by Stanley O. Epstein
Sometime during the late 70’s I had gone on a trip to England entitled “Plays, Playwrights and the British Theater”. It was a marvelous trip consisting of theater lovers from all walks of life from the various parts of the U.S.A. Busses took us to various places in London and other parts of England to view plays currently being featured.
We would stay after the show and ask questions of the director or actors who would remain behind to chat with us. Quite often we would see two and sometimes even three plays in one day. The locations included Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
After a wonderful tour we were at the airport in London waiting in line to board our Pan American 747 jumbo jet for the flight home. While waiting in line with my fellow classmates, I was approached by a lady in a flight attendant’s costume who stated in her clipped British accent:
"She: “Are you on your own?”
Me: “Well I’m with my tour group waiting to get on the plane.”
She: “Come with me.”
Me: “But, but, (I stuttered) I’m with this group….”"
While I was in mid-sentence, one of the other members of the group said in a very knowledgeable manner: “Go with her.”
The manner in which he spoke led me to conclude that something good was going to happen. And so, without any further equivocation, I followed her. And something good did happen. Something very good. It was something that I had never experienced before and have not experienced since. The airline had oversold coach class and I was upgraded to First Class. You know, where you go upstairs into the top portion of the 747.
First class is everything the name implies. Large, comfortable seats with lots of leg room. Mature flight attendants that know how to make a passenger really feel important. When dinner came, it consisted of a beautifully prepared prime rib and a choice of any vegetable or type of potatoes you desired. And I have never been asked by a flight attendant, in addition to the usual: “Would you like your prime rib rare, medium or well done?” and “Would you like your prime rib sliced thin, medium or thick.” And if you wanted a mixture of all three, that was O.K. too.
It was a wonderful tour and a wonderful flight home.
A couple of years later, I received an invitation from the University of San Diego Law School. For a reasonable tuition, they were offering a six week summer semester at Oxford University. I did not need much of an excuse to return to Oxford, especially since this would be a tax deductible trip.
I looked over the curricula and elected to take a course in criminal law. The reason?: Not because I was a criminal law specialist but because the criminal law course started at 9:00 A.M. and lasted until 12:00 noon and I would have the rest of the day to myself to tour all over England. This sightseeing included The Cotswolds, that crazy rock formation in the middle of nowhere and the like known as Stonehenge.
When I told Carole, my then significant other, that I would be gone for six weeks she said that she would not be waiting for me when I returned home. But that’s another story.
Upon arriving at Oxford, I proceeded to the College where the law courses would take place. As you know, Oxford is comprised of many separate colleges. The college where the law courses would take place was Magdalen College. Now when you see the name Magdalen College in print, the natural tendency would be to pronounce it Magdalen, an abbreviated version Magdalene as in Mary Magdalene. But this is Oxford. And Oxford sprung up around 1096. And so Magdalen was not pronounced as we would pronounce it. Nor, as a matter of fact, is it pronounced as most of the people who live in England would pronounce it. No. "Magdalen" is pronounced "Maudlin". Please remember that and use that pronunciation as you read the balance of this piece or plan on going to Oxford.
I proceeded to my lodgings in a very well built stone building that has withstood the test of time. Remember that Oxford was built a few hundred years before Columbus discovered America. It was a three story building bordered by beautiful green lawns and adjacent well-built stone colleges.
My quarters consisted of two rooms which were exclusively for me and were more than ample for my needs. Most of my needs, that is. Each of the two rooms had a piano. How lovely, I thought, a piano for each of the two rooms. But I then recognized the practical problem that existed. There was no bathroom or toilet.
Now, I do not play the piano. But I do go to the toilet. Frequently, and late at night. And so it was necessary for me to leave my building and go to the adjacent building where a bathroom with a toilet was located. And it was necessary for me to do that frequently. And, late at night. And, quite often, in the rain. Can you imagine having to wake up to don your Burberry raincoat every time you had a call of nature? I would have gladly traded in one, or even both, of the pianos for a simple run of the mill, garden variety toilet.
The six weeks of criminal law and touring England is something that I shall always remember very fondly. When I returned Carole was going with a very nice man. We remained friends. But if I had not gone to Oxford and remained with Carole I wouldn’t have met my wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, and resourceful wife, Renata.