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.