You Know Woodbridge?

"You know Woodbridge?"

The man who asked had a thick accent, but I thought that was what he said.

"Of course," I answered, "it's just up the road. If you go about five miles north, you will see signs."

"No, you know, Woodbridge?"

"I'm not sure I understand. Are you looking for Woodbridge?" I thought that since his accent made it hard for me to understand him, perhaps my accent was making it hard for him to understand me.

"Yes. Woodbridge. You know, Woodbridge?"

"Yes. Do you want directions? Are you lost?" I didn't know what more I could do. In desperation, I looked at Steve, my manager. He finished filling the milkshake machine, wiped his hands, and came over. I went on to the next customer.

After talking to the man for a few minutes, Steve invited him behind the counter. Since they were babbling away incomprehensibly as they entered Steve's office, I assumed the man was from the old country which Steve had told us about so many times.

After half an hour or so, the two of them emerged from the office, laughing and still talking. The man ordered a meal, and sat in one of the booths to have lunch.

I would have thought nothing more about it, except that a couple of days later, another man, taller and thinner, came in and asked me exactly the same question.

"You know Woodbridge?"

This time I listened more carefully as he said it, but I was still sure that was what he had said. Again, I offered directions, but to no avail. Eventually, I called Steve over, and the two men vanished into his office.

After twenty minutes -- and this time you can bet I was keeping track -- they came out, and the man ordered a meal and sat in one of the booths to have lunch.

"You know Woodbridge?"

The third time I thought I would get a jump on things, and I immediately called for Steve. He came and asked the man what he wanted. Again, the two of them vanished into Steve's office, and again the man came out twenty minutes later and ordered lunch.

By this time I was curious, so I went to Steve's office. He had not come out this time, and I thought maybe I could catch him in some incriminating activity. It wasn't as if I wanted to get Steve arrested, but I thought it might be useful the next time I asked for a raise.

I opened the door slowly, but Steve had just put down the telephone and was sitting smiling. He invited me in, and offered me a seat. I came, sat down, and smiled with him. Then I asked,

"What is Woodbridge? What does it mean?"

Steve told me that in the old country he had lived in a small village. The people had been poor, but proud, and they worked hard on their land. Twenty years ago, they had built a bridge, and he had been the chief carpenter for that project. Now, after twenty years, the government had decided to build a railroad past the village, and had offered to buy the bridge for a great deal of money, enough that everyone in the village was now extremely well off.

After all the years, the people of his village still remembered. Each of these men had come from the village to find the builder and bring him news of the bridge, and his share of the riches, but none of them were familiar with the country, nor did they know his name here. They knew only that he had built the wood bridge, and they just assumed everyone would know the carpenter.

"You know Woodbridge?"

- Return to the front gate.
- Read some more stories.
- Play with words.

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