No. No they’re bloody well not, and here’s why…
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself arriving at work with an hour or two to spare, so decided to make the most of the extra time and go for a run. It was a different building to the one I usually work out of, and hardly anyone uses it any more, but it had showers and a changing room so it was perfect for my needs. I dumped my bag inside, stowed my swipey access card in the back pocket of my shorts, and off I went.
A few sweaty miles later, I was back at the side door to the building. I reached into my back pocket, pulled out my swipey access card and…
No I didn’t.
The tiny zip allowed itself to be dragged an inch across but then stopped, refusing to budge any further and just allowing a tantalising corner of my card to poke out. I tugged and I tugged, but it was no use – the zip1 was stuck fast, leaving me with no way of getting through the security door that stood between me and a shower and change of clothes.
With my phone inside the building and my access card stuck inside my pocket, my options were limited. I couldn’t just hang around outside until someone else arrived to let me in – I had to get to work, and the building isn’t used much these days so I could have been waiting hours. My next thought was to just get in my car and head home, where I could just eat all the food and pretend this day had never happened. But my keys were inside, keeping my phone and my clean pants company, so that option was out too.
I had to come to a decision quickly. The whole time I’d been considering my options, I’d been frantically pawing at the back of my shorts with both hands, a pained grimace on my face. To be honest, if I’d caught sight of me in a mirror, I’d have called the police myself.
Option three. I glanced around and saw that the street was more or less deserted. I then did some quick mental calculations to work out roughly how long it would take to whip off my shorts, press them against the swipey access pad and slip through the door unseen (or, if not unseen, at least quick enough to reduce the likelihood of being picked out in any subsequent police line-up). If option 3 was successful, I would of course pop back out with some disinfectant to wipe down the swipey access pad.
Wait! Of course! The swipey access pad! The answer to my predicament was staring me right in the face (or, to be more precise, somewhere around sternum-level). The pad was only 30-40cm higher than my back pocket, which meant that it was only (and this calculation took me a bit longer than it should have) 30-40cm higher than the swipey access card.
The first couple of bounces were probably a bit pathetic, as I was feeling pretty excited about my newly-discovered genius and these were more a series of celebratory hops rather than any genuine attempt at getting into the building. But after that, I went for it. I really went for it. And then I went for it again. And then I kept going for it. To anyone walking past, I would have looked like… well, to be honest I would have looked like a man trying to rub his bottom against an electronic security device. It shouldn’t have been anything to be ashamed of, but I’m sure people have ended up on registers for less. It eventually dawned on me that the reason it wasn’t working was that you need to hold the swipey access card against the swipey access pad for about a second, in order for it to properly register. Desperation had long since taken over from logic, and I found myself trying to stick to the wall like Wile E Coyote, when he gets flung into the side of a cliff by the giant catapult he’s just built to catch a smart-arse bird4.
And it was just at that moment, as I took the mother of all (backwards) run-ups and hurled myself (backwards) through the air, while praying that gravity would just forget about me for a second or two, that the door opened. Stood in the doorway was the worlds most bemused cleaner, the look on her face a perfect cocktail of confusion, terror, disgust and… wait… could that be… respect? Nope, it was just a bit more confusion. Obviously.
And so the important question is, what lessons did I take from this? Have I oiled the zip on my shorts? Switched to Velcro? Do I now gaffer-tape my swipey access card to my forehead? Have I written to my MP, demanding that all swipey access pads be lowered by 30-40cm?
Well, no. I’ve not learned anything from any of this. I never do. But, let’s be honest, if I was the sort of person who went around learning from my mistakes and becoming a more grounded, mature human being, would you still be coming back to read this stuff?
1. It’s just occurred to me that any Americans reading this are probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Some translation is in order – over here, when we say “zip” we actually mean “zipper”. It’s one of those little linguistic differences that must cause endless fun whenever our two nations get together. But there’s a serious side to it as well; just think of how many hours us brits must save over a lifetime by shortening “zipper” to “zip”2
2. Although, now that I think about it, any gains we make will just be cancelled out by the time we foolishly waste saying “trousers” instead of “pants”3.
3. Which also have zip(per)s.
4. It was at this exact moment that Option Four began to form in my mind, only to be discarded as soon as I realised that I didn’t have the time, materials or skills to build a giant catapult.