Today, I am the quiz master. There is only one question. If we take a walk down through the fog to the end of the pier, what will we find? Give it some thought. There are so many possibilities. We can brainstorm a few of those possibilities. Perhaps we’ll find the sea. Or the sand. Maybe there’s a dead body there. Or a fisherman, trying his luck. There could be a boat, moored up. Or a flock of gulls. What do you reckon? I think it is reasonable to suggest the question will provoke different responses from different people, depending on their life experiences.
I’ve participated in this sort of quiz three times lately. The first was a week or so ago. A news item in the UK: an elderly homeowner stabbed and killed a burglar who forced his way into his home. I bet it was a gypsy, I thought to myself. A couple of days later a row broke out because a hundred bouquets were placed on a fence opposite the home the burglar was robbing. Definitely a gypsy. No other group would have the affront. They did indeed turn out to be gypsies.*
A couple of days ago, two young black males* rode through a booking hall toward the platforms on mountain bikes at 6am. Too old for school, not dressed for work. They’ll be up to no good, I guarantee it, I thought to myself. Ten minutes later, I found the bikes, both of them newish and expensive models, abandoned at the top of the stairs. CCTV showed they just dumped them, unsecured, and walked onto the train. This at a station where even well chained up bikes are known to go missing. I moved the bikes to a safer place and reported it to the police. Imagine my surprise to learn that they were indeed stolen.
And then I had an incident in a car park. It’s a smallish car park, half of which is set aside for coaches. I was reversing out of my space when an idiot walked straight behind my car. I braked. Contact was minimal, to say the least. Any less and there’d have been no contact at all. He was either an idiot not looking where he was going, or about to try it on. I’d find out when he came to my window. If I heard a Scottish accent, I’d best check my car for damage. Hard as nails, those Scots. A Geordie accent? Best wind my window up fast, before a fist comes through it. A Cockney? Perpare for banter and a bit of a laugh. A Liverpudlian? Oh dear. Here we go. I asked if he was ok. Well, I don’t know. Seem ok. But time will tell. That might have put my back out. He said. In pure Scouse. Great.
I’ve been thinking all this through. And it troubles me. I’ve been profiling people. Worse, my profiling has been entirely justified on these three occasions. How does this fit into my view on ethics? Have I been wrong all along? Perhaps. But perhaps not. I’ve thought about it. And I have my answer. One that I’m happy with. So, what is at the end of that pier? The correct answer is this: a ten to twenty foot drop, depending on the tide. Which is why I always tread very carefully when I can’t see where I’m going.
* It doesn’t really matter that they were black, by the by. They were, but any pair of young males at that time of day, in that attire would have equally aroused my suspicion.
** There’s an exception to every rule. I have yet to come across a real world ‘happy story’ involving a gypsy. Ever. So There you have it. My one unshakeable prejudice.
*** If your guess was that there’s a dead body at the end of the pier, I worry about you. But once every so often, you might be right.