Time Was Not Our Friend by Janet Keyes

I tried to think of an occasion when time got away from us. Maybe we are the only people who never experienced that, or perhaps we never felt embarrassed enough to remember it. Or maybe we had such an experience and found it so traumatizing that our minds have completely blocked the memory.
I do, however, recall an incident when time was not our friend. We were young, with two small children. We liked to go out square dancing a couple Saturday nights a month. We also did western style round dancing a couple Tuesdays each month. These recreations gave us a break from our routine, and gave Allan’s mom and my mom some quality time with the little ones. As responsible parents, we always left a phone number where we could be reached in an emergency.
On one such evening we were going down to the square dance at the Westover Air Base in Chicopee. We had called ahead to make sure this was a phone that would be answered throughout the evening. You just never know with a government agency. We were reassured, and left the number with Allan’s mom. Since we were going out-of-town, we did not specify an expected time of return. We were unsure of travel time.
Allan’s mom played with the children for a while, then got them settled in bed. She made herself comfortable for watching a little television. A little after ten, Peter started coughing. He had been through a cold, but his cough lingered. He started sounding croupy, so she brought him downstairs to put him on the couch where she could watch him closely. She became more and more uneasy, perhaps remembering when Allan was little and had a bad case of whooping-cough. It was time to call and ask the parents to come home early.
She dutifully called the number we had given her, and was told, “Oh, we can’t get hold of anyone at that dance. That building closes at ten PM, so nobody is there now. It’s now almost ten-thirty, and they must be on their way home. You’ll probably see them in just a few minutes.” Relieved, she thanked the man and hung up. And waited.
Meanwhile, we had gotten no message. The dance got over a little after eleven. We joked around with friends, and we all decided to go to a nearby restaurant for some coffee and dessert. It seemed like a good idea. We were in no rush, nor were the other dance friends. I think we left the restaurant around twelve-thirty.
When we walked into our house about one-fifteen, we found Allan’s mom a basket case, quite sure we had been killed in an automobile accident. Peter was asleep on the couch, and his cough had subsided, but he still sounded a little croupy. When she had told us the whole story and explained how long she had been expecting us, we were shocked and angry at the non-communication. Almost three hours! That’s government for you.
After that we never again fully trusted any out-of-town dance hall to have a working phone. We did most of our dancing locally. I think maybe we only had my mom babysit for out-of-town events.
She was less inclined to panic. Our lesson was learned, time is not always our friend.

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