Caption: The Schiphol Airport Fly
I am told when I was little kid, say around 5 years old, my Aunt Ilda gave me a Latvian nickname, "Jāpacis". It meant “Jānis yourself”* and referred to my being a very independent tyke, wanting no help from others. At least until I had exhausted my own efforts and then maybe, just maybe, I might ask for help. How I survived in life is no doubt a mystery to many.
This story dates from when my family and I were in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, probably at Augustdorf from 1946 – 1949 near Detmold in what was then West Germany.
This character “flaw” – it could be called that – is not unique to me; lots of people, men mostly, share it. When confronted with a challenge we like to figure things out for ourselves and may resent an authority telling us what to do.
The management philosopher Charles Handy tells of offering unwanted advice to his daughter. She was starting her own business. A doting father, he wanted to help. And, he had much experience to share with her to avoid all the pitfalls she would face. Well intentioned, he went on and on. Finally, she called a halt, put down her foot, and exclaimed: “Dad, I want to make my own mistakes!” What do you think she meant?
It’s like there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that have advice to offer and those who should be taking it. Unfortunately for the eager former, the latter may not want their advice.
Enter the fly in the porcelain. This bit of behavioral psychology did not quite take off like some would have it. Supposedly a man, spying a porcelain fly in the urinal would of course, being a man, want to hose down the fly, thereby reducing splish and splatter. How this improved on the pretty humor of thumb tacked signs like “We aim to please, you aim, too, please” has never been tested, at least not by Harvard economists. While said economists with their dismal assumptions about humankind take umbrage and claim they are most certainly not trying to control human behavior -after all, what's a little nudge or two? - little Jāpacis knows better. He knows exactly what to do to avoid any unnecessary clean up. Avoid making the mess in the first place. It has something to do with taking responsibility for one’s self.
*Jānis = John
@Copyright John Lubans 2015