Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

A man named Danny holds his own personal protest against walking through life half awake (or is it half asleep?). He seems like a "bloody nutter" (as the police descibed him when they showed up after I snapped these pics), but if you talk to him for a few minutes, you find that he is actually quite rational.

Image: GrrlScientist 31 August 2008 [larger view].

When I was in the Victoria Train Station, purchasing tickets to South Bromley, where Darwin’s Down House is located, I ran into this man. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided that the Brits are truly strange if they pay a man a living wage to stand stock-still on a stepladder in a London train station, holding a sign that tells us “everything is ok” — what’s with that?? But on the other hand, the Brits have set a precedent by paying the guards at Buckingham Palace to do the same thing, so .. I walked over to have a little conversation with the man.

I learned that his name is Danny and his personal philosphy is that one should live mindfully, thoughtfully, and always with an eye towards changing one’s view of the world in view of new information. That’s a really scientific way of living, I think, so his point of view seemed rational to me, even if his way of expressing himself is somewhat unusual. But as our conversation progressed, he mentioned that he often is harassed by the police and has even been threatened with arrest — odd, since he is clearly non-violent. Danny also mentioned that he can be found at the Speaker’s Platform in Hyde Park.

Then Danny mentioned that I was a figment of his imagination (and vice versa — a viewpoint that I sometimes have sympathy for, although this alternative perception of reality combined with his unusual way of expressing it might be viewed as a reason to incarcerate him). We had an interesting conversation, and he also shared the other side of his sign with me (below), but I never asked him why he bothers to stand there with his signs if all of us are figments of his imagination.

A man named Danny holds his own personal protest against walking through life half awake (or is it half asleep?). He seems like a "bloody nutter" (as the police descibed him when they showed up after I took these pics), but if you talk to him for a few minutes, you find that he is actually quite rational.

Image: GrrlScientist 31 August 2008 [larger view].

While I purchased my tickets, the police closed in and threatened to arrest Danny (one referred to him as a “bloody nutter” under his breath) if he didn’t move along. Interestingly, he gave his sign to an observer and asked that person to hold it up for him, but the police were having none of that! He left without being arrested, his job done for the day.

I also forgot to mention that I hate Helvetica, but does that mean that Danny suffers from split personality disorder since he clearly uses one of the Helvetica-style fonts for his sign? Hrm….

Comments

  1. #1 Chris' Wills
    September 1, 2008

    It’s a shame that the police are such idiots, they should be out chasing burglars rather than interfering with peaceful expression.

    Then again the UK is becoming somewhat of a police state, try photographing a police(wo)man without asking their permission.

  2. #2 Der Bruno Stroszek
    September 1, 2008

    Yeah, it’s absolutely unbelievable the trouble you can get into for a photograph. For some reason our police force appears to have been entirely replaced with idiot jobsworths who don’t have the first idea what the law is, but like swinging their weight around.

  3. #3 Rob
    September 1, 2008

    I admire you for stopping to find out what he was up to. I think way too often we think anyone slightly outside the norm is a “nutter”. I unfortunately would likely have been among that crowd.

    I agree with Chris about the police being idiots.

  4. #4 Tabor
    September 1, 2008

    You are such a broad minded soul and always willing to listen to each side of the story before drawing conclusions!

  5. #5 BCS
    September 1, 2008
  6. #6 Romeo Vitelli
    September 1, 2008

    Obviously a terrorist trying to lull people into a false sense of security before carrying out his evil scheme. The police were right to go after him.

  7. #7 qetzal
    September 1, 2008

    This alternative perception of reality combined with his unusual way of expressing it might be viewed as a reason to incarcerate him.

    Sadly, I have no doubt that certain authorties DO view it as such. But they shouldn’t.

    If he’s blocking pedestrian traffic or something, it’s appropriate to make him move. Otherwise the police should leave him alone.

  8. #8 Henry Gee
    September 1, 2008

    Everything about the man is entirely harmless until you see the typeface, which looks too much like Comic Sans for comfort. Anyone who uses Comic Sans outside the confines of a nursery school is obviously extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be approached. You were lucky to have emerged unscathed from what could have been a deeply traumatic encounter.

  9. #9 Horwood Beer-Master
    September 1, 2008

    Ah Victoria, I’ll be passing through there in about a week-and-a-half’s time when I travel south for a doctors appointment, I’ll keep a look out for “bloody nutter” Danny while I’m there, although I’ve never spotted him before.

    Hope you enjoyed Down House, I went there for the first time last summer (having never appreciated before how close it was to where I was brought up). The only two complaints I’d have about the place are the rule against taking photos in the house itself, and the lack of anything particularly interesting in the gift shop. Still I must make another visit sometime soon.

    By the way, the train station you were buying a ticket for is called “Bromley South” not “South Bromley”, sorry for the petty correction but NW Kent/SE London is still my ‘home territory’ even if I live up north these days.
    If it makes you feel any better, PZ made a similar mistake in his ‘visit to Downe’ post, where he refers to the “Seven Oaks line” rather than the “Sevenoaks line”.
    Anyway that’s quite enough annoying pedantry from me

  10. #10 Chris
    September 1, 2008

    Definitely not Helvetica. Helvetica is a clean, modern Swiss typeface. I agree that looks like comic sans. I don’t see it as inappropriate here, since it lends his message a cheerful tone that he seems to want to convey. He’s not a graphic designer, after all.

  11. #11 GrayGaffer
    September 1, 2008

    Actually, there are laws about this that have been in place for a long time. The place he is allowed to do that is Hyde Park Corner. If you haven’t been there yet make a point of it. On any Sunday, IIRC. (check). Placards elsewhere are OK but the bearer must be moving. Think ‘the end is nigh’.

    Related:

    I’m glad to hear the cops are still reasonably gentle with the ‘nutters’.

    During my undergrad days at Bedford College (1966) I did my bit in the corner for charity. A beard sacrifice. But it was not considered a speech so we were asked to cease. I went home with half my beard missing.

    A bit more loosely related, after being ‘on search’ for spiritual meaning for many years, J Krishnamurti told a group of us, in Ojai shortly before his death, “what are you all doing here? I can’t tell you what to do or think. You have to do that for yourself”. Pretty much “don’t believe anybody, including me”. Right On!

  12. #12 GrayGaffer
    September 2, 2008

    I just hate dangling participles. Especially when I am the one to leave them hanging. I, of course, was the person ‘on search’. JK found his back in the 20’s, I believe.

  13. #13 jess
    September 4, 2008

    I saw him at Waterloo the other day. Was tempted to go up and talk to him but was on my way to work. Thanks for solving the mystery :D

  14. #14 Andy J
    September 4, 2008

    The guy in this cartoon strip has a similar idea…

    http://xkcd.com/470/

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