The Other Door
My new apartment has dumpsters for garbage and recycling. Unlike other dumpsters in the complex, the three located in the parking lot behind my building are fenced in, which I appreciate. It’s not that I’m concerned the dumpsters will start moving about of their own volition. It’s more that extra barrier that exists between trash and me: first, the bag; then the dumpster; finally, the fence.
The dumpster area is outside my window, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity to observe and contemplate these things.
The fence is about as nice as a fence surrounding a dumpster can be. It’s not dirty or broken; it’s quite pleasant, actually. Three sides are wooden and the fourth is a long section of chain-link on wheels that opens to allow access to the dumpsters for the residents and the dump trucks, which, incredibly, are doing their toss-the-dumpster-over-the-shoulder thing, right now, as I type this!
The chain-link wall-cum-door is long (maybe 15 feet or so) and heavy. The wheels catch on a crack in the pavement, so sometimes I have to use my whole body as leverage just to hoist this wall back into place to latch it. It’s not an impossible task, but it can take some time and energy.
One day a few weeks after I moved in, I was lazily looking out the window when I saw a man walking toward the dumpsters with a garbage bag, a familiar sight. But he didn’t stop at the chain link fence, and my mind kicked into high alert at what I immediately judged to be unaccountably bizarre behavior. Maybe he’s crazy. Does he have a body in there?
Instead, he continued a few more feet, stopped at the end of the wooden wall, and easily opened a regular-sized door into the dumpster compound.
My mind was completely topsy-turvy for two or three minutes as it processed this new and entirely unexpected information, and I’m pretty sure I stood gaping open-mouthed. I watched him deposit his garbage and trot back out into the world, quickly latching the door behind him. He was gone for a long while and I was still staring and thinking, there’s a door there?
Had I never seen anyone walk to the dumpster before? The truth – that I certainly had and simply paid no attention – didn’t at first occur to me. And what about those people who saw me working to open and close the fence each time? I felt like an idiot but, luckily, that feeling is so familiar it doesn’t bother me too much any more.
I had been struggling to open a huge wall, when a small, easy door was ten feet away. I had never needed to walk beyond what I thought was the only opening, but how could I possibly not have noticed this door, so close by? It seems harder not to see it (like not lowering the toilet seat before flushing: on some toilets, doesn’t reaching around the raised lid to get at the handle require a greater effort than just lowering the seat?).
Immediately, I felt this was a metaphor for something in my life. I reviewed several of my more pressing concerns, applying this scenario to see if I could solve any problems, but the metaphor always broke down before I could reach total enlightenment. Still, the experience of struggling to enter something, repeatedly, and, one eventually discovers, unnecessarily, resonates. Since this epiphany, when faced with difficulties, I’ve found myself thinking, without irony, “just go through the other door,” and it’s comforting.
Moral of the story: there’s always more than one door. Even with garbage.