In Part 1, I shared about a short story from last Summer that while embarrassing and idiotic on my part, did not leave me essentially stranded with few immediate options for a resolution. The following little adventure happened only a few weeks ago and still causes me to feel a little shaky at the potential damage it could have caused.
On Sunday afternoon, February 11, 2018, it was cold and misting rain outside. I like to take walks around my apartment complex in the late afternoons but once the temperature drops below a certain point or if its raining, I will head up to my complex’s little fitness center which is a part of the main office building. During normal hours, you can access the fitness center through the business office. On Sundays or any other time when the office is closed, you can only access the fitness center through the back door…if you have a key…which I do.
After my thirty minute walk, I put on my overcoat, grabbed my book, and walked out the door. While the door is always locked, it doesn’t shut automatically. You have to physically pull it shut…which I did. In that split second, my heart practically stopped. I grabbed my coat feeling both pockets and there was nothing…except for my extra car key. My real keys were inside the gym sitting on the treadmill where yours truly left them. What an idiot!
The extra key was in my pocket because I had gone out to unload my stash from Costco earlier in the day. Since it was a big box, I put my key back in my pocket after opening the back hatch of my Ford Edge and basically forgot about it as I carried my goodies back inside my apartment.
At this point my mind was racing as to what to do. To make matters worse, it was still cold, drizzling rain, and I really needed to pee! So…I hurriedly walked back home to my car and jumped in to warm up. My mind was still racing however the most immediate need was to find a bathroom. Short of picking a random neighbor and knocking on their door for help, I opted to cruise down the street a few blocks to Albertsons. I knew I could use their restroom and hoped someone would let me use a phone.
Now feeling a little more clear-headed having used Albertson’s restroom, I made my way to the customer service counter where I met Margaret. She was a sweet little lady who reminded me a lot of my Mom in stature. After explaining my challenge, she sort of laughed (in a friendly way) and asked how she could help. I asked to use her phone to call 911. She asked “shouldn’t you call your apartment complex?” I explained that they were closed on Sundays and I couldn’t afford to wait around for the emergency maintenance staff to respond to my challenge.
So she let me call 911 and fortunately the officer I spoke with was nice but quickly explained that locking myself out of my apartment did not constitute an emergency. She suggested like Margaret to call my apartment’s emergency maintenance line for help.
That’s not the answer I was looking for however what choice did I have since she wasn’t going to help. Then Margaret was kind enough to look up my apartment’s number on her cell phone and allowed me to call them. Remember, I didn’t have my phone with me.
To my surprise and relief, an actual human answered the phone. In my past experience before the days of submitting maintenance request online, I was used to having to leave a voice message. I had never experienced an emergency and didn’t realize that there is always someone there to take your call. After explaining my silly yet serious situation, she put me on hold to track down the maintenance man on call who was working at a different property.
After a few minutes she came back on the line saying that help was on the way and for me to wait at the back door of the fitness center. I thanked her and hung up and then profusely thanked Margaret who had been nice enough to let me use her phone. I told her how much I appreciated her help and said that if the counter wasn’t in the way, I would give her a big hug. She smiled and promptly walked around from behind the counter and accepted her hug with a “God bless you” whispered in my ear.
I raced out of the store and headed back to my apartment which was literally only a few minutes away. Margaret had first suggested that I just wait at the fitness center for someone else to come along where I could get in with their help. I explained that it was not like a commercial gym where there’s practically always someone there. Our little center has 2 treadmills, 1 elliptical, and 1 universal type piece of equipment where you can do a variety of exercises. Literally days could go by without someone showing up so this was not a good strategy under the circumstances.
It did occur to me however on the way back that it would be good fortune indeed for someone else to be in the gym. Once I parked and started walking towards the fitness center, I passed through two of our buildings and finally was able to see from a distance both the center and the TWO people working out inside. My heart skipped and I raced up the hill to the back door. The lady on the treadmill that I had been using was one of my neighbors and once she caught sight of me walking up the sidewalk, she help up my keys.
Now she didn’t have any way of knowing for sure that the keys were mine, but it just made sense. She met me at the back door and I expressed my extreme gratitude for her being there to help. I rushed home and called my apartment’s emergency line to have them not send the maintenance guy to help since my dilemma was solved. After my call to the emergency line, I took a nice hot shower to warm up and wash away the events of the past 60 minutes. What an emotional roller coaster ride.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
Much like the closing remarks from Part 1, my biggest personal takeaway is the need to not only be aware of what’s going on around you but to think before acting. Moving forward I will never go anywhere without my phone…just in case. Further, I will run a little more cautious to be on guard against making a stupid mistake that could really come back to bite me in the butt.
As for Margaret, I bought two dozen cookies on my way home from the gym the following morning. Nestle’ Ultimates are the best and their Chocolate Chip Lovers and Turtle Supreme are especially amazing. I baked both batches and delivered them to Margaret along with a thank you card later that morning. It was the least I could do after the kindness she showed me.
On a more serious note, this little experience has caused me to look differently at the “Panhandlers” we so often see on the streets in the DFW area and beyond. I’ve often wondered how they could end up with essentially nothing but what you see in a backpack or duffel bag sitting next to them on the side of the road. The answer is one poor decision at a time compounded over time.
Please don’t get me wrong. My heart aches for those people and I routine give them cash when my heart and gut says so. Just this past week, I gave away my umbrella to a guy standing out in the rain with his little sign. But in the spirit of accepting responsibility, they are where they are because of poor choices they have made…which should be a wake up call to everyone as to how quickly things can go from good to bad.
My momentary lapse of leaving my keys in the fitness center was actually easily solved and yet it was due to poor thinking and a bad decision to leave without taking my keys. If there’s a lesson to be learned its to guard your thinking and decision-making process vigilantly because it’s our thinking and the decisions that result that drive the life you live…for better or worse.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise”
Best of luck in your journey…