My wife bought seedless grapes. I refused to eat them on moral grounds, but she didn’t even care that they were the last surviving members of that particular grape family line. (Women are the tough-minded sex.) That disagreement ended with her telling our dinner guests: “My husband is an original thinker.”
Thinking in counter-cultural ways is usually a good thing, but not always. The human resources officer at the last place I worked was never discreet like they normally are. She would walk into our department and sing: “Making a list, checking it twice.” She was a totally sweet human being except for being a dangerous psychopath and probable serial killer.
In general, original thinkers add interest to life, especially when offbeat ideas are adopted by institutions. In some districts of India, police who catch men urinating in public spaces leap into action, placing garlands of flowers around the miscreants’ necks. The sheer randomness of the action, I’m told, stops them re-offending.
Equally creative was the official reaction when Delhi motorists with car number plates ending in odd numbers were caught driving on days reserved for those ending in even numbers. Offenders were handed a rose. (Memo to self: visit India next Valentine’s Day and borrow 12 cars.) One Delhi man with a number plate ending in zero was caught on an odd number driving day – and claimed that zero was neither odd nor even. He was wrong (it’s even) but anti-traffic ladies still offered him a rose.
When I asked around for examples of original thinking, a colleague mentioned a recent two-man motorcycle race in Australia. The first guy’s motorcycle wouldn’t start and the second man’s bike stalled. The logical thing would have been to abandon the race, but one guy had the bright idea of simply walking as fast as he could to the finishing line, pushing the bike. The other did the same. Race officials said it was “like the Flintstones”, and they ended up with a winner, a good laugh, and a new record: slowest motorbike race in history.
But perhaps the most startling example of original thinking is the policy to pay salaries to career criminals if they agree to commit no crimes. This is not a joke. It was first tried in the US town of Richmond, California, and crime dropped so fast that the scheme is this year starting in Washington DC, with up to 50 criminals on the payroll.
If this spreads around the world, “career criminal” could soon become a proper respected profession, like being a doctor, lawyer, couch potato, street hustler, demagogue et al.
I must admit I was tempted by this, until my boss pointed out that career criminals are probably required to do a modicum of work from time to time, unlike columnists, who simply share inane, pointless ramblings. Good point.
On the plus side, original thinkers have bright ideas. For example, someone should invent a smoke detector which switches itself off when daddy and the kids are cooking in the kitchen. We like our food black on the outside and raw on the inside.
It’s better than eating innocent grapes that have been brutally neutered.
(27.05.2016 – Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send comments and ideas via his Facebook page)