Helen was…snobby. She did not speak unless it was to the “right” people. Her clothes were purchased from the “right” stores and tailored. Her home was in the “right” neighborhood. Helen had attended the “right” college where she met a very handsome man in the “right” social circles and then married him in the “right” wedding dress.
I was not “right” in any sense of the word in her opinion and I didn’t try to be either. I must admit that I envied her life. At the time of our meeting, I was a single woman, working as a General Manager in a hotel, where I frequently had to help fold laundry or clean rooms while still wearing my business suit. It was after spending a hot three hours folding towels that I was called to the front desk to address a guest’s inquiry. My naturally curly hair had gotten even curlier in the humidity of the giant laundry room and looked a little frizzed. Sweaty makeup slightly smeared now appeared on my face and little white lint balls were scattered on my once pristine black slacks. In this disheveled state, I made my way to the front desk to meet “the” guest.
Helen stood with perfect posture in a silky red suit, beautiful high heels that matched her handbag and perfectly polished red nails. With smoothly elegant coiffed hair and flawless makeup, she began speaking in a voice that was naturally soft and feminine. Everything about her was the complete opposite of me. I tried hard to listen to her, but I felt so ugly that I wanted the floor to swallow me immediately.
I wanted to be Helen and I wanted her obvious life of ease..
I was so tired of working eighty hour weeks listening to guest complaints, keeping forty-five employees in a modicum of balance, appealing to my bosses’ demands, and still trying to have enough of the best of me to give to my daughter.
I wanted to be Helen.
I answered her question and went back to folding laundry while hating life.
A few months later, on a very stormy evening, the night auditor did not show up for work and the Assistant General Manager could not be located. My phone rang and after only thirty minutes of sleep, I dragged my body out of bed and dressed once again in a business suit. Picking up my sleeping child, I dropped her off at my mother’s to spend the night and I drove back to work.
Alone and running the audit, I cried. Sometimes I cried inside and sometimes the tears dripped down my face and splashed on the paperwork.
I thought of Helen. After our first brief initial visit, there were many occasions when we were involved in conversations. I learned the details of the “perfectness” of her life and it only caused me to become more envious.
I still wanted to be Helen.
Eventually it was time to walk the halls and slip the bills under the doors of those guests that were due to check-out in the morning. As I slowly made my way down the hallway on the fifth floor, I could hear crying. No, not crying, it was sobbing.
I bent to slip the bill under suite 502 when the door suddenly swung open and a man stepped through so quickly that he knocked me over. I was a huddled mass on the carpet and he simply stepped around me without a word and made his way to the elevator.
I straightened myself and stood up. A woman was now at the door. Her hair all in disarray surrounding her tear stained, swollen face. I barely recognized her, but it was indeed the ever perfect Helen. Through hiccuped sobs she apologized for the man and simply held open her hand as an explanation.
A man’s gold wedding band with several diamonds lay in the center of her palm. Then she quickly turned and closed the door…sobbing.
I was shaken, not because I had been knocked in the floor, but because what I had concocted in my mind as reality dissipated in seconds. Helen obviously did not have “the” perfect life. Her husband left her for another woman, but he told her it was because she couldn’t have children. I don’t really think the two reasons go hand in hand, but obviously his rationalization helped him make his choice.
I no longer wanted to be Helen.
I learned a valuable lesson that night. You never know the circumstances of another person until you walk in their shoes because sometimes the heel breaks off of designer shoes too.
I do not want to trade lives with anyone.
I’m very content to walk my own path in well worn, flat, rubber soled shoes.
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