The Valley of Humility pt. 3

The Valley of Humility: or, The Lady Behind the Desk pt. 1

The Valley of Humility, pt. 2

When I got to the library the Russian lady was helping someone else. I did not want to tell the shameful tale of my failure to keep my keys, but I did not want to have to call home for another car key either. That  would also mean an embarrassing confession, and on top of that, imperiling (or at least inconveniencing) a brother with the task of coming to my rescue through snowy weather.  My courage had no choice but to be screwed to the sticking point. I asked a girl behind the desk if there were a black handled key in the lost and found. “I’ll have to to ask my supervisor,” she replied. But presumably the Russian lady was her supervisor, and she was busy. I did not wait. “I’ll go check where I was sitting,” I said. Ah, the old arm chair where I had been happily reading not so long ago, never guessing that I was keyless. There was no sign of the key there. The studious girl was gone too. I stopped by the upstairs computer lab desk; the girl behind the desk there did not have a black handled car key in her lost and found. She had often brought things I printed from the printer to the desk for me to pick up. I do not think I had thanked her. “We usually send keys to Security,” she said.

When I went downstairs again, there was only one lady behind the desk. I had not spoken to her at all yet. Upon hearing my plight she went to a drawer and opened it. “No key here,” she said. But I knew how to reply. “Where’s Security?” Security is just past advising. When I got there the lady behind that desk was chatting with a friend. I moved between the black-strap barriers that delineated the Security line up to the sign that said “Stop and wait to be called.” “Can I help you?” she said. I came up to the desk and stuttered something that meant “I lost my keys.”

“When?”  If only I knew!

“In the last few hours.”

“Nope, no keys today.”

I walked away, checking my pockets.

So it was back to the car for me. Back through the wind, which had picked up, and the snow. I saw a blind man walking with his seeing-eye dog, his scarf completely covering his face. It made sense. Who would bare his face to this wind if it were not for his desire to see?

“If someone were to steal the guitar,” I thought, “That would beat all.” What if someone found the keys and stole the car, guitar, textbooks and all? That would be a most thorough annihilation of me – like that which befell legions XVII, XVIII and XIX  in dark Teutoburger Forest on the German side of the Rhine in 9 A.D. On the other hand, how would one trace just a little guitar? A car, on the other hand, might be findable, guitar, thief and all. The thief would have gone his ‘bridge too far’, as the Allies did in operation Market Garden at Arnhem, Gelderland; 120 miles west and 1935 years futureward.

I found car and guitar where I had left them. For what I did next, refer to where I describe what I did last time I was at the car. Just add some intensity due to the library and Security coming up empty. This time I took everything out of my briefcase and everything out of my of all my pockets. I read some more from my book; what else could I do? The book was still engaging and witty but the thought that I was sitting in a cold car in the Clark college parking lot with snow falling around, and no easy way out, could not be easily pushed away. Thoughts of the Donner party, snowbound in Truckee pass, hovered around in the back of my mind. As long as I was reading, I was not moving toward getting out of there. I needed to stop reading. I stopped reading. I had to call home. I reached in my pocket for the cell phone………………………….. It was not in my pocket. It was not in my 4 coat pockets, nor my 4 trouser pockets, nor my 4 jacket pockets, nor my shirt pocket and it was not in either of the two fake pockets on my red vest. This time I really applied myself to searching the car. All the time I had been looking for the key this phone had been at hand and eager to help and I had just felt like it was in the way. The whole thing did not seem fair. It did not make sense to me. (Can you hear the tremor of anger in my voice?) There I was with this amazing machine, this engine attached to wheels, and I even had gas for it, but one little thing separated me from the quick car ride that would take me to my cozy living room. (I once heard that airplanes had made the U.S the size of Pennsylvania; however, I cannot help but think that when airplanes are grounded, it goes back to its usual size.)

Now I really would have to live in the parking lot. I marvelled that I could not bring myself to cry. Somehow I have lost this ability (exceptions such as watching Humperdinck’s opera “Hansel and Gretel” may apply).

To tell you more of the search would only weary you. Finally my dull senses awoke. “Go to the Music office. There is a telephone there.” This would be the ultimate test.

Did I mention that none of the things were mine? Not the car, nor the guitar (both my dad’s), nor the phone. Even the red vest with the two false pockets was borrowed from my big brother.

I would have to go into the music office and make this call in front of the Lady behind the Desk:

Me: Hi Mom, this is Caleb. Could someone bring a car key to Clark College, I seem to have lost mine.

Mom: Why aren’t you calling from Ethan’s phone?

Me: It would seem I have lost that too…

When I got to the office my orchestra conductor was in the office. I paced the halls. I was not making that call in front of him. I went to a practice room and played on the piano a tune I had written to the words-

Ach Gott, verlass mich nicht,

(Ach, God forsake me not,)

Gib mir die gnaden Hände”

(Give me the hands of grace.)

For the last little while it had been stuck in my head.

Even when the office was clear of guests (the band teacher’s wife and daughter and two ladies who needed to make a call had dropped in), there was still a voice saying “Turn back young man, you’re too young to pray.” But I had to pray. I stepped into the office. On the desk in the music office was a tray – on the tray was a black plastic handled key.

“Praise God,” I said.

“Yes,” said the lady behind the desk.


As I pulled out of the Clark parking lot my car gently swung around on the ice to face the wrong way. Then I crossed the little raised median to face the right way but on the wrong side of the road. I was at peace. This was a mere frying pan compared to the fire I had just been in. I pulled back over the median and drove slowly home. The cell phone was in the car.  The folks at home had called it, but providentially I had not been in the car when they called it. If I had, I would have asked them to bring a key, which would not have proved as good in…

The End.



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