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2:52pm on Friday, 17th October, 2008:

If Tasers were Legal


As step 15 of a long-running quest involving a contribution to the Technology Intelligence Group, I found myself in Jessop's photographic store in Colchester this afternoon, buying some DV video camera tapes. There were four members of staff there: one was operating a photo-processing machine; one was doing some kind of stock ordering by computer; one was serving a young family and one was talking to an old bloke.

The old bloke was there when I entered the shop and joined the queue. The young family was in front of me, and when it was their turn they began to explain a fairly complex enquiry about getting copies of photos made and cropped and touched up professionally. Fair enough. The old bloke, though, was not involved in any purchase at all: he seemed to have come in with some kind of query about his camera and was engaged in a rambling conversation with the increasingly frustrated guy on the till. He ranged from "how do I remove red eye?" to "what days do you normally work here?" to "should I read the manual?" to "can you show me what your computers can do?" to ... well, you get the picture. Whatever the reply, he followed it up with another question.

Seeing that the till guy had been unwillingly inveigled into being the old guy's social contact for the day, I decided to help. I stood really close behind the old bloke, so he couldn't fail to notice me and would realise he was holding up the queue. Sure enough, he did notice me. He said, "oh, I'm sorry, I appear to be holding up the queue! So can you resize my photographs for me?". He kept on with this for about 2 years short of eternity, responding to every explanation that they could do all these things on the computer with, "Marvellous! And can you do <something else incredibly simple> too?".

In the end, my pacing about, overt consulting of my watch and loud sighs released whenever he asked a new question finally seemed to seep in, and he bade the till guy goodbye.

It took me all of 30 seconds to buy my DV tapes. When I turned round, the old bloke was talking to an elderly couple who were using one of the in-store photo-processing computers with consummate ease. He was telling them how they could give the people in their photographs red eye if they used computers on them.

If tasers were legal, that's when I would have taken him down.

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).