San Francisco Institute of Possiblity


The British Consulate cannot help you

Someone here did something very funny.

Someone here did something very funny.

Somewhere in the depths of the bureaucracy of the British Foreign Office, there sits a hero.

He is anonymous:  we will likely never know his name.  But he did something so brave, so bold, so honest, that it touches the heart of any true cacophonist.

This anonymous hero sent out a press release, to everyone in Great Britain, reminding its citizens that the Foreign Office cannot give them the contact information for Sir Paul McCartney’s wife.

It’s funny because it’s true.

“Over the last year, the FCO handled more than a million consular enquiries and supported some 52,135 British nationals in difficulty abroad,” this anonymous hero’s press release began. “However, our consular staff overseas continue to receive a number of enquiries that they simply cannot provide assistance for.”

He then lists some examples.  These are all true.

  • A man who required hospital treatment in Cambodia when a monkey dislodged a stone that hit him demanded help getting compensation and wanted assurance that it would not happen again
  • A man asked FCO staff in Rome to translate a phrase for a tattoo that he wanted
  • Consular staff in Beijing were asked to help a woman who had bought a pair of football boots that were ‘Made in China’ but were poor quality
  • A woman requested that consular staff in Tel Aviv order her husband to get fit and eat healthily so that they could have children
  • Consular staff in Kuala Lumpur were asked if the FCO could help pay to send their children to an International School
  • A man asked consular staff in Stockholm to check the credentials of a woman whom he had met online
  • A man asked the Consulate in Montreal for information to settle a £1,000 wager on the colour of the British passport
  • A number of British Consulates have been asked to book hotels or to advise on where to watch the football

A full 39% of the inquiries received by the British Foreign Office’s contact center for southern Europe were “lifestyle inquiries.”

You can see just how this went down, if you use a little imagination.  Members of the British foreign service get more and more frustrated by by all these questions – more than a third! – that are from idiots looking for help with online dating or restaurant reservations.  You can see their lips quivering as they wonder:  “Is the next call going to be from someone wanting to know if she looks good in this dress?”  Because they can feel it coming.  It’s going to happen.

And then, then, our anonymous hero decides to do something about it.  He sends out a press release to the people bothering him … which in this case is all of them … to explain just what they’re doing wrong.

God didn’t invent the press release – they all carry a whiff of sulfur – but if he had, this is what they’d be for.  To tell people off.

Let’s get into the spirit of it.  Everybody reading this:  your task is to honor this anonymous hero by writing your own press release this week, explaining to someone why they’re bothering you.

Don’t hesitate.  Write it.  Right now.

You don’t have to send it … but you should.  You really, really, should.

See you at Agents of Chaos.

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