Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 22/9/2005As well as the elasticity of reality, another favourite PKD theme is the dangerous paradox of authority: to do you good, we must do you harm — and no, you can't reply in kind. Plenty of proof of that at the moment — and although I was sworn to secrecy on the following story, it's out now.

Thursday 22/9/2005

As well as the elasticity of reality, another favourite PKD theme is the dangerous paradox of authority: to do you good, we must do you harm — and no, you can't reply in kind. Plenty of proof of that at the moment — and although I was sworn to secrecy on the following story, it's out now.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard that old pal David Mery had been dragged from a Tube station under suspicion of being a terrorist, arrested, held overnight, had his flat searched and his effects confiscated. David is certainly guilty of serial journalism and repeated acts of geekery — the man once edited .Exe Magazine — but until now I didn't consider such things as evidence of criminal behaviour.

He was released, of course. But it took him some time to get his stuff back, and the police are keeping details of everything they found on file. "You've got to go to the papers with this," I said to the mutual friend who was telling me the story. "That's what I say," he replied, "but David's solicitor is against it. Says there may be repercussions." Apparently, he'd been tipped off that MI5 could make David's life hell — vanishing bank accounts, untraceble mistakes in official databases, that sort of thing. Whether this is true or just a tale told by the police to defence briefs to keep their clients quiet, I guess we'll find out — put it this way, it doesn't make me think any more favourably about ID cards. Fortunately, bravely, David reconsidered — and you can read the full story on the front page of Thursday's Guardian.

The best you can say about the business is that at least he didn't get shot seven times in the head. The behaviour the police identified as suspicious isn't distinguishable in the slightest degree from what I, you and most of the city get up to. Obviously this has to change — and here's my guide to not getting arrested in London, based on the factors the police told David identified him as a threat to the free world.

He didn't look at the police at the entrance to the station. The plod wasn't detailed about how much looking is required to allay their suspicion — the more the merrier, I guess. I recommend carrying a pair of binoculars on a tripod: there may be no police at your station, and you might have to sweep the area. Once you've found a policeman, stick an "I've Been Seen!" badge on their lapel.

Two other men entered the station at the same time. Who these men were remains a mystery: nobody else was arrested, so we don't know whether it was two men in particular or just a random brace of blokes. For safety's sake, we must assume the latter. Therefore, I have designed a small pack which scans the area with Doppler-sensing radar and computes the trajectories of everyone in the vicinity. If it detects two or more bodies converging on the entrance towards which you head, it emits a loud warning tone. Hold back. Wait for clearance. Move at once when advised. There is a small practical problem with this device, which we'll get to later.

David was wearing a jacket 'too warm for the season'. As David points out, the day before had been the coldest July day for 25 years. What with global warming, we can no longer rely on the seasons complying with Metropolitan Police acceptable comfort guidelines. As conditions can change rapidly, it is essential to have with you a full wardrobe of clothes of various weights, together with a small changing area to facilitate rapid donning of appropriate garments. I have designed a small trolley that incorporates both of these features, which can be dragged behind you at all times. It's not much bigger than a hot-dog stand, so eminently practicable for a London traveller.

David was wearing a 'bulky rucksack', which he kept with him at all times. I am frankly confused by this: no mention is made of acceptable bulk, and leaving one's baggage alone is generally thought to be a cardinal sin on public transport. The problem is compounded by my portable bloke detector, which in itself is roughly rucksack sized. After some thought, it occurs to me that the problem isn't the bag, it's the concealment. Therefore, I have incorporated a conveyor-belt attachment which hoiks out whatever's in the bag and rotates it under strong lights on the top of the unit. Think of the cuddly toy/teasmade sequence in the Generation Game and you won't be far wrong.

He looked at other people on the platform. Already, it's difficult keeping up with this etiquette. You must look at the policeman: you must not look at the people on the platform. What about policemen on the platform? It's certainly something only a computer can cope with, so I propose context-sensitive blinkers that swing open when the police are to be admired, then slam firmly shut afterwards.

He played with his phone and took a paper out of his jacket. Well, there go two of the only ways to stay sane underground. A flip-down screen linked to the Internet and your mobile phone by Bluetooth should do it. And finally, just in case, I have built a hat with a neon sign above that alternates DON'T SHOOT with I'M NOT A TERRORIST.

So equipped, you can be sure of a safe journey across London.


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