Monday, July 6, 2009

Reflections: On Humility and Bathroom Etiquette

The following two excerpts seem to be complementary:

1. Description of the work-life of a men’s room attendant, from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace:

The trick of his demeanor is to appear only provisionally there, to exist all and only if needed. Aid without intrusion. Service without servant. No man wants to know another man can smell him. Millionaires who do not tip. Natty men who splatter the bowls and tip a nickel. Heirs who steal towels. Tycoons who pick their noses with their thumb. Philanthropists who throw cigar butts on the floor. Self-made men who spit in the sink. Wildly rich men who do not flush and without a thought leave it to someone else to flush because this is literally what they are used to – the old saw Would you do this at home.

2. A briefer, but more universal, description of the proper attitude towards man's lot in life, from The Zürau Aphorisms of Franz Kafka, No. 52:

In the struggle between yourself and the world, hold the world’s coat.

In other words, in this life, a little humility is called for.