It had been one of those days. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong – quite spectacularly. I had lost my job. My mobile phone was broken. Apparently throwing your mobile phone at your boss isn't the best of ideas.
I thought that I should ring Mary and let her know. I found a phonebox, and stepped inside. To ring Mary. Sweet, dependable Mary. I could just imagine her, sitting at home, darning a kitten or feeding milk to a sock, or whatever it is that she does while I’m out at work.
Oh god. I’m just like that mobile! Making calls until I’m broken.
No, I couldn’t face going home.
I looked around the phone box, and suddenly noticed the calling cards pasted on the walls. Like a garish wallpaper, smiling women promised me ‘a night I wouldn’t forget.’
My eyes settled on a simple affair. Printed in red on a white background, it simply read ‘FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL 0844 225 1826.”
I hurriedly fed coins into the metal gullet of the payphone.
The dialling tone echoed in my ear.
Was this a bad idea?
Mary would never have to know, but –
Before I could reconsider, someone on the other end picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” came a female voice.
“Erm... hi” I stuttered.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I was... I mean... I was wondering”
I wrung my hands, took a deep breath, and composed myself.
“I saw your business card. I was wondering whether it might be possible to pay you a visit.”
I looked at the floor of the phonebox.
“Roughly what does it cost?”
“Well,” she said, “There’s an entrance charge of £12.50, but once you’re in you can stay as long as you like.”
There was a short pause, then she continued.
“Oh, and there’s a discount if you’re a student or over 60.”
“I didn’t know that was how it worked,” I said, trying not to sound surprised.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “We also do season tickets, if you think you’re liable to return.”
This seemed strange to me, but I continued.
“And if I were to... erm ... visit, when could I do that?”
“Well, I suppose you could come now, sir. We’re open all week, but I’d avoid the weekend if I were you.”
“Oh.” I said. “Why?”
“Well,” she said, “That’s when we tend to be busiest. You know how it is; people work Monday to Friday, and decide to treat themselves to a little something in their time off.”
“I suppose that makes sense.” I said.
“Actually,” she said “I’ve just taken a look at the calendar, and perhaps you’d be best not to come today. We’ve got a school trip booked in.”
“A school trip?!”
“That’s just wrong!”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Are you meaning to tell me that a teacher has booked for himself, and his pupils?”
“Yes. I don’t see what’s so strange about a teacher wanting to take his students to see some animals at the zoo.”
I was silent for a moment.
“The zoo?” I asked.
“Yes, sir, a zoological park.”
“But I... I mean... I found this number in a card in a phone booth.”
“Well.. I mean... This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
“What did the card say?”
“For a good time, call 0844 225 1826.”
“and what could be a better time than looking around a zoo?”.