I’m exaggerating only slightly. What happened was that a woman, while entering the subway, refused to hold the handrail of the escalator she was on. This is against the law in The Great White North. So she was arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the pokey. Here’s the story.
What prompted this elegant Chess-playing woman, with no previous criminal record, to join the ranks of the nefarious? Germs. Yes, she was terrified of picking up a stray microorganism from the railing.
The law stating that “Thou shalt hold the handrail” is obviously the result of bounteous bureaucratic busybodiness, a rule created to stem the fear in the minds of the excessively nervous that somebody might get hurt. These lawmakers are the sorts of people who sit up nights and concoct various scenarios of escalator doom (lopped off fingers are nothing to them) until it gets so bad that there are unable to live with their frightening musings, and so they see to it that those who would rob them of their sleep are punished
Which is fine. None of my business, and not my country. But what is interesting is the alibi used by the woman: fear of germs. If she merely said, “I don’t want to hold the damn rail. Leave me alone” she would have no allies and no hope.
But she brilliantly played off the those with a Fear of Falling with those with a Fear of Disease. It will fascinating to watch her case play out in court. Experts from both sides will be called. Which will create the most lurid scene?
The Falling group, besides touting the obvious cases of lost limbs, will claim women might trip and catch their earrings in the treads, thereby risking an embarrassing loss of face. But the Disease group has Swine Flu, TB, and the ebola virus on their side. Frankly, I don’t see how they can lose.
Which means the law will be changed to “Thou shalt not hold the handrail.” Perpetrators will be forced to attend classes on cleanliness and will be made to demonstrate proper hand washing. Lawyers will discover groups—under-served groups, naturally—who got sick after riding the escalator, and soon manufacturers will be sued for allowing the spread of disease. Handrails will be removed at great taxpayer expense. And all will be right with the world.
Until somebody trips.