The Man In The Lobby
I’ve always been a curious observer of hotel lobbies. They’re an exciting place. Daily newspapers. Free apples. Smartly dressed customer service folks. The bustle of moving bags. And that man in the lobby. We all know him. That guy, who at 6 p.m. on a Monday evening sits comfortably in one of the dozens of empty loungers that adorn the polished marble floor. What makes that guy remarkable is not so much what we see about him, but rather, what we don’t see.
We don’t see urgency. We don’t see baggage. We don’t see panic or anxiety or an insatiable need to act. He sits calmly, reading a book or typing on a laptop. He is oblivious to all around him. No deadline to meet. No meeting to make. He looks like he’s out of work, except he’s dressed nicely and looks like he’s in charge.
There are others sitting about, but their cursory glances at their watch or the door seem to indicate a preoccupied mind. Not the man, who sits undisturbed by the periphery of life.
“Where does he find the time?” We ask, as we move by in our own state of harried hurry. Places to go. Things to do.
“I would love to just unwind like that, but I have all of this.” As we sweep our hands over our luggage, our kids, our appointments, our busy-ness. We pass him by, moving to our next stop, but unable to completely bury a shade of envy—however slight.
How To Miss A Train
In our lives, we all encounter moments of slight inconvenience. Red lights. Bad weather. Headaches. We’ve grown to accept these little ordeals as our mandatory payment for life’s tremendous bounty of blessings. However, they still suck when they happen.
One of those moments happened to me about an hour ago.
A combination of poor planning and arrogance led to me missing my 5:38 pm train home from L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, DC. I didn’t just miss the train, either; I missed the train. Meaning, I literally ran up the flight of stairs to the platform and the door closed in my face. A straight-up sliding doors moment. Two seconds that shaped the rest of my night.
I stood alone on the platform, with every Dick and Jane staring at me through the train’s windows with a smug “Better Luck Next Time” grin on their face. The next train was a full 40 minutes away. It would be literally impossible for somebody to wait longer for the train that what I waited tonight. To pile on, it’s dark, cold (41 degrees), raining, and—in another genius move—I neglected to bring a jacket today.
This, my friends, is a classic fork-in-the-road moment.
My options were limited. Knowing that standing purposelessly for 40 minutes in the cold was not a good idea, I started a brisk walk under the dark and drizzling sky.
My normal train-missing routine is to walk to the Capitol. But, due to weather and wardrobe considerations, that was not an option.
Less than a block in my search for an oasis I find a Starbucks. Salvation? Nay. I have this mild aversion (some may call it a deep hatred) toward $5 lattes.
But, hold on a minute…a hotel lobby! A beautiful Holiday Inn Express Lobby fully equipped with the 3-W’s: Warmth, Wi-Fi, and a Waiting Area. What more could a lonesome traveler ask for? I enter.
Still dressed to the eights in my collared shirt and slacks, nobody bats an eye at the backpack-bearing businessman who is most certainly not “staying with us tonight.” I sit myself comfortably in a large leather armchair. After two or three minutes of people-watching, I pull out my laptop and begin keying this little ditty. One thousand words from my hand will now forever exist because of that missed train. What’s more, I’m relaxed, the 40 minute nightmare has quickly gone to a 10 minute vacation, as the moments pass faster than I thought possible. Before I reach the conclusion, the horn of the next train beckons me home.
A Lesson In Life
You could call Retire29 a financial blog, but financial independence is but a stepping stone toward the greater goal: total happiness. Perhaps the greatest element of happiness is that the potential for it exists entirely within our own selves. No assembly required.
As we can all attest, life is not all sunshine and moonbeams. A lot of life happens between the photos in the album. However, our attitude toward those less-than-stellar moments is what will define our happiness. You can call it making a negative into a positive, turning lemons into lemonade, or making the best of a bad situation. If you’re reading this blog, then I would imagine you already try to practice this in your life, so I only ask of you today: Keep it Up!
Oh, and the next time you see a guy totally relaxed in a hotel lobby, come say hi—I got 40 minutes until I need to catch my train.
Thanks for reading, as always.