How to lose friends and influence people
It is an immutable law that, whatever you do, you’re going to annoy someone. Any study of human history is pointless without that basic understanding.
This is even true of acts, objects and people that are essentially good; people that you wouldn’t think could possibly offend the most sensitive, thin-skinned, paranoid sociopath in the world – for example, people like the virtuous virgers at Beverley Minster.
Bit every now and then even Beverley Minster itself manages to annoy someone just by being the Minster.
You may remember last year that one of our neighbours tried to stop us ringing our chimes during the night, even though must be fairly obvious to anyone moving into the area that ‘binging’ and ‘bonging’ happens very regularly – and has done for several centuries.
In fact, we ‘bing’ and ‘bong’ exactly 2724 times over each 24 hour period, which virtually everyone gets used to. The overwhelming majority of residents tune the sounds out after less than a day, and almost all the rest actually enjoy and even rely on the chimes during the night- but we admit it’s not a universally loved feature.
A far bigger area of contention, however, is the car park opposite the north door of the Minster and on this particular issue even my saintly colleague John Dell has been known to get unsettled.
John Dell is a lovely man. In a previous blog I falsely claimed to be a happy chappie but, in John’s case it’s a true description.
He’s a man with a ready smile and the calm manner of one who has seen it all and can deal with it.
He even managed to hide his disappointment behind a grin when I decided not to write about him in my last blog – a disappointment that would have crippled a lesser person.
So it’s a bit of a shock to realise that, under this gentle facade, his secret identity is “Car Park Man.”
Once upon a time the car park was part of the playground for Beverley Girls’ School and we still get visitors who were, as children, traumatised by piercing blasts from large-lunged teachers’ whistles as they were chivvied from the blessed site back to what’s now our parish hall..
We don’t own the land but, since the closure of the school, we have leased it for use by our visitors, always aware that the owners could decide to apply for permission to build houses or other such change of use on the site if we stopped paying. It’s a convenience for people using our halls, volunteers coming to church, guests at weddings, mourners at funerals, visiting artists, performers and choirs and, of course, our own worshippers.
But it is private land, for private use – and not everyone understands that. Some local residents seem to think it’s there to compensate for them not having their own drives, but it isn’t. Sorry, but you can buy residents permits for unlimited parking in your street so please do.
We politely point this out to offenders but, no matter how gentle we are, you’d think John or I had accused them of some horrendous crime, like being a Government Minister or having a fat bottom. Eyes popping, people come back at us with the most ridiculous responses.
“I work for the council.” In that case park in a council car park.
“I know the Lord Mayor/Chief Executive,” – nope, nothing to do with them either.
“We’re just popping up to the shops – we won’t be long.” Please park by the shops then – goodbye.
“Because I’ve got a disabled badge at home,” Congratulations, but irrelevant – especially as we’d just seen her march purposely out of the car and try to run past us.
“Because I do visit the Minster sometimes.” So do 70,000 other people every year, and they don’t all assume they have a right to leave their cars there when they next pop into Beverley for something.
“A traffic warden said we could,” – frankly unbelievable.
“That’s not a very Christian attitude to take,” obviously intended as the ultimate put-down. Actually it is – I refer you to the parable of the Good and Faithful Servant – there are quite a few other appropriate ones as well; but the bottom line is that you would object if we came and parked on your drive without permission, particularly if you had a special event coming up, and it’s the same for us.
Anyway, we keep cool, despite provocation, but I can sometimes see the vein throbbing in John’s forehead and, believe me, you wouldn’t like him if he got angry.
Here’s a hint ….. a car that has been crushed into a tiny cube in John’s bare hands can often offend.