I didn’t have a good picture for this post, so here is a (public domain) beautiful picture from Wikipedia…(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Locomotives-Roundhouse2.jpg/619px-Locomotives-Roundhouse2.jpg)
I was at hospital today (I was meeting someone who worked there) and while in the hospital I wandered into the little shop by the (bigger) little coffee house. I’ll say this for the hospital, the coffee shop wasn’t a Starbucks or similar chain and the little shop wasn’t a WHSmiths, it was quite nice to see an area of London devoid of branding.
Anyway, on my way in to the shop I wandered past the only two other people in the shop. The person in charge of the shop (possibly the buisness owner…) and a small boy, perhaps of eight.
While I was browsing the chrisps I became aware that the person in charge was telling off the small boy for reading a comic, on the principle pressumably that the small boy wouldn’t be buying it anyway and he was wearing the words out by looking at them. The small boy was made to put the comic back (“No, not there, put it back were it was”) and was bright enought to wander off.
I can see the point of the shopkeeper (a good word, but I feel like nobody has used it since 1976) who, after all isn’t a library. And I can, as a former small boy who worked his way though a great many books while sat on a shelf in Ormskirk’s WHSmiths for an hour at a time, very easily find myself on the side of the small boy.
Here’s what I found really sad. My instinct while this was happening was to put my hand on my pocket and give the shopkeeper the relevent couple of quid and send the lad on his way with a comic. This being on the principle that small boys in the outpatients part of a busy London Hospital probably aren’t having the best day and that reading is something that I’d like to encourage in the world. The sad part is that there is no earthly way that anyone would find this socialy acceptable. Had I my own small child with me (I could have borrowed a godchild but it’s quite a round trip to fetch one) it would have been fine as men who have one child aren’t suspected of being about to kidnap another. Indeed, had I thought ahead and brough a girlfriend, a sister, or even a mum with me (and not necessarily mine in any of those cases) it would also have been fine, as presumably childkidnappers dont’ have any of those.
So yes, I understand why we as a society have developed these social rules, and I agree better safe than sorry. But I do hope that in the future we’d have solved the same problem in a different way (I’m also aware that a man in a world designed for men there are much more significant gender-based problems that make this pale into insignificance, and more to the point, I’ve benefited greatly from a sexist setup so far in life, but this was on my mind so I thought I’d mention it.