Saturday, October 15, 2011 – As my son Neil, 15, and I walked through the airport toward the Baggage area, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the limousine service my mother had given me – 847-852-0007 – and asked for Yury. The voice on the other end of the line asked me to look for limousine number “double-0 seven” outside of the terminal building.
Sure enough, we found a car with the number 007 attached to the windshield,. It pulled up just as we exited out onto the curb. The driver stepped out and introduced himself, with a heavy Russian accent, as Leo. It felt as if we had stepped onto the pages of a James Bond spy novel, written during the Cold War years.
Neil and I had flown to Chicago for the weekend to visit grandma and grandpa (my mom and dad). My parents liked using Yury’s limousine service to transport visitors back and forth to the airport. The last time they had ordered the service for someone, however, there was some confusion. My mother had given a woman, who had been helping her take care of grandpa, $50 to pay Leo. When the limo arrived at the airport, however, the woman got out of the limo and slipped away without paying, never to be seen again. To stay in the good graces of Yury’s limo service, my mother planned to pay Leo the $50 that was owed him when he dropped us off.
Neil and I settled into the back seat of the car, and the driver drove us out and away from the airport. As we sped off onto the interstate highway, I considered the facts of our situation and started to play with them… Double-0-seven. Secret Intelligence Service. Yury. Leo. My mom owing money. My mother’s name is Ellie… And then the seemingly random bits of information, jostling around in my head, came together and connected in my mind.
“Neil,” I said, “Ellie owes 50.”
“Huh?” replied Neil.
“Grandma owes Leo fifty dollars. Ellie owes fifty,” I said. Then I proceeded to lay out my wacky analysis, “Ellie is spelled LE in letter code.” I pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote some letters and numbers:
L E Os 50.
I continued explaining, “Our limo driver is named Leo. L E O spells Leo’s name, so Ellie owes $50 translates into ‘Leo’s $50.’”
Neil gave me a you-are-completely-nuts look, as I wrote the letters:
Y U R Y
I said, “Look. Yury is the name of the man who owns the limousine service. See the letters U and R between the two Ys? UR among the Ys, and then I wrote: You are among the wise.”
Neil looked at the paper and asked, “You’re nuts, Mom! How do you come up with these things?”
“I don’t know how,” I replied, “They just pop into my mind.” I thought back to elementary school. My third grade teacher introduced our class to homonyms – words or word combinations that sound alike, yet have different spellings – their, there, they’re. She made the learning fun by teaching us a homonym game. My fifth grade teacher stretched our young minds with Mensa puzzles, which were tough. While I rarely got the right answer, I was fascinated with the solutions when she shared them with the class.
What is Mensa? According to Popular Science, it is an exclusive society for individuals who score in the 98th percentile or higher on a preapproved intelligence test. According to Webster’s dictionary, the word mensa comes from Roman Catholicism and means the top of the altar, where the eucharist elements are placed. And, according to Urban Dictionary, mensa comes from the Spanish use of the word mensa (female) or menso (male) and denotes someone who is crazy.
When we arrived at grandma and grandpa’s, Neil and I dropped our bags to hug grandma in greeting at the front door, and then she stepped out onto the driveway to pay Leo. Neil and I walked into the living room to greet grandpa, and then sat down on the couch across from where he was sitting. I looked down at the magazines stacked on the coffee table in front of me and gasped, not believing my eyes. The word “Spymasters” jumped off the center of the cover of the latest issue of grandpa’s Yale Alumni Magazine. Underneath, in slightly smaller letters I read, “Three espionage novelists on what it takes to write a thriller.” I held up the magazine for Neil to see, and he raised an arch eyebrow. Read more