Do's and Don't's

Posted by jlubans on February 06, 2024

A recent headline in the Higher Education Chronic, "Unprecedented Use of Trash Chute", brought to mind my commentary in 2019 on trash chutes in college dormitories.
The Chronic relates that Luther Murchison, a resident advisor on Floor 3, was bound and thrown down a trash chute by a group of masked individuals.
Mr. Murchison, an avid Covid-masker had required all residents on his floor to wear masks whenever in public spaces. Mr. Murchison survived the descent, landing on a mattress providentially placed in the dumpster.
Campus police responded to shouting emanating from the dumpster and released Mr. Murchison.
Luther was heard to state, "I'll get those bastards" and offered no further comment.
Perhaps you recall my blog, "Getting Someone To Do What He Should Not Do".
(see below a slightly edited version.)
In it I discourse on how telling people what they can't do, often leads to their doing it.
In Luther's case, I am sure tossing a person down the chute was not listed among prohibited actions, but knowing the inventiveness of undergraduates, it is not too much of a stretch.
You see, I am a disciple of Do, not of Don't.
My friend, the artist Beatrice Coron,
once made a paper box about 5"x5"x1" with "Don't" inscribed on top. Naturally, everyone would lift the lid. Doing so, the box would let out a loud squeal - triggered by a mercury switch. On the underside of the lid were the words, "You did!"
Doing what we are told not to do, goes all the way back to Pandora. The most likely psychological term for this behavior is reactance, a condition that kicks in when our freedom is threatened, as when young people are told to wear masks when no longer needed.
We send our condolences to Luther. And, so, on to the blog from 2019:
IF you find yourself, in the wee hours, stumbling around the hallways of a high-rise college dorm, you might be inspired (perhaps inflamed) by the prohibitions listed next to the trash chute.
As most of us know, the way to get someone to do something is to tell him - I would use her, but somehow methinks this needs be limited only to us guys - NOT to do it.
And, in case the hammered HEs need additional guidance for mischief, we'll list out the trash chute Do Nots!
"We want to be abundantly clear!
Namely, throwing lighted matches, cigars or cigarettes,
carpet sweepings, Naphthalene camphor balls or flakes,
floor scrapings, oil-soaked rags,
empty paint cans (full cans are OK?),
aerosol containers, or explosive substances (NOW you're talkin'!)
into this chute (as if you needed to know where)
is unlawful and subjects the offender to a penalty."
A veritable Rabelaisian listing of fun stuff for the stoned student or any potted person.
No worries about the carpet sweepings and floor scrapings (too much like work) but the others, when assembled and combined, will make for a hilarious BOOM out the rooftop.
Like Bra'er Rabbit's wily pleading: "Oh, Bra'er Fox, go ahead and drown me then, just so long as you don't throw me into that briar patch!" this sign no doubt achieves the opposite of its intent.
Who do you think wrote this sign? I sense a certain glee in listing these prohibitions, a bit of a thrill in telling others what they are not to do.
Why not a sign which states simply "For Bagged Trash" and leave it at that?



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Copyright text John Lubans 2024

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