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I dialled a phone number. Ring, ring.


"Are you free for lunch?"

"Yes," said Maree. "Come and meet me at my place of shirk."

"Where’s that?" I enquired.

"125 Queen Street. Just go into the foyer. There are comfy seats beneath a three dimensional mural. Wait for me there."

I sauntered down Queen Street looking at numbers. An ornate old building with a legend carved into the stonework proclaimed itself to be at one and the same time the Bank of New Zealand and number 125. The building was just a fašade, kept for the sake of its attractiveness. The bank was long gone and as I entered I became aware of the bustle of people as they hurried between the shops which now occupied the entire available foyer space.

I looked carefully. No mural. There were several wooden benches, but they didn’t fit the description "comfy" at all. I sat on one. No – it wasn’t comfortable. This must be the wrong place.

I spied an escalator and rode it up. On the next floor were more wooden benches as uncomfortable as the first. No mural. Where was I to sit? How was Maree to find me in all this hustle and bustle? Panic set in and I took the lift to the 24th floor (as one does).

"Yes sir?" enquired the receptionist.

"Can you tell Maree that Alan Robson is here, please?"

"Certainly Sir. Please take a seat."

The seat was distinctly comfy and there were things on the wall. Had I perchance misheard the directions? Did I blink and miss the sentence "Take the lift to the 24th floor". I didn’t think I’d missed it, but you never know.

Soon Maree arrived. "This isn’t the downstairs foyer," she said icily.

"I got lost," I explained. "And confused. I couldn’t find the comfy chairs and the mural."

Maree looked puzzled. "How can you possibly miss it?"

"Show me where it is," I requested humbly. We took the lift down 24 floors but since it was now lunchtime we took the pretty route and examined all twenty four floors one after the other in enormous detail as the lift filled up with hungry office workers. Maree took me out into the street (via the shops) and then pointed out an entrance with "125" on it in big bold, black numbers. We entered. There in front of me was a mural and comfy seats, just as described.

"See!" she said. I saw.

"That’s not the door I came in through," I pointed out. "My door didn’t lead here."

Maree began to look exasperated. "Show me!" she thundered. Meekly I took her up the street to the old Bank of New Zealand building with the number "125" on the door.

"I went in there," I said. "Did I do wrong?"

"In all my time going up and down this street," said Maree firmly, "I’ve never seen that door before. Nobody has ever seen that door before. Everybody, without exception, has always gone through the door with "125" on it in big bold, black numbers - the door that leads into the foyer with the mural and the comfy chairs. Half the population of Auckland has visited me at work at one time or another and every single one of them has been able to find the foyer, the mural and the comfy chairs with no trouble at all. Only you, in the entire history of the universe have ever managed to find a DIFFERENT door with "125" on it that leads somewhere else. How do you DO this?" She stamped her foot in exasperation.

I hung my head in shame, and my hat fell off.

Geography? Don’t talk to me about geography.

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