I as sorting through my books the other day and I came across an old philosophy textbook. When I saw what was scrawled on the back, it brought back a flood of memories. It was almost the end of my final year at Cambridge and a friend had told me I ought to hear his ethics professor give his year-end lecture. I accidentally walked into the wrong hall and was stunned by the sight of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. (In those days this happened on a weekly basis.) She was the lecturer. I couldn't understand a word of the lecture, partly because I had never gone in for the hard sciences and partly because I was dazzled by her looks. I left as soon as I decently could but the whole time I felt as if my eyes were waving about on stalks like a slug.
That would have been that if I hadn't run into her at dinner that night in a rather decentish pub some ways off campus. She was at the next table and giggled - all right, snorted is more accurate - when she saw me sit down. We started talking and I was doing my best to get one thing to lead to another when she told me she had to get back to her flat to pack. She was leaving for vacation the next day. I offered to help but she said she couldn't be seen with a student in town. She was friendly, more than half flirting, but adamant. As she got on her bus I pointed out that I was only going to be a student for a few more days.
"Not in town," she said. "But maybe if you ran into me at the Hyatt..."
"Which Hyatt?" I had no idea where she was vacationing.
She appeared to reconsider. "I really shouldn't. You're nice, but I can't." She got on the bus. That, I thought, was that. Then I heard a rapping. She was knocking on the bus window. I looked up. She said something but we couldn't hear each other through the glass. Then she held up two fingers. She was signaling numbers. I grabbed a pen and wrote them on the back of my textbook: 297-2858. At least that's what I put because I thought it was her phone number. As I recall, she seemed to be giving me the digits in twos and ones the way some Europeans do but the final didn't work with any exchange I could think of. It's not a postal code. As latitude and longitude it's out in the Egyptian desert nowhere near a Hyatt. What on earth was she trying to tell me? From the look on her face I'm sure it had something to do with her vacation plans.