I was in the Smoky Drinky Bar last night. The conversation was rambling from one subject to another. At one point it was about cricket, and then it was about baseball. And then it was about bootable Linux USB memory sticks.
That’s how conversations go. They ramble from one subject to another. Sometimes they go in circles. And it’s all entirely unplanned. There’s no set agenda.
If we’d all been having a conference, there would have been an agenda. There would have been minutes read out. People would have been restricted to speaking for no longer than 5 minutes. There would have been speeches. It would all have been planned. Everyone would have known what they wanted to say. Or what they wanted to learn.
Conferences are work. Conversations are play.
And surprising things can come out of conversations. They can stray anywhere. And so in the course of several conversations in the Smoky Drinky Bar, I’ve several times been surprised by something someone said, and found myself thinking about it later.
And conversations can exert subtle influences. Some of the people in the Smoky Drinky Bar have Windows as the operating system on their computers, and some have Linux, and some have Mac OS. And so I’ve got interested in Linux a bit. Yesterday I got interested enough in it to start to begin to try to install it on an old computer of mine, just to see what it was like.
And that’s like hearing about a new vegetable – samphire, for example -, and wondering what it tastes like, and so buying some at Waitrose.
So maybe in a few weeks time I’ll be a born-again Linux user, installing Ubuntu on every machine I’ve got, and cursing Windows 10. And maybe I’ll be stuffing myself with samphire, and planning trips to Southport beach in search of the elusive plant.
Conversations anywhere are surprising, but in the Smoky Drinky Bar they’re even more surprising, because such unlikely people are talking to each other. They all share one thing in common: their enjoyment of tobacco, and their dislike of smoking bans. But in other respects they’re all completely different. They come from different cultures, hundreds or thousands of miles apart. They speak differently. And they wear different clothes. And those differences guarantee surprises.
And the Smoky Drinky Bar is also thoroughly subversive. It subverts smoking bans. It has a Deborah Arnott dartboard. And a No Antismoking sign, And lots of cigarette ads plastered on its walls.
Tobacco Control will want to close down the Smoky Drinky Bar, of course. They’ll probably argue that virtual bars are public places just like real bars or restaurants or railway stations, and nobody should be allowed to smoke in them. And, after all, if they can get e-cigarettes banned just because they look like real cigarettes, they can probably get virtual bars banned because they look like real bars.
I don’t want to control people. I want people to be themselves. I want things to just happen. But the people in Tobacco Control want to control people. They want to control what they smoke and what they drink and what they eat and what they say and what they think.
And I suppose that lots of politicians want to do that too. Politics seems to attract controlling people with plans for everyone. They want to put an end to rambling conversations which can go anywhere, and replace them with conferences with fixed agendas. They want to replace play with work.
I wish they’d all go away.
One day I think they will.