Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #5

March 9th, 2009 by Wordsman


The rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was almost blowing fiercely enough to knock people down.  The newspaper had said that the typhoon would go around the city, but to Abigail it felt like it was coming straight through.  She was already soaked and wanted to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible.  This was why she was not at all surprised when, less than a minute after leaving the cover of the subway station, her brother came to a complete halt in the middle of the sidewalk.  “I can’t get past this,” he said.

“What?” she shouted back.  Unlike usual, her request for clarification was not because she had not understood him but because the rain was so loud she had not heard his words.

“I can’t get past it!” he shouted back, indicating the bizarre system of curved metal railings in front of him.

“Sure you can!  Just walk around it!  That’s what I did!”  At least, that’s what she thought she had done.  She had been in such a hurry that she had not even noticed the contraption when she passed and was halfway out into the street before Theo spoke.  Abigail quickly ran back to the curb while the light was still green, stepping in an ankle-deep puddle and splashing water all the way up to her face.

Theodore looked at her with scorn.  “I don’t mean physically,” he said, lowering his voice to a mere half-shout now that she was standing next to him.  “I can’t get over its existence.  What is this device?  What is its purpose?  What does it do?”

“I don’t suppose we could discuss this later,” Abigail grumbled.

“I cannot proceed until I know,” he said, shaking his head.

She sighed and turned her head skyward, forgetting that it was still pelting rain.  Wiping the water off her face, she resignedly asked, “Well, what does it look like it does?”

He stepped past her and seized the railing tightly with both hands.  “Visual appearance is not the only important feature,” he said.  “The feel, the smell, and the sound can all be key factors as well,” he added, giving it a solid kick to listen to the dull, metallic ring.  For a moment Abigail was worried that he would lick it, too, to examine the taste, but fortunately he managed to restrain himself.

“It seems to be intended to manage the traffic on the sidewalk in some way,” he said after a thorough (thoroughly drenching, from Abigail’s point of view) examination.  “Not to stop it, as one can still get through the curved path, like so,” he clarified, drawing a backwards S with his finger, “but to slow it down before it reaches the intersection.”

“Maybe it’s there to force bicycles to slow down,” Abigail suggested.  She didn’t really care one bit about the device’s purpose, but she knew that she would never get Theo away from there unless she at least tried to take the matter seriously.  “They probably don’t want them racing out into the middle of the street.”

“Impossible,” Theodore said, shaking his head vigorously.  His sister would have been annoyed about the hundreds of water droplets this sent flying in her direction if there hadn’t already been billions of water droplets falling from the sky.  “No bicycle could manage such a sharp curve over such a short distance.  It’s physically impossible.”

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “Have you seen some of the bikers around here?”  Abigail could have sworn she saw one the other day negotiating an alleyway that was about half the size of a residential street back home, cutting between one parked car and one moving car.  And the person had been holding a TV at the time.

Theodore measured the width of the entryway with his hands.  “No,” he insisted.  “This is definitely for pedestrian use.”

This explanation made no sense to Abigail.  What was the point of building a device like this to slow down pedestrians?  Was the city really concerned that people would be walking along the sidewalk so quickly that they would forget to stop themselves before they stumbled out into the street?  “Are you sure?” she asked.  “Maybe it was supposed to be for bicycles but they built it wrong.”

“But look!” he cried, pointing across the street.  “There’s another one exactly like it over there!  Are you suggesting they made the exact same mistake twice?”

“It could have been a mistake in the blueprints or something,” Abigail muttered.

“We may be thinking about this in entirely the wrong way,” Theodore said.  “We’ve been assuming that this device was placed here to be helpful, but what if it’s not?  What if it’s simply here to prove a point?”

“And that point is: ‘We have a bunch of extra C-shaped bars and we don’t know what to do with them?’” Abigail suggested sarcastically.

“The point is control,” he explained.  “If they can make people walk through this, even though there’s no benefit or reason for it whatsoever, then they prove how obedient the people are.  It’s like herding sheep, or making animals jump through hoops.  Supreme control,” he finished, glancing back at the shiny metal contraption.  “Unless . . .”

“No,” Abigail snapped.  “No ‘unless.’”  She had reached the point where she was not sure she would ever be dry again.  “Sometimes you just have to accept that you don’t understand why things are what they are.  I’m soaked to the bone, and I honestly wouldn’t care if this stupid thing was part of some government plot to brainwash the entire world.  We’re leaving.”

Theodore nodded glumly and followed her around the mysterious curves of the metal apparatus.  As they crossed the street he looked back.  A pedestrian walked up and began to twist through the enclosure.  “No!  Fight the power!” Theodore shouted, so excitedly that his sister had to grab his arm to keep him from tripping over the identical device on the opposite side.

Posted in Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Tony Says:

    “‘Row, row! Fight the power!’ Theodore shouted.”

    Fixed that for you :p

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