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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Maggie Mason

As you know, Maggie left ACS in mid 1968 during PU-II prior to the HSC exams to study in Canada at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

In 1973, after graduating from the University of Singapore Faculty of Engineering, I had the good fortune to obtain a Ford Foundation fellowship to study Industrial Engineering in Stanford University, California, and found myself there with another Singaporean on the same program - a person who has since returned to Singapore, and being in the public eye, is probably known by name to all of you. In June 1974, both of us went to Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and after the summer semester, took the road trip back to Stanford. West Lafayette, as you know is east of Stanford, so we started the return trip back heading East and North - which certainly makes a lot of sense ;-) came through Madison, Wisconsin, and met Juzar there at the time. As part of the trip, we went to Montreal, where we visited and stayed with a former lecturer from the Engineering Faculty, who had moved to one the Universities there. (As an aside, he had a young son whom he kept calling Goondoo as a term of endearment, and I am sure some one had given him a bad translation of what it meant.)

On a lark, I found a phone directory of Montreal, and on looking up the M's, came across some Masons, and a couple of Mason M s and don't recall if there were any Maggies among them. So, armed with the phone book and a rotary phone (touch-tone phones were a thing of the future at the time), and several cups of coffee, I started down the list, and hit pay dirt right away. I was pleasantly surprised when she answered. We went for dinner with my colleague, and had a very pleasant visit with her after that.

Around Christmas I sent her a "Snoopy" Christmas card from Palo Alto - at least I thought I did. A few days later I received the envelope I had sent addressed to me, so I thought I must have addressed the envelope to myself rather than to her and put her address as the return address. However, the envelope did not seem quite the same. On closer examination, I noticed that the handwriting was different. It turns out that the envelope was similar to the one I sent, but not the same, and that the card was from her. Our cards had crossed in the mail, and we had both sent each other the same card at the same time!

That is not the end of the story - there was one more chapter. In November 1975, I was bicycling home in the middle of the night from school when an immovable log/beam on the ground had an argument with the front wheel of my irresistable bicycle :-). For those who have been taught that in physics (remember F = Ma) that when an immovable object meets an irresistable force the result is indeterminiate, I found a definitive answer that night. The immovable object won! The bicycle stopped cold. However, Newton's First Law of Inertia (anyone still remember what that is?) did me in. I kept going, my fingers were caught between the brake control and the handlebar. After groping for and finding my glasses which had obeyed Newton's First Law with me and also fallen off, I got up, and dusted myself off. The world looked a little blurry, and I thought I had damaged my head, but it was actually a lens of my spectacles that had popped off, so that was a relief. However, the blurry looking ring and little fingers on my right hand looked strange and had no sensation, and the front wheel of the bicycle did not look straight. With some help I got to the student health center, and next morning was told by the doctor that I needed surgery, and admitted to Stanford Hospital.

After the surgery, I stayed in the hospital one night, too groggy to care, and next day told I would have to stay one more night. Well, that second night, after the effects of the anaesthesia had worn off, I found that the traffic in the hospital room with the nurses going in and out annoying the other patients was so distressing that I could not get any sleep. When the following morning when the doctor came in and wanted me to stay one more night, I objected and wanted to get out of there. While checking out and leaving the hospital, I heard my voice, turned around, and thought I was hallucinating, because, right there ... in the flesh was.... Maggie Mason!!.

Turns out she was checking out the Microbiology program because her boyfriend was thinking of attending Stanford, and she wanted to see what was available, and ran into me most unexpectedly. Subsequently, that afternoon, I had a long conversation with her, but I never got a correct phone number from her, and I did not have my own listed phone, and did not see or hear from her again.

Gentle reader, if you have any later news of Maggie, please post it in the comment section. If there are enough comments, I might be persuaded to look and post that very well composed picture of her taken under the portrait of the Mona Lisa lookalike in that Montreal restaurant by my cohort in crime in 1974......

Maggie, if you are reading this, please make contact with your classmates of 40 years ago.....

1 comment:

  1. Dear friends,
    Since I got home from a long trip at midnight last Friday, it's been one reunion after another, starting with lunch and dinner to mark Eusoff College 50th anniversary and ending Tuesday when I gathered my sister Mary's closest pals together to celebrate her birthday.
    Every party was special in its own way, but without a doubt, the ACS Class of 68 gathering was the most fun I've had this year with clothes on.
    Thank you Mirza & Co, for all the spade work, and Chui Fong, for feeding us and letting us mess up your home. And Elvis the Pelvis Liew for insisting that I still belong to the 68ers.
    My only regret is that I could not produce the elusive Maggie Mason.
    The last time I saw MM was in the summer of 1971 when I was in Montreal. From across a busy street, I spotted her and shouted: "Maggie Mason!!!!" And she responded "Irene!!!! Is that really you!!!" (You can tell we weren't strong on originality).
    Then in the best Hindi movie tradition, we ran towards each other and embraced, on a traffic island with traffic rushing by on either side of us. Our hugfest was as intense as it was brief.
    When I Googled "Maggie Mason", I found a marathoner by that name, of the right age, from Santa Barbara. Shahid, maybe you could check out "Mason, M" in the online directories, or look for her brother Peter. Or check out the McGill University alumni website if you know any alumnus.
    The Quest goes on.

    Looking forward to the next reunion,

    Sent Wed, Aug 13, 2008 at 2:07 PM PDT = Thurs, Aug 14, 2008 at 5:07 AM GT