Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Elevator Not Taken!

It happens to me almost every day. The dilemma of choice. And I wonder if you have a similar tale to tell too.

As I park my car in the basement and wait for the elevator to take me to my office on the sixth floor - I am confronted by choice. There are two elevators that I could possibly choose from. One is a 'slow' option: it stops on every floor. And the other is the 'express' option: It stops only at the even number floors - and of course at the basement. Which elevator should we take? The express one? Or whichever comes first? And as I wait with other folks for an elevator - it's fascinating to watch the dilemma play out every morning.

And I wonder if it's only in my mind - but it seems to me that the 'slow' elevator option almost always presents itself first. We get into it, rather reluctantly - longingly eyeing the panel of the elusive express elevator. And as it stops on the first floor, you can hear a collective sigh of disappointment. People turn their wrists to look at that watch - "Argh! late again!". People look at each other with a shared sense of dismay. One face seems to say "Why did this lift have to stop on every floor?" And all the faces seem to be saying "We should have taken the other lift!" If elevators had a mood indicator - this one would clearly be showing "irritated".

Makes me think. Our experience with elevators is probably true of our lives too. We see two paths ahead of us - and are never sure which one to choose. And we make a choice - and then worry about the road not taken.

And often our choice is dictated not by what we know is the better option - but by what presents itself first. A bird in hand - seems like several in the bush. We are not willing to wait. So we take the elevator that comes first. Or the first job we get offered. Waiting seems such a waste of time.

So what's the way out? Should we just decide what's best - the express elevator for instance - and then not get tempted when life's slow elevator comes up first? Easier said than done?

Maybe we should all just learn to relax a bit and not get too stressed by every choice we need to make. Both the elevators eventually get to the sixth floor, to our destination - and maybe that's what should really matter. No one's gonna look at us and say "ha, ha, he took the slow elevator!" And by not getting too caught up in the choice of the elevator, we might learn to enjoy the ride, just a bit more. And maybe, just maybe, that might help wipe out the frown on our face and replace it with a smile. Now what's that worth!

And in life - as in the elevator - it might help us to let go of our fascination with this misplaced sense of urgency. Getting there faster - nay, first - doesn't need to become an over-riding tenet of our lives. Think about it. Wherever you go, you see people agitated about getting ahead. Look at the queues in the supermarket, and you'll see this young couple splitting and waiting in two separate queues - just in case Murphy is right again. Why give up the pleasure of each other's company for five minutes - just to possibly check out 30 seconds faster? It happens early morning in the airport - as busy executives jostle like school kids - just to get past security first. Worth the stress?

As I mentioned to my wife the other evening about my daily elevator dilemma - she didn't even look up from the book she was reading. She just said: "Why don't you take the stairs? That would be really good for you!"