Saturday, 11 September 2010

Safety First - a fairy tale

Once upon a time there was a Prince who lived in a crowded land where things were not always as he desired and he often felt he was powerless, even as Prince, to change things. He learnt to make do; he shared the streets with the hordes of the masses, and let himself be hemmed in and cut-off like everybody else. For, whereas he knew that everybody loved and respected him (once they recognised him), he also knew that the people carried too many burdens and could hardly have a minute to themselves. They did not mean him any personal offence.

One day, the Prince was visited by a cousin, who was Prince in another land where far fewer people lived and everybody drove four-by-four Toyotas. As a gesture of hospitality, our Prince gave full use of his own Royal Car to the visiting prince. But when it was time for the visiting prince to leave, he told our prince something that brought consternation to his face. The visiting prince said the car tyres were not as they should be; they had indentations and little bulges in them, and although the treads were far from being worn out, the cousin insisted that no man in his land would drive a car with such tyres. “Safety first,” said the cousin prince.

Well, our Prince mulled this matter for days and days, and then one day, he arose and called in his assistants and instructed them to change the tyres. Being citizens of the land, the assistants were themselves a very distracted lot. “Tyres? What tyres, Sire?” “Oh the Royal Tyres – but what on earth is wrong with them, Sire? They’re perfect, there’s nothing wrong with them.”

And the assistants scoffed when the Prince told them that he would no longer tolerate for himself, nor for his people – if he could get them to pay any attention to him instead of walking around looking down all the time – bad tyres. The tyres have 60K of mileage on them, that’s more than enough wear and tear, he said. “But Sire, people up and down the land drive with tyres 90 thousand kilometers old. This change would send the wrong message to the people. They might think their Prince a wuss.”

But the Prince would have none of it. Change the tyres they did. The Prince himself supervised the purchase and installation of two tyres from the land of Dunlop – two, not all four, for he had to acquiesce to at least some of his assistants’ nags.

But while the new tyres were being fitted, the fitting people could not hide their smiles. They showed the Prince the state of his older tyres, barely managing to hide their glee. For the old tyres were really in not that bad a condition. “Of course, Sire would not want to take chance on his safety should Sire be driving recklessly at very high speed, now would Sire,” they said, with glints in their eyes.

The Prince, being Prince of the land, took all this in good humour and tipped them lavishly. “Other-worldy, is the Prince,” they nodded to each other as he drove away, barely managing to conceal their superiority.

For a whole week, the Prince drove up and down the land with four excellent tyres, two of which were so perfect and new, he did not want to dirty them with the earth of his land; for the Prince knew the state of his land and its people, and he secretly despised them all; but still, he loved them – where else could he be Prince.

One morning though, the Prince arose to find a weak tyre. It was not completely flat, but it was suspiciously low. And it was one of the new ones. So, he rushed off to order the tyres filled up with air properly. The tyre-pressure assistant was respectful and all-so-keen to show usefulness to the Prince, and so when the Prince had tipped him, he decided to be that extra bit useful and ran off to get some soapy water. He poured the soapy water on the tyre that had been low and then beckoned the Prince to come and see.

There, right in front of his eyes, were two holes blowing bubbles in the soapy water. The prince could not believe it. At first, he thought the tyre-pressure man had set him up, for the tyre pressure man, as if being given directions by the gods, produced a piece of glass that he claimed was lodged at the site of the bigger hole. Might it be that the man always has a shard of glass in his pocket to produce at the site of a hole, so as to convince a wavering customer, wondered the Prince?

“Not to worry, your royal highness. I can fix it,” said the tyre-pressure man. He ran in and came back with a puncture-repair kit. “I’ll just stick a plug in. You will be back on the road in no time, Sire, with perfect tyres again.”

But the prince refused to repair the tyres. He unleashed a wrath of fury against the land of Dunlop, against the merchants who had sold him the Dunlop tyres of ill-fortune, and against his land and his people.

“You don’t want to drive off with a leaking tyre, do you Sire?” said the tyre-pressure man as if the Prince’s fury was only a passing grey cloud that would soon be impossible to find.
But the Prince was serious; he left his land and emigrated to the land of his cousin, where he became a commoner and got himself a four-by-four Toyota like everybody else. One day, while visiting his cousin at his palace, he inspected the state of the Royal Tyres. And do you know what, they had indentations and bulges.

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1 comment:

avantcaire said...

the prince leaving seems so sudden. what happened when he left? did anything change or was he replaced with an equivalent? are his former people better off?