Sometimes searching for information (rather like taking a lift) can be more fraught than you might imagine.
For reasons that are unlikely to become completely clear at this time, I recently visited Imperial College, a part of the University of London, and attempted to take the lift to the third floor. The lift would not, however, oblige, and even though I pressed the third floor button several times, each time I was delivered to the second or fourth floor.
Now I had no problem with walking up or down a flight of steps so after the fourth trip between the second and fourth (or to be more precise, the second trip between the second and fourth and the second trip between the fourth and second) I decided to walk the rest of the way.
On discussing this odd situation with the receptionist on the third floor (which I must admit I had begun the believe might not exist) I was told that the idea of having lifts that don’t stop at every floor had come from America, where in many universities the lifts up and down the tower blocks only stop at every third floor. The implication clearly was that by having a lift that stopped at every other floor I was getting it easy.
Apparently this was an idea introduced to encourage students to keep taking exercise, and from time to time the authorities would change the floors at which the lifts stopped, as they found that otherwise there would be a flurry of applications from students to change courses, with those that were on the floor where the elevator stopped suddenly becoming much more in demand.
It was also said that the business of making people walk up or down stairs encourages social interaction – it seems that people are afraid to talk in lifts. This in turn led to the choral society of one part of the University of London putting on three person concerts of very short pieces and performing them in the lifts by way of entertainment.
Unfortunately this led to complaints that the music society members were taking up three places in the lift unnecessarily, thus delaying the arrival of others who now had to wait for the lift to return and then take it and walk up or down a couple of flights of steps.
Telling the music society students to desist, the university then decided to put 20 second adverts on screens in the lifts, which worked ok until a set of adverts encouraging students to take up teaching appeared, each suggesting that after only four years back in the classroom the students could move into management.
No one seemed to realise that this rather contradicted the fundamental message of the teacher recruitment programme by the Department for Education which has stressed the importance of teaching as a career.
It also ignored the fact that a significant part of the crisis that now exists in terms of the number of teachers working in schools declining all the time, is that an ever-growing number of teachers do actually leave after four years.
When challenged on why the number of teachers was actually falling while the number of young people in schools was rising inexorably year on year, the DfE said that it had spent more money on advertising for people to join the profession in the past year than ever before. Upon being told this was a non sequitur the spokesperson for the Department asked what a non sequitur was.
At this point the spokesperson for the DfE was referred to the Latin Department of University College, but having heard about the fact that it was on a floor that was not serviced by a lift he decided to try to find the answer on line.
He then discovered that there is an on line guide to University College in which a student faces a camera and gives a talk about the work of each department.
Impressed by the coverage the person in charge of teacher recruitment advertising for the DfE sat pondering at the end of the lecture, while still gazing at the screen, and then noticed that the lady who had delivered the talk about the College was still looking straight at the camera, although over a period of a minute or so she started to look bored.
Then to the advertising man’s surprise she started looking around, and for a while seemed to be trying to climb inside the screen itself as if looking for the person who was looking at the video. As the advertising manager tried ever more frantically to turn the connection off the student looked more and more bored. He clicked his mouse, pressed the bar space, tried control alt delete (always a favourite with advertising executives) and eventually did notice a button on the screen marked “end video”.
A sign then popped up saying, “This video was prepared by the drama department of University College. It took you 4 minutes 22 seconds to find the “end video” button. Your reflexes and observational level are rated “extremely poor”, and it is not recommended that you should go into teaching, but rather should proceed straight to management where you will undoubtedly immediately be a whizz.”