I was locked out, so I sat on the steps. I played with the mulch. I occasionally pulled at the door, hoping it would magically unlock. It never magically unlocked.
I should’ve worn a coat, like my mother always told me, but I didn’t. I was cold.
I walked around the building and tried every door. They were all locked.
So I kept playing with the mulch.
This was Monday.
It was at the state capitol, where I now work. I thought surely someone would open the door. Because the universe couldn’t afford to disturb my morning routine. I needed to walk up the steps, like every other day. And take the underground concourse to the cafeteria, like every other day. And wind my watch 13 times, until fully wound, before ordering the breakfast special, like every other day. And then I needed to sit down in the corner booth and read the New York Times.
Like every other day.
Except I’d only ever performed that routine three times, so it wasn’t really a routine, or like every other day. But this was a new job in a new city, and after living in three cities in three years and being unemployed for three months, I needed this. I needed normalcy.
Most adults would’ve given up and gone home. But me? I was like a 10-year-old waiting for his mother after school. I sat on the steps outside. I pulled at the door. I played with the mulch.
No one ever showed up, and I eventually figured out it was Veterans Day, and that government buildings don’t open on Veterans Day. But instead of going home, like a normal adult, I sat back down on the steps and felt stranded, like a child without a way home after baseball practice. The way I figured, I was supposed to be in that building, so I needed to wait here until that building opened. Logic.
It often seems like everyone else has daily routines that free them from thinking about getting through the day. But when you lack normalcy, and you’re constantly adjusting, it makes the small, predictable things — like the breakfast special or winding a watch — that much more important. Those things allow us to feel like we have mastered a small part of the world.
I eventually went to a coffee shop. I want it to be my coffee shop, and I want to have my corner. I want it to always be open for me.