John Grindrod: Restrooms, sarcasm and Ambrose Bierce

First Posted: 12/9/2013

As an aging guy, I know more than a little about going to the restroom. However, for me, that’s really the way it’s always been. My sister Joan will tell you that there was a running joke about my convenience stops on family vacations in the Grindrod family dating all the way to our Chicago days before our moving to Lima in 1958. The joke was always, “Again? Jack, you should write a book someday, titled, ‘Places I Have Gone.’”

From the Rotunda in Washington, D.C., to New York’s Empire State Building to Boston’s Old North Church, I did go, in some places more than once, and in many, many other places as well. So, both in my youth and beyond, suffice it to say, I’ve been in a lot of restrooms.

Now, as a quality assurance inspector for a local cleaning company, I not only find myself in restrooms for the reasons all of us go there but also for the purpose of conducting assessments of our employees’ performance. Restrooms, of course, must be evaluated in any walkthrough because as you might expect, in the cleaning industry, there are more concerns about the state of a facility’s restrooms than in any other area.

So, I really do consider myself the all-time career leader in most visits to the necessary room and, therefore, have seen my share of renderings on john walls in the stalls. There’s something about that alone time in there for some, that, sort of brings out either the artist or the writer that lives within them.

Recently, while working, I saw something on a stall wall that I found far more creative and thought-provoking than the typical and predictable obscene artwork or dirty limericks that begin with lines like, “There once was a man from Racine.” There amidst the other crudities was this relative gem, well, at least a gem given the setting:

Today’s Special-

Answers- 10.00

Correct Answers- 20.00

Sarcasm- Free.

Hmm, pretty good, I thought, good enough for me to use it as a possible jumping off point to a column on the subject of sarcasm. And, whenever my thoughts turn to sarcasm, as a former English teacher, the author whose name pops into my head is Ambrose Bierce.

Bierce, one of our Buckeye authors who hailed from Meigs County, had quite an interesting life. He was a Civil War hero of sorts, an author and newspaperman and adventurer who was never afraid to take a chance. That led him, at the age of 72, an age when most folks sort of settle down, to leave for Mexico in 1914 to get an up-close look at Poncho Villa and the revolution. He was never heard from again.

However, before he left, he established himself as the quintessential purveyor of sarcasm, along with, of course, his contemporary Mark Twain, and much that sarcasm of Bierce’s can be found in his collection of lampoons on the foolishness of man in his 1906 book, “The Devil’s Dictionary.”

So, for all you aficionados of the sarcastic, the sardonic, the satirical and the cynical, here are a half dozen Bierce offerings to ponder, from well more than a hundred years ago. It’s amazing how relevant many still are.

1. A coward is one who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.

2. Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage.

3. An acquaintance is a person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.

4. Admiration is our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

5. An egotist is a person more interested in himself than me.

6. Happiness is an agreeable sensation, arising from contemplating the misery of others.

Oh, and I suppose I should leave you with a little Christmas sarcasm given that we’re approaching the big day. This one, an anonymous offering from a greeting card I once saw: From now on, let’s live like Santa — dress nice, work one day a year and spend the other 364 days judging everyone else!