I RECENTLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to be on the campus of Indiana State University. I was lost. The campus is a mish mash of one way streets, dead ends, and lots of “No Parking” signs. A great place to get an education if you are on foot.
After what seemed like my freshman year all over again I saw a legal parking space and I couldn’t let it go. It’s like stooping over to pick up that dime you see on the sidewalk – you don’t really need that dime, but you can’t pass it up. I hadn’t planned on stopping, but what the heck.
I wandered about a bit looking somewhat academic – like a new adjunct professor hired to teach a class in something fashionable, but pointless – you know – “17th Century Lithuanian Puppetry” or Constitutional Law.
No one stopped me in my wandering or asked if they could help me in any way. Everyone had their faces glued to the screens of their I-phones. I think the eventual graduates will be those students who aren’t killed by the trucks that are everywhere on campus – delivering a new batch of I-phones I suspect.
A cool beverage helps any situation so I followed a bunch of thirsty looking students and found an oasis in a building that smelled like it had to be either a Gymnasium or the Political Science Department. When I saw a young person climbing up a wall like a Hoosier Spiderman I knew that I had found something both interesting and academically pointless.
As I stood there watching a climber another fellow, this one with a whistle around his neck, came up to me.
“Care to give it a try, Sir? It’s perfectly safe.”
The fact that he called me “Sir” should have prepared him for my answer.
“No, I’ll take the elevator. Thanks anyway.”
“Climbing is a great way to get your cardio workout.”
The man was too cheerful to live.
“So is a triple by-pass, and that comes with top notch medical care and lots of green Jell-o.”
He seemed a bit disheartened by my lack of enthusiasm, so I felt that maybe I should do something to help him feel valid. So I asked a question.
“Tell me, what happens when you reach the top of the wall?
I don’t think anyone had ever asked him that question before. “What happens? Well…You come back down.”
“That’s it,” I asked. “You mean that there is no reward up at the top? No prize? A cup of Gatorade or a cookie?”
“No. Nothing like that. Just the knowledge that you have conquered ‘The Wall.’” He gave the words “The Wall” a bit of a flourish. This wall was his life. “Sir, are you sure that you wouldn’t like to challenge ‘The Wall?’”
“No thank you. I’ll pass on it for today, but you go right ahead and I’ll cheer you on.”
Without another word he tucked his whistle inside his T-shirt and began to scamper up the Climbing Wall like a hyperactive squirrel.
I turned and walked away. I left him there clinging to the wall like a mosquito. The Wall was his challenge. Mine was trying to remember where I had left the car.