Ariana Mangum: How elegant can you get”

October 1, 2013 

Ariana Mangum


Recently, my usually predictable life seemed to grow more interesting.

I went with a friend, who is rather shy and modest, to deliver some manuscripts to the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. After we left the papers, I slipped into the ladies room. I noticed the stall door’s lock appeared rusty, and I found it hard to close. When I tried to open it afterward, I could not get the lock to budge. Finally, I called for my friend – who was waiting outside near the elevator – to come help me.

He hesitated because he wasn’t sure if he should enter the ladies room. Eventually, though, he plucked up his courage and came in. I kicked the door from the inside of the stall while he pulled it from the outside. At last, after I gave the door a tremendous kick and my friend gave it a hard jerk, I was freed from my prison.

I headed to the stairs, determined to walk the four flights down to the side door. There, I commandeered an unsuspecting student who helped me (with my two canes), down the steep metal steps to the ground floor. I was never so glad to see the sun and to feel the breeze in my hair as I was that afternoon. This happened about two months ago.

More recently, I had another adventure. I took a young friend out to lunch for a treat before he returned to the university to continue his studies.

The Siena Hotel is an elegant place – the Waldorf Astoria of Chapel Hill – with a doorman and music on Friday and Saturday evening. It is always a treat for me to go there.

This day we sat beside the window. I took off my cloth hat with the little pins on it from Cambridge, Dublin and Russia. I placed it on the window ledge with my handkerchief. I usually carry a handkerchief because hot or cold drinks make my nose run, and I like to have a linen one close by just in case I need it.

During the course of the meal, my ill-fitting bridge left its foundation teeth. I quietly removed it and placed it under my handkerchief on my hat. It rested there unobserved until we finished our meal. I excused myself after I had paid the bill and left my hat, handbag and my bridge beside the window, planning to retrieve them upon my return. My young friend then decided to meet me in the lobby, so he picked up my hat and handbag, and we left the hotel.

Upon my arrival at home the telephone range. It was the hostess from the Siena dining room.

“You left something personal I think you might need,” she informed me. “When can you pick it up?”

“Good heavens,” I thought, “Now what have I left behind?”

I searched my handbag. There was my handkerchief, but no bridge. It must have been left on the window ledge when my young friend picked up my things.

Sunday after church, another friend drove me to the Siena Hotel to retrieve my lost property. My bridge was neatly wrapped in two opaque coffee cup tops, secured with a piece of tape. Not a word was mentioned of the nature of my lost property as my friend brought it to out to me in its discrete packaging.

I couldn’t help but laugh. How elegant can you get?

Ariana Mangum lives in Chapel Hill.

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