and call it a night. He didn’t want to appear desperate. But he was.