Sunday, 21 October 2007

Broderick's Sunday Special #5 - Bureaucracy

I'm riding my bicycle to the British Library on a beautiful afternoon. The BL has an enormous modernist courtyard, including a statue of great majesty (a naked robot using a compass), coffee shop, and ample bicycle parking. From Ossulston St to the bicycle parking there is a 10 metre (barely) stretch on which you are meant to walk your bike. I usually do get off and walk.

Today however, there is no one at all by the bike racks but for one older man, also locking up his bike, basket and all. How elegant it would be to glide up gently to a parking space, I think.

No sooner than both wheels have rolled off the vehicular asphalt onto the rust-coloured modernist courtyard, do I hear the old man say in a loud, American voice: 'You're supposed to walk your bike here!'

I'm in the wrong, of course, legally, but the old codger is being completely unreasonable.

'All right,' I say, and for emphasis, 'chill.'

He shoots me a dirty look. 'Well, you are!' He shouts, like a two-year old child. I burst out laughing.

'Oh yeah,' I say, 'I'm sorry, it's just... I don't really speak English.'

I go back to locking up my bike, giggling, and he scoffs at my impertinence. I leave him to ride away, pondering the state of young people today. I walk towards the entrance pondering the fact that judging from his childish outburst, he probably comes to the British Library to look up swear words in the dictionary.


Inside the library, I have my bag searched and go downstairs to put my papers in a clear plastic bag, like liquids on an aeroplane, and check my bags and coat. I can deal with the bomb check at the door, and I've gotten used to the clear plastic bag security of the reading rooms (they're worried about pens and implements that will damage their books in the rooms, however, like M. Foucault theorized, this repression only make me want to rip the pages out of an ancient volume of Pepys diary in an orgy of flying onionskin and tropology).

I go to check my coat and bag. The cloakroom is a huge desk in the shape of a crescent moon. There is a velvet rope demarcating the entrance and exit of the queue. I am standing by the 'No Entrance' sign. There is no queue. I throw caution to the wind and enter the exit.

'Hello,' says the cloakroom attendant.

'Hello,' I say.

'That is an exit. It is clearly marked with "No Entrance."'

'Well, yes, I did see that. I just thought that since there is no queue, it would be perfectly fine. After all, the function of the velvet rope is the orderly management of a queue.'

'If you were driving,' he begins, ' and you went through a "No Entrance," you would be driving down a one-way street. Then you would be in trouble.'

I think about this. 'Not if there weren't any other cars coming the other day. I'd be fine.'

'The Metropolitan Police would have something to say about that.'

'Are you threatening to call the police?'

'A policy is a policy.'

I smack my forehead in frustration. 'Can I check my coat and bag please?'

'Yes. You are number 438.'

1 comment:

Will said...

Yes, I quite liked that one. I'm still trying to figure out how that dude thought being "chill" was an insult.