inspiration

Very inspiring. I always thought this was a one-man job but maybe I should swallow some pride and start relying on my coworkers more. After all, as the caption reminds us, “when we all work together, we all win together.” I want to be a winner. Winners are team players, and team players use the urinal together. I get it.

This picture was taken hastily in one of the two bathrooms in my office, both of which are outfitted with inspirational artwork hung tastefully—and strategically—over the urinals. Go in for relief and leave enlightened—brilliant. Interestingly (or perhaps not so interestingly), the other bathroom is characterized by a marvelous message about leadership, beneath a photo of a bald eagle perched majestically atop a presumably unfathomably large conifer (where else would an eagle perch?). The message reads: “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. In the end, leaders are much like eagles… they don’t flock, you find them one at a time.”

If you think that’s stupid, just google that last phrase and see what you find. I wanted to know the source of this quaint sagacity, see who said it, but my brief search returned so much like-minded drivel that I just had to stop. People expounding the brilliance of the message’s central analogy, pontificating on the inherent characteristics of leadership and leaders. I don’t get it, but at least the irony is amusing. “Leaders” may not flock (arguable) but idiots certainly do flock to them.

Whenever I visit the Leadership Bathroom I stand alone at the urinal, confidently, read this caption and think “yes, that’s right, one at a time, very pragmatic, there’s no room here for either a team or a flock of leaders (or eagles), I’ll handle this on my own, with courage and compassion—the courage to walk to the bathroom in the first place and the compassion to not pee on the floor.”  Relieved, enlightened, motivated to be a better person/worker/leader and proud of my demonstrated concern for my fellows, I return to my desk and resume acting like everyone else.

At least this piece makes the contextual sense that “Teamwork” so clearly lacks. Am I wrong to see these message-image combos as somehow pertaining to their immediate environments? Seriously, above the urinals? These bathrooms are hideous enough to begin with. I mean there’s no good place for these things, of course, but it feels like an invasion of privacy, like nothing can be done, no task completed, no matter how routine, without the encroachment of idiocy. Whose idea was this, who saw these prints and said “oh yes, I need that, my building needs that, my employees need that?” What need was being addressed? A paucity of puerile, ugly décor? Did they come across one of these posters somewhere and think “you know, that would look great in a bathroom, right above a urinal—let’s get two?” Did they get the idea from another bathroom somewhere else and, inspired, decide to do the same here? Or did they, frightening thought, actually seek these out with some predetermined sense of what they were looking for, as if teamwork- and leadership-themed motivational posters would really tie the rooms together? Maybe someone just said “you know what, this bathroom is fucked up, but I know how to make it worse.” That would at least be funny.

I sometimes have to check myself when I encounter things that are this inane and imbecilic, remind myself that they didn’t just appear on their own, naturally—that would be bad enough. I have to remember, as much as I’d love to forget, that someone, several someones, made choices to create them, to distribute them, to select them, to install them. Beyond even the unfathomable matter of their creation, someone went through the trouble to obtain these things, to grab a hammer, find a nail, and hang them up. In the bathrooms. This was deliberate, decisions were made—by people. It’s astounding. I imagine it must come down to pure, moronic asininity mixed with midcult notions of ethics or some such pop psychological nonsense about good work environments and subliminal messaging. That and a complete lack of aesthetic principles. Well not so much a lack as a negation—these pictures and where they’re placed are manifestations of anti-aesthetics, they rejoice in an unadulterated impropriety and a meaninglessness so profound it’s almost abrasive. People just don’t care. What I wonder, then, is why do anything?

It seems rather twisted and troubling that “art” like this is oftentimes displayed because it has been deemed safe and inoffensive. As if we couldn’t possibly hang any other kind of picture or painting—someone might be put off by a landscape, perplexed and even frightened by a portrait. But why this? Why not just leave the space empty? Why not a picture of a puppy? Or an eagle? Or an eagle carrying a puppy with a caption that simply says “Preparation: because you never know what could happen?” I would appreciate that.

I haven’t asked the women if their restrooms are similarly decorated but I should probably find out. Might be good to know what messages they’re getting. Then maybe I could perform a social-scientific study of the effects of inspirational-motivational messages on the respective sexes, drawing some broader conclusions regarding professional “success” and “development,” perhaps even built around some stolid analogies likening men to eagles and women to, I don’t know, foxes or something. I could get Malcolm Gladwell to endorse it, maybe even write the introduction—this kind of thing is right up his alley. Best-seller for sure.

2 Comments

  1. It couldn’t possibly be a group effort that selected and hung those posters, that there was conversation and consensus. Could it? Please tell me no, this is the work of a lone visionary leader working alone. (I admire you for not peeing on them.)

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    1. Hard to say. Although I too hope it was an eagle, some brilliant individual perched atop a majestic sense of authority and/or disregard for the dignity of space unmolested by clutter and kitsch. Makes me wonder what it would take to remove these (or pee on them), group or visionary.

      Liked by 1 person

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