Previous Contents Next

Alan Goes Out For Dinner

It has been swithening (sic) for what seems like considerably longer than the traditional forty days and forty nights. The ground is saturated and squelchy and, in many low lying places, under several feet of water. Chimneys poke pathetically through the waves. Large parts of Wellington have fallen off the cliffs onto other large parts of Wellington; generally on to the roads that wind alongside the sheer cliff faces. Traffic inches slowly past the blocked lanes. Tempers are frayed and journeys that usually take minutes start to take hours or even days. Drivers die of hunger and thirst, trapped in never ending queues. Desiccated driver corpses festoon the sides of the roads.

"Come for dinner," suggested Ross.

"What a good idea," I replied. Since I intended to drink a smidgeon, I called a taxi. The taxi turned up in good time, and I climbed in to it, clutching my smidgeon. We set off on our journey.

Then we hit the queues and began to crawl along. I telephoned Ross.

"There's been another slip on State Highway Two," I said, "and I'm stuck in the queue. Expect me when you see me. I might be some time."

"Ah," said Ross. "That might explain why Laurie and Annette haven't turned up yet either."

"Indeed it might," I said. "I'll give them a ring."

No sooner said than done.

"Hello," I said. "I'm stuck in a queue."

"Funny that," said Annette. "So are we! I think there must have been another slip."

"Oh well. I'll see you at Ross's place sometime or other."

I settled back and gloomily watched the meter ticking over far too rapidly for comfort. Dollar after dollar added itself to the already frighteningly large total.

The taxi was in the right hand lane, working on the theory that when we reached the slip, it would be the left hand lane that was blocked since the left hand lane was closest to the cliff face. For a while the cars in the right hand lane did indeed move faster than the cars in the left hand lane and I experienced the giddy thrill overtaking, even though we were only moving at 3 kph. One of the cars just ahead started to look vaguely familiar and once we got alongside it I rang Laurie and Annette again.

"If you glance to your right," I said. "You will observe me sitting in a taxi that is about to overtake you."

They both glanced to their right, and we waved enthusiastically to each other for a while. Then boredom set in and we stopped.

For no immediately apparent reason, the traffic in the left hand lane suddenly speeded up and Laurie and Annette pulled ahead of my taxi. I watched their rear lights vanish into the murky rain. The only amusement left to me now was to return to watching the enormously large number on the taxi meter get even larger. It reached a number that approximated New Zealand's national debt and we were still stuck in the traffic. I began to wonder just how large the taxi fare would eventually become. Perhaps it was time to sip a smidgeon…

We arrived at the slip and, as expected, the road reduced itself to a single lane. The left hand lane was completely blocked by what appeared to be an entire pulverized mountain. Seven maids with seven mops were slowly sweeping it away. I was absolutely certain that half a year would not be nearly enough time to clear it away. I shed a bitter tear. I am the walrus. Coo coo ca choo.

The number on the taxi meter was now so large that the entire contents of Fort Knox could not have paid the fare. And anyway, the taxi driver's pockets weren't deep enough to store that number of dollars. The figure asymptotically approached infinity and the taxi driver began to giggle like a maniac as we slowly edged past the vast broken bit of Wellington.

The sides of the meter were visibly expanding now as the display area got larger and larger in order to accommodate the increasingly ridiculous total. The meter was occupying most of the front of the taxi and there was scarcely any room for me and the driver any more. The display indicated that my debt was now a googolplex dollars. Next stop infinity plus one. Then something went sproing! deep inside the mechanism and the meter instantly shrank back to its usual size as the total wrapped round and the numbers started counting up again from one dollar. I was reprieved!

Once we got past the slip, progress was fairly rapid and we soon arrived at Ross's house. The taxi pulled up behind Laurie's parked car and the driver and I looked at the meter. The final total was $65.

"Give me $45, and we'll call it quits," said the taxi driver.

"Sir, you are a scholar and a gentleman," I told him, for indeed he was. And I still had a smidgeon left!

Previous Contents Next