Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Franz Kafka on the Waiting List

This comes to me from Carl Macmurdo who said that this passage reminds him of the plight of drivers on the waiting list.

(To read the passage click below.)

Before the Law

BEFORE THE LAW stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there
comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the
doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man
then thinks it over and asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,”
says the doorkeeper, “but not at the moment.” Since the gate stands open, as
usual, and the doorkeeper stands to one side, the man stoops to peer through
the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and
says: “ If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take
note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall
to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the
last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to
look at him.” These are difficulties the man from the country had not
expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to
everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat,
with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tartar beard, he decides that it
is better to wait until he gets permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him
a stool and lets him sit down at one side of the door. There he sits for days
and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted, and wearies the
doorkeeper by his importunity. The doorkeeper frequently has little
interviews with him, asking him questions about his home and many other
things, but the questions are asked indifferently, as great lords put them, and
always finish with the statement that he cannot be let in yet. The man, who
has furnished himself with many things for his journey, sacrifices all he has,
however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts
everything, but always with the remark: “I am only taking it to keep you
from thinking that you have omitted anything.” During these many years,
the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He
forgets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole
obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early
years boldly and loudly; later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself.
He becomes childish, and since in his yearlong contemplation of the
doorkeeper he has come to know even the fleas in his fur collar, he begs the
fleas as well to help him and to change the doorkeeper’s mind. At length his
eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is really
darker or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. Yet in the darkness he is
now aware of a radiance that streams inextinguishably from the gateway of
the Law. Now he has not very long to live. Before he dies, all his
experiences in these long years gather themselves in his head to one point, a
question he has not yet asked the doorkeeper. He waves him nearer, since he
can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend low
toward him, for the difference in height between them has altered much to
the man’s disadvantage. “What do you want to know now? “ asks the
doorkeeper; “you are insatiable.” “Everyone strives to reach the Law,” says
the man, “so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but
myself has ever begged for admittance?” The doorkeeper recognizes that the
man has reached his end, and, to let his failing senses catch the words, roars
in his ear: "“No one else could ever be admitted here, since the gate was
made only for you. I am going to shut it now.”

From The Trial, by Franz Kafka


  1. Could you please explain this in more simpler terms, I don,t get it. Is the list just there to keep the somewhat good drivers in the business but at the end of the day there's gonna be no reward. Its all a cheat and scam by the SFMTA and the doorman is the SFMTA, is that it. Enlighten me please. Thank you.

    1. The answer is that the most rigid barriers are the ones we enforce on ourselves. If you want to change something for the better, you need to fixate less on the doormen and other obstacles in your way and simply find another way inside.

      If you want an example relevant to the SFMTA, look no further than Uber.

      For years San Francisco has suffered from a shortage of taxis due to the coagulation caused by gatekeepers (SFMTA, medallion holders, etc.) To solve the problem, Uber simply sidestepped all of them and worked with limousine companies.

      No one should waste their lives waiting for a gatekeeper to let them inside.

  2. uber was intelligent capitalized on new iphone technology, and has over 37 million in wall street investment,,not many of us are that clever.

  3. So Uber is an attack on the taxi drivers of San Francisco by Wall Street?

    "No one should waste their lives waiting for a gatekeeper to let them inside."

    20 years ago, If you committed yourself to one company/line of work, and you followed through on that commitment, you suffered some wear and tear on your body but you had a pension waiting in the end. My 26 years driving a taxi was not a waste of time and I wasn't forced to sit out side the gate, rather, I was allowed in for a combination of a gate fee and labor. Most people on the waiting list are not wasting their time, rather, they have chosen a different lifestyle with a variety of advantages and disadvantages. However, if the SFMTA doesn't alter its course, thousands of waiting list applicants will be ripped off!

  4. Does anyone know if there is a meeting next Tuesday at city hall regarding taxi issues, I heard there was a SFMTA meeting to discuss the future of the list, I was also at the town hall meeting last Tuesday where about 15 people showed up, How come there wasnt at least 200 people there going haywire about this injustice, is it any wonder there walking all over us.

  5. That is because we live in a company town like in one of the southern exploitation films from the early 1970's with Burt Reynolds.

    Only justice will be if the big cab companies are put out of business and the medallion scam comes to end.

    It would also be fun to watch the city get hit by law suits from people on the medallion waiting list and from people who bought medallions for 300,000 dollars in a market that can not sustain the payments on these medallions.

    All this happening of course because of the new technology of the smart phone make the dispatch companies much less relevant.

    As you can see I am in a resentful and bitter about whole waiting list, and the low pay that comes with driving a cab.