Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Heed the trusty oaks …

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Here in England we have plenty of old houses and cottages with low ceilings – apparently people used to be much shorter in the past …


Don’t be fooled by the cutesy thatching, the oak beams and door lintels in those old places are famous for delivering a hefty whump to the forehead of the tall and heedless.


We’re also famous for loving to queue. In some countries I’ve been to when the bus comes it’s just a big bundle for the door, Darwin in action, the weaklings left sputtering in the toxic wake of the engorged bus as it heaves away groaning. But in England we still half expect the queues to be neat-ish and orderly-ish, and it was only a few years ago they’d have been neat as a mayday hatpin.


Low doors and queues. Very traditional English. But look what happens when we put them together:


If we take the entire human population of this world and line them up in order of wealth we get a long thin line of people on a scale from short to tall, the poorer the shorter, the richer the taller. We will define the scale thus: a person earning the average income of an English adult will be of average height. The door also will be of average proportions.


Now visualize that line of people standing on one side of a closed door.


In a moment they are all going to cross the threshold into the next room, in an orderly fashion, poorest first, richest last. But before we start that great parade there is one condition: they have just one hour to all pass through the door.


Ok. They can start walking now.


For the first 48 minutes we do not have to open the door, for 48/60ths (i.e. 12/15ths, or 80%) of the world’s population are so poor that on our scale they are short enough to walk right under the closed door! True!!


Only when we reach the 49th minute do we need to open the door. For 9 minutes people walk through the door ‘normally’.


Yes, dear reader, you can guess where we’re going with this.


By the 58th minute people will be too tall to walk through the door without stooping, then bending, then crawling, then cramming.


And in the last ten seconds or so the people will be over one mile tall!


Perhaps they should take heed, unless they think themselves too big to learn a lesson or two from the trusty oak of old England! That's the mistake a lot of people have made - just before WHUMP!

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