I woke from my nap feeling groggy, yet doing my best to “honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (of course, holy meaning other and set apart). In this case, it had been a thoroughly exhausting week capped by a 13-hour day the preceding day.
After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I realized that my listlessness was going to remain unless I got some exercise. I decided to go for a bike ride. I stepped out the door of my fifth floor apartment and locked it, walked down the hallway, and pressed the elevator button, only to remember that it had been a few weeks since I had ridden my bicycle, and it would undoubtedly be dirty and covered with a thin film of Middle Eastern desert dust. The tires would probably need pumping, too. I went back to my room, unlocked the door I’d just locked, got a damp kitchen towel and my bike pump, locked the door again, and went to the elevator.
Surprisingly, I had not missed the elevator. The call button was still lit up, and it was still on the first floor. Of the two elevators, one of them was not displaying any floor number, which indicated that it had been commandeered by movers. Someone was either vacating their apartment or moving in. I waited by the elevator door for what seemed like eons on a geologic timescale. I nearly took out my smart phone and started timing it. Then at last, the elevator started moving,
Finally it reached my floor… and blew right on past.
The elevator then made a quick stop at the seventh floor and then began to descend. I was getting antsy. I just wanted to ride a simple bicycle. Then the elevator stopped at the sixth floor, apparently meandering by for a visit and picking up more people. My goodness, was it going to stop at every single floor?
It finally beeped at my floor, and I stepped on, joining my building’s security guard and a medium sized man wearing a gray shirt that said, “plug it in.” The elevator stopped again on the first floor (which, in this part of the world, is distinct from the ground floor) but no one was there. We were greeted only by an impassable mound of bags of clothes.
The elevator doors finally parted on the ground floor, and I passed a couple of sweaty movers in the long shalwa khamees shirts typical of South Asian men.
The movers had pulled their truck well into the resident parking area and had gotten everything emptied except for a couple of mattresses and frames.
I went over to my bicycle, tucked in a corner and safely locked up. I had changed the lock on it recently from one requiring a key to one needing only a combination. My security guard had done me a few favors over the past couple months, so I had told him he could use my bicycle anytime he wanted, thus necessitating the change of locks.
What was that combination, again? My forgetfulness stopped me dead in my tracks.
I started fiddling with the lock. I remember it started with six, but what were the three other digits? I spent a few minutes grappling with the tiny aluminum numbers in Chevy-Chase-like futility. Behind me, I heard the sound of metal sliding against metal, followed by the shattering of glass. The movers had dropped something as if they had decided to jump in along with me in my comedy of errors. After another few fruitless moments, I gave up on the combination.
To stave off total uselessness, I wiped down the bicycle’s dusty frame. A man must at least accomplish something, even if it is the sisyphusian task of wiping off a secondhand 20 year-old bicycle in a country where the wind itself is like a leaf blower in a sandbox. Squeezing the tires, they felt hard as rocks. Perhaps the watchmen had procured a pump of his own and head kept the tires inflated.
With the bicycle pump and dirty dish rag in hand, I turned around and started walking back toward the building lobby and elevators, visualizing the drawer in my apartment that contained the lock’s combination.
Another tired-looking mover with a pile of someone else’s possessions was standing by do you elevator.
Too impatient to waste yet more daylight, I decided to take the stairs, powering up the 10 alternating flights of stairs to reach the fifth floor.
Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, I raced up each floor. The lights were not on in the stairwell, so my virtual stadium training was mostly in darkness. The only light was the small window on the door opening to each successive floor.
Was I there yet? I picked out the next floor window and saw apartment 401’s door, decked out in the typical accoutrement that might have been left over from a recent Diwali celebration.
After the last couple flights, I burst into the hallway and speed-walked back to my door, nearly out of breath.
Twisting the key into the lock once more, I stepped across my threshold, and as I painted, a small realization hit me.
I had wanted to exercise, and even though I failed utterly to ride my bike and obstacles had impeding my progress at every single step, I had nevertheless gotten a good exercise climbing the stairwell.
The illustration had fallen perfectly into my lap of the timeless truth: the journey is the destination.
As G.K. Chesterton said,
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
The striving makes us strong. Frustrations we encounter on the way to achieving goals or accomplishing objectives are even more important for us than the goals we set.