Oxford U., dangerous objects in England, signage and fear.

After Elliott and I got our shits together, we made our way via Tube to the Hilton in … I don’t know, fucking London, to pay £14 for a round-trip bus ticket to Oxford.

Narratively speaking, I don’t have much to say about Oxford. Much like America, there were a lot of Americans there. Pub ceiling clearances ranged from Hobbit-level to cathedral. Literally. I went to a bar that was a re-purposed church. It was the only time I’ve ever not felt out of place in a church, and I was surrounded by people speaking in other languages. Actually, that’s kind of normal, since I kind of grew up Catholic. Maybe it was in Latin, maybe all in English; I didn’t pay attention. I also was hit on by an attractive Indian girl with an English accent. The true glory for me here was that this is one of my roommate’s dreams come true and it just fell into my lap while I was drinking at a bar at an Oxford graduate student party, trying not to talk to anybody. You hear that, Paul? It meant nothing to me.

Moving forward, such aforementioned Hobbit-level ceilings featured signs reading “Mind Your Head,” usually on the lower points of entry. Interesting UK legal fact: If you put the word “Mind” followed by anything else, on a sign near something very dangerous (like a gap), you completely absolve yourself of any potential liability as a result of injury, death, or absolutely anything else that might happen to someone else who gets near the dangerous thing that you’re in charge of.

Safety school.

The nice thing about this is it still leaves you feeling like a grown up. Say you come upon some kind of exposed cable or other piece of fun-looking thing to touch, that also happens to be surging with electricity. Over here, Uncle Sam points that military conscripting, know-it-all finger of his right in your face and says “DON’T TOUCH THIS.” What am I, a baby? I touch what I want. England knows this. That’s why their sign would probably say “Mind the Cable.” My brain completes the rest of this implied statement: “Mind the cable. Touch it if you want, you’ll probably die. But, you know, just think about it first. You’re here, the cable’s there, and I’ve provided you with all of the information you need to move forward with your life, particularly regarding this electric cable and not much else. Maybe you’ll take this information forward with you, regarding other mystery cables. I don’t know and I don’t really care, because I can’t. I’m a sign.”

We live in a litigious society here in America, and the result is a fear-based culture of victimhood and compensation, and shooting people and other problems with guns. The only things the English seem to fear are dragons (some of which they’ve clearly managed to flash-petrify with dark magic and place on pillars around the city as an example to other dragons); and Irish explosives, which I’m guessing is why you can’t find a fucking rubbish bin to save your life, since the IRA would apparently often try blowing bits of London up, find that their homemade bombs weren’t working properly and throw them away, only for the bombs to go off from within the garbage containers later on. So, not a lot of places to throw your trash, but plenty of stanchions to tie up your horse, or walk into balls-first while you’re taking photos of historic-looking architecture.

Anyway, other American things I saw in Oxford: Canada Geese. I don’t know what they call them over there, and I don’t care. Probably “football geese.”

Next up in the pipeline (maybe): stuff about accents, and how cocky (or should I say COCKNEY?! Get it?) the English are about their faux-American accents (even though they really shouldn’t be, for reasons I’ll explain).


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2 Responses to Oxford U., dangerous objects in England, signage and fear.

  1. creeped says:

    Oh hey, you’re back. I’ve missed your last few posts… So you are / have been in merry old England? Coincidentally, I moved to London 6 weeks ago (and naturally, have been blogging about it). So Oxford – worth a look?

    • Alex says:

      I am indeed – had to take some time away for work and Londoning. I was there March 8-15. That’s awesome man, whereabouts? How are you finding it? I guess I can find out on http://ozexpat.wordpress.com/.

      Oxford’s pretty decent. A round-trip (or, “return”) ticket on the Oxford Tube (bus) is £13-14 or so. I made the mistake of spending the exact same for a single. So, you know, don’t do that. Very cool scenery – could be a nice spring/summer day trip. Not sure what to do at night there if you don’t know anybody (we hit a student party because we did). But I’m a sucker for low-stress aesthetics, so Oxford was a nice departure from London in that sense. I’d recommend it. Just don’t tell anyone from Cambridge you went there.

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