What's All This Rendezvous Stuff, Anyhow?

Sept. 5, 1994
A little mix-up can't stop Bob Pease from having a good time at a rendezvous with former employes of Philbrick Researches--and explaining the ethymology of the word rendezvous.

A few months ago, I proposed that a bunch of us survivors from Philbrick Researches get together for a reunion at the Hilton, across from the old Philbrick plant in Dedham, Mass. Many of the guys showed up at 5 P.M. Others straggled into the bar at 6 P.M., and others yet at 6:30. Some only arrived at 7. But we had a pretty good get-together, about three dozen people in all.

One guy, Tom, showed up around 5, went to the bar, ordered a beer, and watched everybody coming in the door. He did not recognize anybody. He got nervous, and began to wonder if he was in the right place. He called Joe, the Cruise Director, but Joe was not at home, so he left a message on Joe's phone machine. Well, Joe got the message from Tom that "I am at the Hilton----now, where the heck is everybody?" But while Tom said he was at the Hilton, he did not say any more details of where he was, exactly. At the end of the evening, we mourned the fact that our friend Tom had not arrived. Why??

Weeks later, we completed our post-mortem analysis of this situation. Tom provided proof that he had shown up at 5:01 P.M., as the receipt for his drink confirmed it. Heck, Tom could prove that he was there, and we could not prove that we were there! The nominal time for the meeting was supposed to be 5 P.M., but I was tied up in business meetings, and arrived about 6:10. Joe, the Cruise Director, the guy in charge of coordinating the meeting, got out of work late and arrived at the meeting by about 6:40. But Tom got nervous by 6:05 P.M., and left to check out other possibilities----other locations.

Maybe we misled him, maybe we told him the wrong place to go? No, he was actually in the right place. But Tom had neglected to bring the Official Invitation (as published in Electronic Design, ~March 21, 1994, p. 116) with him.

Thus begins the comedy of errors. He could not cancel out his concerns that perhaps he was in the wrong place. And there was no real person Tom could call to ask, "OK, exactly where is the right place??"

NOW, the real culprit in this quandary is the telephone company. Apparently, most telephone companies have decided that any public phone should not have a posted number, and that you should not be able to call back to the pay phone. This is supposedly to hinder drug dealers----that's the story I heard anyway. If Tom had been able to say, "Call me back at 617-333-3333," we would have been able to tie up the loose ends easily. But the telephone company is forbidding us to use that solution. Not very helpful.

The other half of the conspiracy is that the Hilton apparently has two bars. Tom assumed correctly that we would be... in the bar. Heck, we weren't going to hire a meeting room. It would be absurd to hire a hall, when the lounge area was exactly the right place for us to meet and mingle and sip. But, apparently this Hilton had two bars. The one bar had a clear view of the front door, so Tom could see anybody he recognized coming in the front door. But, some of us had already snuck into the other bar. That did not help much. And we, not realizing there were two bars, were remiss in checking around the lobby to see if there was another bar.

Every family has its own stories about a Rendezvous that didn't work. "We told Jimmy to wait by the Santa Claus in the store. How could we know that the store had two Santas?" It's funny afterwards, but not funny at the time. When we first moved to San Francisco, we volunteered to drive one of our new neighbor's kids to school. We sat and waited for the kid at the corner of Miramar and Eastwood for about 10 minutes----until we began to realize that there are two places where Miramar intersects Eastwood. And, sure enough, Wendell was that little dot down there at the other corner of Miramar and Eastwood.

When you go on a hike----or a canoe trip----it's surprisingly easy for one person to get separated from the rest of the group. Okay, you come out of the woods, and if the trip leader has not forewarned everybody the right place to call to reestablish connections, then you can waste lots of time trying to find each other, with each one not knowing where the other party is.

So, how do we do a Rendezvous correctly? The first thing is to have a telephone contact with a real person who can take reasonable messages and pass them along. For example, if I'm in the northeast corner of Nowhere and I suspect that my wife is searching for me in the SE corner or the SW corner of Nowhere, then we have arranged that we should each call my mother, and she can pass along the message where to go. She can take the message from the first person who calls and give it to the second person who calls. Therefore, if your mother is likely to be at home, or whoever, then agree with your wife and kids that he or she is the person you should always call. OR, if you have a cellular phone, let them call you. That would have helped us in Dedham, but nobody had a cellular phone. If it is a really serious situation, you could call the police and tell them about the lost-person problem. But if the second person calls in to the wrong policeman, it may still take quite a while to get connected.

Do you have a phone machine, or a voice-mail system, where others can call and leave a message and then you can call in to receive your own messages? That may be a good possibility for linkup. It's one of the better ones. That's because the first logical solution----"Here's where I am, please call me back"----has been sabotaged by the telephone company, which will not let us call back to a public telephone... Anyhow, if you have any ideas on this, please let me know. YOUR family may have figured out some ideas better than ours.

All for now. / Comments invited!  RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer


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P.O. Box 58090

Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

p.s. What does Rendezvous really mean, anyhow? Everybody understands that it means some kind of get-together. But, how does that French phrase get translated?? Very simple: Rendez = present, and Vous = you. Thus, "Present yourself "----this represents an agreement that we will all "present ourselves" at the agreed-upon time and place. Ain't etymology interesting? I think so... what's all this etymology stuff, anyhow?

p.p.s. If you're a strong, fast hiker, you'd probably enjoy hiking across England from the west coast (from St. Bees on the Irish Sea) to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. It's only 192 miles on the "Wainright route," wending through the handsome, rugged countryside of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors. You can take all the time in the world----or you can do it in 12 days as we did, hiking with Avalon Trekking of Perth, Scotland. From the U.S.A., call 011-44-738-624194 for a brochure. Or, ask Wilderness Travel, Berkeley, Calif., at 510-548-0420 for their brochure, as they hike about 8 to 12 miles per day.


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