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Saturday Exercise

by Takeo De Meter

The tension was slowly rising as all were waiting for the signal. Oil levels had been checked in the Series II and III engines and tire pressures had been corrected where needed. Fuel tanks had been topped up and most sand and mud had been shoveled out of footwells. A 90 had been carefully checked and was now being marshaled to the end of the column of vehicles. Drivers, inside the building, were impatiently waiting since the gathering had begun the evening before and others had been arriving throughout the night. None had enough sleep, as usual, so black coffee, strong tea and cigarettes were being consumed in vast quantities as the excruciating wait lasted longer and longer.

After carefully checking his watch, one of the group members gave the signal. Drivers grinned as they put on their driving gloves and all went to take their pre-assigned seating in the vehicles. Engines fired up one by one and as all driving lights were switched on, the column set in motion, led by a Stage One. The 90 stayed in the rear to fend off all following traffic, effectively preventing it from interfering with the column that was now progressing towards its goal at a steady pace. The drive seemed to last forever.
In the lead vehicle, my team mate and I checked our documents which we would certainly need when confronted with officials. All was there. Good, I thought as we rounded the last turn and the target building was in sight. I knew that I was going to be asked at least one very crucial question and I mentally rehearsed my answer. The wrong answer may have spelled disaster and we were all very much aware of the importance and far-reaching implications of the confrontation we had prepared ourselves for.

Each driver parked his vehicle and the teams got out. No-one said a word and all approached the building in silence and with great care; tension was clearly visible on some faces. I even think I heard the very faint click of a safety catch at the last moment when our # 1 briskly climbed the stairs and pushed the door open in one, very determined movement. The hallway was empty, so we carefully made our way inside. I checked behind a corner and saw one official only, standing in a corridor, girded by a tricolored waistbelt - the symbol of his high office. He greeted us formally, sparingly using any words if any at all and motioned us to follow him.

The group cautiously followed my team mate and me, each member feeling somewhat uneasy but very much aware of the importance of the confrontation that was to follow. We entered the hall through a door at the end of what had seemed a very long corridor and I felt the adrenaline rushing through my system. Playing it cool, I showed no emotion but went forward to directly confront the government official who sat behind a wide table and held the crucial documents in front of him. All were motioned to take seats, upon which that same official began reading the text, especially emphasizing some excerpts in legalese containing the most compulsory obligations that were to bind the parties involved. In my peripheral view I saw a nervous grin appearing on my team mate‘s face when certain contractual clauses were mentioned. All present were very tense and listened with undivided attention until the official motioned us to rise, together with two others from our group who were to be the official witnesses.
Then, in an even tone as if he had done it a hundred times before, the official asked us the fatal questions that were to change our lives forever. Both answers were affirmative and the contract was duly signed in the presence of the official and countersigned by the required witnesses. Life would never be the same again.

So, my friends, I think I just gave you an account, as accurately as possible, of how Annette and I got married on the January 26th, 2002.
It goes without saying that the actual proceedings were much more lighthearted as I described them and immediately after we all got into our Land-Rovers and drove off to the local clay pit where the appropriate wedding pictures were made in the mud and rain.
Then, back home, we sortof kinda partied till early morning in which proceedings Annette got her ears pierced by a world-famous doctor veterinarian and she is now proudly wearing her new Land-Rover earrings. That night, I went to bed with a married woman.