Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Failed Life of Crime


Consequential thinking is not always my strong point.

For most people problem solving is like so:  see a problem, think of answers, pick the best one, implement.

I, on the other hand, problem solve like so: see a problem, panic, blindly and with enthusiasm try to fix it, make things worse, increase panic, someone has to intervene with the appropriate answer, implement. It can be exhausting.  

One prime example of this is when I almost became an international jewel thief. Now, I know this is a confusing statement because I obviously do not possess the capacities to pull of any kind of heist, but you’d be surprised how far gusto will get you.

I was fourteen and in London with my family on vacation. We went to the Tower of London and went to see the Crown Jewels (this was before they spiffed things up for the Diamond Jubilee so the scene of the crime no longer exists as it did when this story took place). When you go to see the Crown Jewels you walk through many small rooms that are playing videos of coronations and historical reenactments, then you stand on a moving sidewalk, slide past the super fancy jewels, oh and ah, walk through some more rooms, and then ta-da you walk out more cultured and slightly blinded.

Typically, there is a line of people winding their way through this process and you just follow the herd like cattle, as you do at any good tourist attraction. On this day, however, there was no herd. I was walking ahead of my family because I was surly teenager who had no time for appreciation of life experiences or learning about culture.

I walked into a room with a video playing and could not for the life of my figure out where I was supposed to go. All I could see was an exit door on the opposite wall that was closed. I thought to myself – well, that looks like an emergency exit door, but I’m a gauche American what do I know about fancy doors.  So I opened it. Low and behold, it was an emergency exit door. That was fully alarmed. The door that everyone who is sane goes through was in the same wall I had just walked through, apparently peripheral vision is also not my strong point.  

::WEOOOHHHH WEEOOHHHHH WEEEEOOOOOHHHH WEEEEOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH:::

AUGHHHHH!!!! Danger! Danger! That is a REALLY loud alarm. MUST FIX THIS HUGE PROBLEM. I’ve got it! If I just close the door no one will know what happened. Brilliant!

Fun fact #1: once a fire door is open, it locks open so that the herds of frantic people pouring out (which would obviously be the only reason the door clearly marked with a glowing “ALARM WILL SOUND” sign would be opened) don’t get slowed down by a door that keeps closing.

I then proceeded to have an epic struggle with said locked door in a valiant, if not misguided, attempt to close it. The more it stuck the more determined I became that if I could just wrench it closed, all would be fixed.

Luckily, my father showed up at this opportune moment. I’m sure he was filled with a glowing pride as he realized it was his frantic, chaotic daughter that had set off the alarm. On the plus side, my inability to make good choices under pressure is not genetic. He grabbed my arm and dragged me away from the door and into the next room where the moving sidewalk was. As we shuffled along, a group of what can only be described as a SWAT team went running behind the moving sidewalk, all black clothes and big guns and yelling on their walkie talkies (don’t be fooled, the fluffy hat guys are NOT the only police force at the Tower of London).

Fun fact #2: at that point, there were no cameras in the rooms that don’t hold jewels, as we learned as they all yelled about not seeing anything.

We continued on the moving sidewalk, finished looking at the crown jewels, and walked out. We were going to see the culture we paid to see come hell or high water or attempted larceny, darn it!

Fun fact #3: blaring alarms do not stop operations at the Tower of London -  the British are efficient AND practical. Which makes total sense, since I don’t have a smidge of British blood in me.  

Needless to say, the rest of the trip my family was super entertained by pointing out emergency exit doors and asking me if I’d like to walk through those too. I declined.

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