Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The law of unintended consequences

Double capp from Java Blend on North. The barrista apologised for her latte art but I told her not to worry as a) who amongst us could do better (Zane, you're forbidden from answering that one) b) it still looked cute, like a little Christmas tree escaping from a coffee-cup (or maybe a pac-man)! c) the coffee was warm and d) I was cold. You see, I headed out for a short ride in the rain and whilst my kit held up well, by the end there was that feeling of the cold dampness starting to finally soak it's way through all the seams. However, I do find that riding the rain is really quite nice, if you've got the kit for it; it's the cycling equivalent of lying in bed and listening to the rain against the windows.

I took the time to squeeze in the ride knowing it would be likely the last peace and quiet I would have on my terms for the next week or so. Beyond having to give it to the man viz a viz the NS Traffic Act, for an all too short time I didn't have to do as I was told (or tell people to do what they're told), I wasn't beholden to anyone, I could be lost in my thoughts.

My thoughts were contemplative. Partly it's the time of year for it, especially if you're not an extroverted, optimistic, social butterfly. Partly it's riding in the rain. Partly, it was the law of unintended consequences.

We are all familiar with this one. For example, in my sporting life, I have been called upon recently to uphold the new ban on compression socks and arm-warmers in triathlon. As a fashion maven I'm all for this, even if I've sinned with respect to the latter prohibition

In my defense it was a running singlet not a form-fitting triathlon crop-top, it was for racing only (I don't train like this; if it's cold enough for singlet and arm-warmers, it cold enough for a long-sleeved t-shirt) and being in Boston I thought I was far enough away from anyone I knew.

Clearly not.

Being hoist by one's own petard aside, simply saying "because I don't think it looks nice" is not a reasonable answer to an elite athlete when you strip them of their arm-warmers in the start-corral. The actual reason is the recent rule that bans clothing below the elbows and the knees. Meant (I believe) to ensure speedsuits are now illegal (along with "in a wet-suit illegal swim you should finish the run in what you swam in") it has had the unintended effect of banning these other two items. My question is, if compression socks are banned, how about ankle-high socks? They still are clearly located sous-genou.

Today the law of unintended consequences was in full effect; an unintended consequence of learning French is that the first verse of Ne me quitte pas by Jacques Brel became understandable. It sounds like a sad song, so to actually listen to it and find out he's trying to find out how to forget, well that's standard jilted-lover fare. A lifetime of The Smiths, Morrissey, The The and assorted other depressing indy British bands has inured me to such lyrics. So far so good, an intended consequence, surely.

What it hadn't prepared me for was the rest of the song. It ran away from me so I looked up the lyrics and was exposed to the full melancholic desolation of the piece as it descended through despondency, suffering and desperation to abject suffering. You know that bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy when Arthur is hooked up to "imagery intensifiers, rhythmic modulators, alliterative residulators and similie dumpers all designed to heighten the experience of the poem and make sure not a single nuance ... was lost"? It was like that, but minus the Vogons. By the time it got to "I will not leave, I will not cry, I will not speak, I will just hide here and watch you dance and smile, and listen to you sing and laugh" I was eyeing the cutlery draw for the easy way out. The English versions just don't do it justice. And this is a good thing.

I felt as though the emotional centre in me had been severly bludgeoned with a heavy, blunt object and was left reeling and concussed.

Talk about unintended!


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