This is Ariadne

I LIKE to collect odd people ... that is, just a little off, not too far out, just offbeat enough to be amusing or interesting. I must tell about Ariadne, a cherub-faced little woman who happens to work as a secretary in an office on the ground floor of my building.

To begin with, I am absolutely captivated by the name Ariadne. If I were ever to introduce her, I am sure I'd be moved to say, ``This is Ariadne auf Naxos,'' for hers has occasioned the only time this rare and fascinating name has welled up from my memory, where it initially was placed during my prewar year in Munich, watching German operas in the little gem of an operahaus, Der Residenz, in the Wittelsbach Palace in 1937.

This morning I happened ruefully to go on a ``dry run.'' I had been told that the secretary of the Hawaii Geographical Society was to give a two-hour talk on Korea this morning at 9; I thought it was to be at the Waikiki-Kapahulu library. After I bathed, dressed, and breakfasted, I steered my little car the longish distance through Waikiki to the Waikiki-Kapahulu library, only to find the auditorium closed tight and not a lecturer in sight.

As I was about to depart for the return trip, I spied a figure on the grass, under a towering palm. Is this a street person? was my first thought. As I walked nearer, I saw that it was someone I but scarcely knew, Ariadne, recumbent on the grass.

Hundreds of cars were driving past on Kapahulu Avenue, and probably every driver, locked intently into his destination, was, on spotting Ariadne, momentarily envious, wishing that he or she could ... but of course never would ... alter his or her time slot or belief structure just long enough to do what this creature was doing, lying prone on a thick grass carpet, gazing up past the lofty palm into the unending blue, complete with clouds as galleons sailing across, propelled by the dependable trades.... At the very least, it could have evoked memories of childhood.

I walked up to her and said, ``I'm going back to our building now. Do you want a lift?''

Ariadne responded with alacrity, and as we started driving back along the Ala Wai canal, I asked her politely what she had been doing there, long before the library officially opened.

Not minding my rather nosy question, she said she had been a volunteer there in the past and that the librarian let her photocopy her papers in her office anytime. It seemed to me a little strange for Ariadne to go so far away during business hours, as there is a copy place right across the street from our building.

I immediately grasped that Ariadne was willing to take a bus on her Senior Citizens pass, transfer, and take yet another bus to the place where she felt welcome and comfortable, to get her papers copied, just in order to create a ``fun'' - as well as legitimate, if you stretch a point - outing for herself. And then cap the whole little adventure by flinging herself on the grass under a palm tree before returning.

Hers is a one-woman office, and her boss must be very tolerant.

That Ariadne likes to create outings for herself whenever opportunity arises is illustrated by another arcane bit of Americana, the mysteries of which I was initiated into earlier when I accosted her on a busy street corner below our building.

``Ariadne, where are you going?'' I asked sweetly, knowing again that she would not take offense.

Her engaging reply, as we crossed the street together, was, ``My boss is lying under palm tree No. 5 over at Hawaiian Village.... He has to sign a paper.''

Flash! To the actuality of Ariadne standing there in business clothes, stockings, and street shoes I added the mental picture of her about to trudge through the sand of a Waikiki beach on a blazing Friday afternoon, searching for her boss, rather like a mother seal looking for her baby amid various and assorted recumbent bodies.

There is a space between lagoon and ocean where the several precious few numbered palms spring forth, and happily here she would find him, semi-disguised, no doubt, under dark glasses, his body glistening with suntan oil, prone under palm No. 5, and here he would sign her paper ... an errand surely unique in the annals of secretarial duties, but one upon which she felt not at all imposed in performing.

If this were ``above and beyond the call of duty,'' never mind, she seemed to relish it.

Thus and thus doth Ariadne, not necessarily auf Naxos, create a life not ordinary for herself.

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