I found myself in a large waiting room – the kind you used to see at train stations. Every chair was filled and people were chatting with those seated around them. Not knowing what else to do, I sat and tried to listen in on some of the conversations. I found it was easy to do so and was surprised with how clearly I could differentiate one conversation from another. Although I did not move, it was like I could let my hearing move around on its own. I tried to find the more interesting conversations to listening in on.
One man in a tailored suit was lecturing his neighbor, who paid rapt attention.
“I always made my quarterly sales quotas so I would get my bonus. Of course some of the sales were smoke and mirrors and others would fall through a few days after the end of the quarter. Whatever it took, though, I got my bonus!”
“Didn’t your boss mind?” his neighbor asked.
“Of course not,” the first replied. “That way he got his bonus too. In fact . . . .”
I decided to search around for another conversation that was more interesting.
“I slept with every pretty girl from high school on. In fact some of the girls I’ve slept with most recently are actually still in high school.”
“Did you ever get married?”
“Are you kidding, I had six wives–all with ironclad prenuptial agreements and another dozen or so who thought we were married, but we actually weren’t.”
I started to listen in on another group.
“All-in-all,” said a female voice, “I collected about a dozen engagement rings, six or seven expensive cars, and my best catch was Bobby. Actually, I couldn’t stand him, but that wasn’t a real problem. I pulled out all my tricks on the wedding night. When I woke up, he was even colder than normal but had an enormous smile on his face. I, on the other hand had a sixteen bedroom mansion, a villa in Italy, two Mercedez, a Porche, and a couple of Mazzaratis. Oh, and then there was that multi-million dollar life insurance policy naming me as sole beneficiary.
“At the funeral, the heavy black veil was not so much for mourning as it was to keep my expression hidden. However, my hysterical sobbing was Oscar material!”
I switched my hearing again and listened to politicians explain how they had acquired power and then how they had used it.
I heard religious fanatics explain how churches, as tax-free organizations were the only way to go.
It was hard to listen to them.
I did not envy them. Financially I was reasonably well off. I could meet my bills, had a decent home for the wife and I and could help the kids out a little if they hit a financial bump. My wife and I contributed to charities, although we had to throttle that back when I retired.
But, the people here were the true 0.1% at the top. I tried to turn my thoughts inward. Had I pissed away my opportunities in the past? Had I done wrong by my family? A million doubts ran through my brain.
Just then, I heard my name called. I looked around and saw that one of a number of door was open and an old man was standing there. I mean really old. I mean Keith Richards looked like a teenager in comparison. He waved me over. As I walked up to him, he gestured for me to sit in a chair. Instead of sitting behind the desk, he sat on a chair that faced mine with nothing between us.
“Uh, Sir,” I began, “If this is a job interview, I can save you a lot of time. I’ve heard the others in the waiting room, and they are all the picture of success. I’m just a regular guy.”
He repeated, “Regular guy” under his breath as he made a note on a pad of paper. He looked at me. I didn’t know what to say.
“So tell me about yourself,” he encouraged.
“Not much to say,” I replied. “I try to do what is expected of me. I try to be honest. I try to do right by my family. When I screw up, I feel terrible and if I can apologize, I do.”
“You’re right,” he replied, “that’s not much to say.”
I was devastated. I looked down at my hands folded in my lap. A few moments later, a door at the other end of the room opened.
“Hey, Pete, is he ready?” came a voice from the open door.
“He’ll be there momentarily.” He stood up, pointed to the door and patted my shoulder with his other hand. I couldn’t tell what if it was conciliatory or encouraging. He said, “You’ve done well.” I had no idea what that really meant.
I walked through the door, wherein an even older man sat in a chair set several feet above the floor. There was no place for me to sit.
“So Pete gave you an endorsement,” he began, “But, I’d like to hear you tell me about yourself in your own words.”
I prattled on for what seemed like an eternity. He listened patiently. I remembering telling him everything from my kindergarten crush to my various jobs and hobbies. I told him about all the people in my life whom I loved. When I stopped speaking, I felt embarrassed for blathering on in such an unprofessional way and started to apologize, but he held up a hand.
“You’ve done well, good and faithful servant.” He came down the steps to my level and put his arms around me, “Enter into the joy of your Master.”