Literary Power

Everyone has a routine when navigating the U-Bahn. Escalator down, take the stairs to the right, and wait on the far side of the platform. One morning as I headed for the out-escalator, I was walking behind a tall man in a dark overcoat. Suddenly he stopped, back-tracked, and crashed right into me.

Startling out of my reverie (pre-first coffee), I looked up: Something was wrong… Then I realised: The escalator that normally goes up, was rolling down towards us.

I laughed, and immediately stammered out an Entschuldigung (marking me as a foreigner; no Austrian would ever apologise!) and we stepped onto the next escalator. He turned around, smiled and said. “Der Macht der Gewohnheit!” (the force of habit) and continued on his way.

Slightly jangled, I stood there collecting myself. I could do worse, I decided, than receiving a bit of wisdom from Thomas Bernhard, Austrian playwright and enfant terrible, on my early morning commute – a gentle reminder to turn off my own auto pilot and wake to the pleasures of the present.

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