If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 12 October 2009

Jobsworth Central, West Wales Division

Last week, I went up to the Uni in the car. It seemed sensible: no idea of the dress code, so played safe and wore a suit, and charging through unfamiliar traffic with the Satnav is easier in the car. But I told myself that, as a regular thing, I would be going on the bike. Quicker, better through the city traffic, and also the chance for a bit of longer blast than the usual 20 minutes to work. So today I went on the Honda.

Bad move.

Last week, I was told by A (the tutor who has engaged me to do the lecturing, and who seems to be nominally in charge of me) that I should park in the main car park, and that he would warn the people who run it that I would be arriving - on a motorbike. I turned up in the car, and was allowed to park, no problem. I was told that I would have a proper permit the following week. I even spoke to someone in Security, who promised that he would do one straight away and have it waiting for me behind the Reception desk. Well, that didn't happen. But worse than that, I arrived at the barrier to be told that they don't allow bikes to park in the main car park. I would have to park in a different area, some distance away up the hill. It was a case of "we don't allow bikes here", no room for argument, no compromises, and bloody rude with it. However, time was ticking on, and I needed to do some photocopying before the lecture, so I complied, thinking it would be quicker.

I did a fairly neat U-turn in front of a queue of impatient motorists, and went to the other car park as I was told. There was no sign of any bikes, so I plonked the Pan in a fairly discreet corner and began to get my kit out. Then another official came out of his little hut and said "you can't park here!" I told him that this was exactly where his colleague had told me to park. He sighed, as if I was a rather dim 5-year-old, and pointed to a gap between two buildings. "That's where the bikes are." I had seen the gap, but decided that it was far too narrow to get the Pan through with its built-in panniers and generally lardy proportions. Another brief contretemps followed, in which I was again the loser. So I squeezed the bike between the concrete walls to find the "motorcycle park" - a steeply-sloping pathway about 8 feet wide, covered in moss and very damp.

The Pan weighs about 300kg fully-fuelled, but it's well-balanced, and the only time I get nervous about dropping it is if the surface is slippery and my feet might slip away when I hold it upright. Petrol station forecourts slick with diesel are a particular hazard. This 'parking area' looked pretty bad. But I managed to squeeze it between two student bikes (cheap learner 125s, held together with cheap insulating tape, that's how I knew - the XT is held together with proper gaffer tape and wire) and kept it upright. So far, so good.

I walked back to the main block, where I was due to be lecturing in about 5 minutes, and went into the Gents' to change. I had brought my jacket in an overnight bag, and left this on the floor next to the waterproofs which I had hung on a coat-hook on the wall. I thought it might be a courtesy to let the Security guys know, just in case someone took offence at an anonymous bag left in a toilet. You'd think I had told him I had left a genuine bomb. "No, no, no, no, no! You can't leave that in there! It's security!" I was sent to gather it all up, and was taken to a cupboard near Reception, where the door was ceremonially unlocked and I was allowed to store my stuff. Then we had to make special arrangements for Reception to meet me there after my lecture was finished, in order that I could retrieve them.

Put simply, I was not made to feel in any way welcome. And there was no permit for me. I will have to wait another week, until 'Bob' comes back from his annual leave for that.

I have decided that the bike is more trouble than it is worth for this particular gig. I will be turning up in future in a nice boring car, fully dressed, and fitting in with everyone preconceptions of what normal people do for transport. A few years ago, I would have made a point of rocking up on the bike every week, and going through the same rigmarole, just to be awkward, but I am getting a bit old for that.

A chance to listen to a few CDs on a Monday morning, I think. Oh, and it's autumn, and the Mundaneo has a heater.

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