Many years ago I met somebody at a conference. He was one of the speakers. He told us a great story. He was followed by the FBI; and that had been going on for a while. He had confronted them at some point and, after ‘discussions’, it became clear that it was a case of mistaken identity. However, for whatever reason, the system could not get rid of it, so FBI agents were compelled to follow him even if acknowledging that it made no sense. The system! Oh, the system!
After a while, this guy and a particular FBI agent became friends. More or less ‘part of the family’. The man in question said to his FBI stalker: look, I am going to make your life easier. Instead of you trying to figure out all the time where I am and what I do, I will tell you so you don’t have to worry. The FBI agent was taken aback but certainly was grateful. The mistaken man, who was a world traveller, said: I will post you pictures of the lavatories I visit in my travels. So he did. Those were early days of blogs and personal websites but he posted and posted pictures of urinals in airports, parks, hotels, anywhere. He actually showed the audience a sample of this collection and we all were able to see urinals of all sorts of shapes and colours around the world, a surprising variety of receptacles united by the same global purpose. The selfie concept did not exist then. I wonder what would have happened.
This man did something very clever. He fought absurdity with absurdity. I want to believe that today this nonsense has ceased, but I don’t know. Maybe they have set up business together in the urinal world. Maybe not.
I get many calls from remote lands and with remote accents telling me that ‘my computer’ is in danger and ‘Microsoft wants to help me’. I used to hang up in full irritation. But recently I tried the Urinal Protocol and engaged in discussions about the nature of the threat, the type of computer and operating system, the things that I have already tried to fix myself, obviously unsuccessfully, and the different options of antivirus, ending up asking the caller for his advice on that matter. In a recent case, the poor remote caller paused for a second and said: ‘they’ don’t pay me enough to put up with you taking the piss out of me. And that was it. I miss those calls.
I used to get a sister version. An agency found out that, in an car accident I had had, I was due compensation that had not been executed. In these cases usually the question starts with ‘did you have an accident?’. Similarly I said, yes, indeed, I am so pleased somebody, at last, is going to do something about it. From here on, the difference between people trying to compensate me for my innocence in a car accident is only on how long the conversation would last. But I have managed, my record, a good three long minutes discussing slippery roads, street lights and the impertinent driver who simply run away, although I have his registration number, do you need it?
I am doing all these out of compassion for people trading in the world of absurdity. If we don’t give them an audience, who will?
I wish I had discussed with Nigel Farage the accuracy of the £350 million of European Union cash for the NHS after Brexit on the grounds of catering for the fluctuating exchange rate with the Euro. And with Donald? Well, the conversations would be endless.