Monday, March 11, 2013


There's a man in a house, surrounded by fast-rising floods, and another man comes by in a rowboat.

"Hop in" he says, "I'll take you to safety."

"No need" says the guy in the house (for he is fairly devout) "God will save me."

"Whatever" says the man in the boay, and sculls off in a bit of a sulk.

The waters rise. Soon the ground floor is submerged and the chap relocates upstairs. Along comes another boay with a couple of firemen in it. (With all this water slopping around, fires are few and far between.)

"Hop in the boat and we'll save you."

"No need" he says, slightly nervously. "I'm sure that God will save me."



"Sure you're sure?"


"Fine then, we'll be off." And the firemen sail away, and the waters rise.

Eventually, the plucky man has to climb out of his window, clamber up the drainpipe and cling to the chimney stack on the top of his roof. As the waters lap at his feet, a helicopter circles overhead.

"I say" says the pilot. "You look like you need saving."

"Who, me?" the chimney-cuddling chap. "I, er ..." and his faith wobbles for a moment, like the tiles on the roof. A gust blows. "No, no, I'm alright, my God will save me." If anyone else in this flooded waste observed this exchange, they might almost have detected a note of sarcasm in the homedweller's voice.

"Oh, uh, right" shouts the pilot. "It's just we're almost out of fuel, and ..."

"No, don't mind me."

And off goes the helicopter, and the waters rise.

A short drowning later, the man arrives in Heaven. St Peter gives this bedraggled wretch a look up and down, then asks: "What are you doing here?"

"I'd like to know. I was waiting for God to save me."

"Well, he sent you two boats and a helicopter, what else did you want?"

"Oh yeah? Would it have been too much trouble for them to say who'd sent them? That's the trouble with omniscient beings: they think they know it all."

* * *
There endeth the parable of the irate man and the annoyingly vague deity.

Last week I was annoyed. I wasn't quite being flooded out, but I did have somebody dangle an escape ladder before me, only to snatch it away in a fit of reorganisation at the last minute.

It was strange; by that point, my antennae were beginning to twitch, to tell me that particular escape route wasn't the one to take, but I was too afraid to turn it down in case it was the last helicopter out of Saigon, the last religious rescue dinghy, my final chance at redemption. So I should have been glad that the decision was plucked from my hand. But again, it feels like you're the bigger man if you turn something down that you don't want, instead of being told you can't have it.

I told my parents. My father said "ah, yes, I could have told you they were a difficult crowd to get on with." It would have been nice if he'd told me that before. But then, if you're picking and choosing between rescuers, you might not listen to somebody telling you one of the ropes looks a bit frayed.

I told my wife. She was resigned to me not resigning.

I told my manager. He tried to get me to clamp a bulldog clip onto the end of my nose.

Today, l learned very little. If I think now, of all the things I encountered today, few led me to excited paroxysms of joy. I spent the afternoon in an icy room, with somebody constantly clearing their throat behind me. After an hour, I could stand it no more - I was ready to punch out one of my many computer screens. I got up, and fetched the coughing man a cup of hot water. I learned it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness. It's also a good idea to give people water, in a work environment, and not stand there screaming "stop snorting!" again and again.

Or at least not until the helicopter comes for you.


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