Who Wants to Live in der Donk?

The blog will be dormant for a few days while the author visits a friend in Rome. Check back Wednesday for new posts. Unless, that is, Ed Philp decides to have a go, which he is hereby invited to do.

In the meantime, a little story about a man who has more time than money. I’m waiting for the streetcar last night at the University stop, and a fellow walks onto the platform. He’s got longish hair, a patchy beard, deep-set, thoughtful eyes, and wears reasonably trendy, but not expensive glasses. He’s wearing a somewhat threadbare leather jacket, black denim pants, and scuffed leather half-boots. He could be in his late twenties, but also his late thirties. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s a psychology or sociology graduate student who’s been working on his dissertation for some goodly amount of time.

He carefully extracts a sheet of graph-lined paper from his backpack. On the top, it says, handwritten in big red letters, "Rooms for Rent Near the University: Hassels/In der Donk" (Other fun local place names: An der Piwipp and Esperanto Street). The rooms are described in all-caps with a ball-point pen, in clipped German: "Each with balcony. Kitchen and bath in common." The bottom of the paper is cut into about 15 small tearaway sections, with the same phone number laboriously hand-printed on each.

Our hero puts down his worn canvas knapsack, takes out an old-looking cellophane tape dispenser, and carefully attaches the top two edges of the paper to window of the streetcar shelter with pieces of tape, aligning the edges carefully. He then pauses for a minute: "Should I attach the bottom of the paper to the window, even though this would mean making the two exterior tearaway strips harder to remove?" No, he decides, but only after some contemplation.

The entire procedure took about 10 minutes. I found it all soothing: the hand-written advertisement, the careful thought that went into the description of the rooms for rent, the painstaking process of attaching this labor of love to the tram stop window just so. I couldn’t help speculating about why he didn’t use a computer. Perhaps he can’t afford one. Perhaps he doesn’t have a computer on purpose, because computers reify and commodify human work, further advancing the colonization of our lifeworld. Perhaps he decided to hand-write his apartment advertisements just to kill a few lonely hours with a soothing activity.*

Whatever the explanation, that scruffy little philosopher somehow made my day.

* He looked like the tea-drinking type, so I imagine he had a few steaming cups while working on the rough drafts.

12 thoughts on “Who Wants to Live in der Donk?

  1. Oh yes! I find people living on government handouts taken from my taxes so romantic too. Lemme just put in a few more hours in a soul-destroying office to afford the philosophy department’s annual tea consumption.


  2. Jesus, I try to post a harmless, apolitical little anecdote of daily life, and what do I get? One of the bitterest comments anyone (except Martin) has ever posted on this blog.

    Sometimes I get the feeling I could post about cute, furry little bunny rabbits with big brown eyes who hop and play in the beautiful mountain meadows, and somebody would find a way to bitch about EU agricultural subsidies, or the fact that they don’t have enough time to go watch the goddamn little bunnies (with their soft, soft fur) because they have to work in an office in Kamen all day entering meaningless sales figures into a seemingly-endless spreadsheet.

    Get help, Hendrik.


  3. Well.. bunnies hoping in the meadows… my suggestion is: post something about the Teletubies! Oh! but grumpy people are going to complain too…

    Have a nice trip Andrew, and be sure that MANY other joysters enjoyed reading this little piece of “everyday life” in Germany.

    For those who didn´t I say it again: GET A LIFE!


  4. “I could post about cute, furry little bunny rabbits with big brown eyes who hop and play in the beautiful mountain meadows”

    Do it, Andrew! Go ahead – make my day as Clint Eastwood says…. 😉


  5. I find people living on government handouts taken from my taxes so romantic too.

    Handouts? A landlord? …

    Personally I find myself writing more and more by hand. I’m no luddite by any standard, but I can think better when I use the pencil. As a result, my handwriting is quite nice and is sometimes admired by other people, although by the standards of ca. 50 years ago, it’s still quite irregular and also, I suppose, a bit childish.


  6. @martikoepp:

    Are you retarded? The captchas on this comments system are clearly not difficult enough.

    As to the question, I’ve been learning English for almost twenty years and I like to think that my command of the language has progressed to a more or less functional state, but I’m afraid it is ultimately destined to be a lifelong undertaking.


  7. “I find people living on government handouts taken from my taxes so romantic too.”

    Hmmm, I have somewhat mixed feeling about this. Andrew fancied this fellow as a philosophy student. I think we need philosophy and therefore we need philosophers. But we (civilisation) needs accessible philosophy, or philosophy as accessible as may be. I personally found Plato and Descartes more accessible than Aristotle and Neitzsche but that doesn’t mean the latter two ought to be binned.

    The same comment might apply to all of the humanities. Original research a la Jacques Derrida is very well but don’t use it as a substitute for good teaching. If I have a criticism of humanities profs it would be that they are said to favor teaching their own abtruse research interests in lieu of the canons students need to acquire a liberal education. Survey courses may not be interesting for the scholar – I fully sympathise with them, often being required to write boring code in my own job. But boring is often synonymous with what is necessary – in most forms of work.

    What we don’t need at all are a mass of philosophers and other humanities professors who seem hell-bent upon making their disciplines as inaccessible and difficult as humanly possible.


  8. Oh! You guys opened such an intelectual discussion here.. the poor woman here can´t catch up with all this new information. What´s Hermeneutics, by the way? 😛

    To more concrete issues: how do you recognize a person as a tea-drinking or a coffee-drinking type?


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