I had a surreal experience in New York recently. After checking in to my hotel, I was given the key to my room, room 238, and told that I could access the elevators around the corner, a little to the left of the lounge area with a fireplace and several people sitting in comfortable chairs. I went to the elevators, stepped inside one, and pressed the button for floor 2. I normally take the stairs, but hadn’t seen a stairwell, so I went with the nearby elevator on what should have been a very short trip.
The doors slowly closed. I turned and noticed I was surrounded by mirrors. I could see something white on my lapel, so I pulled it off and examined it. It was delicate and wispy, perhaps a piece of down. I let it go and marveled at how it just stood there in the air, barely descending. For maybe ten seconds I stared at it, pleasantly surprised that I, normally always in a rush, could just stand there and enjoy the almost surreal experience of watching a piece of down suspended in midair in a mirrored elevator that was moving so … very … slowly.
There I was, patiently suspended between floors in what must have been the slowest but most gentle elevator I had ever been in. I smiled and turned toward the door and waited. Then I waited some more. I wondered if the elevator had become stuck between floors, and contemplated the movies I had seen in which people were trapped in elevators for hours. A moment of worry, but that faded quickly. I was intrigued to see that I could so patient. Finally, there was a ding and then the door opened. A woman stepped in and I stepped out onto the second floor. I turned to the left and soon found my room, room 238.
A few minutes later I left the room and started back to the lobby. As I approached the elevator area–I still hadn’t seen a stairwell–I was surprised to look down the hallway past the elevators and to see that on this, the second floor, there was also a lounge with a nice fireplace, just like the one I had passed on the first floor. There were also some people in comfortable chairs there talking. What, a second floor lounge also? I walked toward it and noticed that there was a swimming pool here on the second floor. As I continued toward the lounge and looked to my right, it all became clear. The second floor of this hotel was the main floor, the one I was on when I checked in. It wasn’t so much the elevator that was extremely slow, but its passenger.
How often we do we step into elevators, anxious for them to take us to our destination, when we are already where we need to be? How often do we grow frustrated about the slowness of the journey when the Lord has already put us in the right place and it’s time for us to move on our own instead of waiting for something or someone else to move us?
Finally, how often do we marvel at our own virtues–patience, in this case–when we are actually being rather dense?
I stepped into an elevator and became pleased at how I could be so patient and enjoy the slow ride from floor one to floor two. I stepped out feeling full of Zen-like wisdom. Any outside observer, however, would have seen a guy on the second floor step into an elevator and just stand there for about a minute before some other passenger came along, pressed the button, and released a stationary fool from his delusional ride.
Yeah, it was a surreal experience.