I was told off at work on Friday. It came as a bit of a blow of course, but I recovered quickly. I had just finished giving a plain English presentation to a group of colleagues. The session had gone down very well. The group had asked lots of questions and had been really enthusiastic about what I was telling them, and asking them to do in future. They understood what I was getting at and knew that they needed to sharpen up their act if they wanted people to understand them. It was all good stuff.
When the session was over I went back to my desk, switched off my computer, picked up my bag and coat and left for the weekend. Two-fold joy, a job well-done and a weekend just starting. I left the building I work in and walked to where my car was parked. As I left I had to go through the entrance to the County Hall car park - where only the most honoured, important and self-inflated egos can park. The entrance to this car park is marked with a barrier that goes up and down depending on whether your car, and you, have permission to enter. I'm sure you've seen them everywhere.
As I was walking out, the barrier was locked into the most upright position it could possibly have. It was daylight, but if it hadn't been, it would have been pointing at the highest star in the night's sky. This meant that the roadway it normally obstructs was as clear as can be. Beside the barrier is a sign. It's not a clear sign. It's not an attractive sign. It's not a polite sign. It just says, 'Don't walk under the barrier'. I paid no attention to the sign, for my own reasons, and walked along the roadway on my way out of County Hall.
Once outside, I was nearing the pavement that runs along the road I have to cross to get to my car when a voice behind me caught my attention. I turned and saw that it was the man who sits in the little shed and who operates the barrier when those people come along who are so important that they don't even need a special pass to get in, unlike slightly more normal people.
He asked me if I had seen the sign. I told him that I had. He asked me why I hadn't obeyed the sign. I told him that I thought it was impossible to obey it. I don't think he had expected that and he hesitated for a few moments, presumably trying to deal with the awkward ball I'd thrown him. It took him a long time, but eventually he asked, 'Why?'
'Well', I replied, 'when the barrier is down it's impossible to even limbo under it, so I don't think the sign is necessary then. And when it's pointing straight up into the sky, it's impossible to walk under because it's pointing straight up into the sky. There is nothing to walk under. So, again, I don't think the sign applies or is remotely necessary in either case.'
'But, what about when it's going up and down?' he asked.
'Only an idiot would try to walk under it then', I told him, 'and an idiot wouldn't be deflected in any way just because you've had the foresight to produce a sign.'
I walked on in triumph.
I fully realise that the sign isn't there to protect me, or anyone else for that matter. It's not there for anybody's safety. It's only there so that the relevent authority is covered and safe from litigation if their barrier happens to fall and hit someone. It's there to protect them and their reputation, with no thought for public safety at all.
I laughed most of the way home.