A Look On The Lighter Side: A search for the meaning of life

Judy Epstein

When I woke up, it was dark. I reached for the drawer where I keep my little flashlight and my hand knocked something onto the floor. I tried again and heard my glasses hit the floor as well.

Where was I? What was happening?

I sat up and turned on the light. I was in a hotel room for the Fourth of July weekend and everything that I like to keep in the drawer of my bedside table was on the floor.

Why was that? It happened because apparently this hotel did not believe in the concept of drawers! Instead of a bedside table with a drawer for things like glasses and a flashlight, it had a shelf. Just a shelf.

Looking around the room, there were no drawers in sight. Only more shelves.

Hotel rooms used to have dressers — normal dressers with drawers.

Drawers are useful! For example, my husband opens his suitcase first thing and plops everything right into drawers, whether we’re staying for half an hour or half a year. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase most of the time, but I have some medications that I need to keep near at hand and which daylight can ruin. And you just can’t keep them safe on a shelf.

Besides which maybe your undies make a lovely montage of colors and textures when stacked out in the open on a shelf, but mine look much better when they’re hidden away. In a drawer.

So why this sudden craze to get rid of drawers?

I have a theory. I think that maybe, not too long ago, there was a hotel employee — let’s call him Harry — who had a dream. He wanted to become a Hotel Designer, famous for some new decorating trend — but what? The fact was he couldn’t give his dream the time and attention it deserved because he was too busy solving everybody else’s problems:

“Oh, Harry, one of our guests called from Alaska, they left their thermal gloves in one of the dresser drawers. Can we mail them back? What’s the ZIP code for Alaska? Does Alaska even have a ZIP code?”

“Harry, one of our most important guests left her glasses in the bedside drawer in her room, and she says she can’t write without them. Can we return them to her by Federal Express?”

“Do you remember that family with the toddler who was always screaming? Don’t ask which one, you know which one, you could hear them from four floors away. They’re terribly afraid they left the child’s stuffed dinosaur in one of the dresser drawers, and can we please, please, please send it to them ASAP?”

Harry decided he couldn’t take another minute of this. He took off his “Welcome, I’m Harry” pin, walked right out of the hotel and into a cab that had just let someone off. “Take me to the airport!” he told the driver.

“Which one?” asked the driver.

“Any one,” Harry replied.

And so Harry began his journey across the world in search of The Meaning of Life.

But no matter where he went, people said, “We don’t know The Meaning of Life either. You should try over there!”

Eventually he found himself in the foothills of the Himalayas and asked again.

“Oh, you must ask the Wise One!” people told him. “You have to climb up to his cave —he’s there on weekdays from noon till 4!”

So the would-be Hotel Designer trudged up into the highest peaks of the Himalayas. He was hanging by his finger tips from a ledge of ice, when he slipped and fell into a cave.

“WHO GOES THERE?” a voice boomed out.

“A seeker of wisdom, O Wise One,” Harry answered. “I seek The Meaning of Life.”

“Ah,” said the Guru. “I thought no one cared anymore, they’re all so busy making podcasts.”

“Well, I must know! I can’t start my design work when I don’t know The Meaning of Life!”

“Well,” said the Guru. “It’s really quite simple. The key to wisdom is (he starts to sneeze) you musht know your shelf!”

“Know my shelf? Know my shelf? Thank you, O Wise One, I can work with that!” exclaimed Harry.

He grew more and more excited with every step down the mountain. “The secret to life is a SHELF! That’ll be my ‘thing’! I’m going to rip out every drawer in every hotel and force everyone to use shelves.”

And that’s why my glasses ended up on the floor.

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Judy Epstein

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