Picture it… a semi-lit auditorium fills nearly to capacity, the public address system crackles to life, and a hush falls over the 600 gathered seat-fillers. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please,” the disembodied voice implores. “Today’s ceremony is an outdoor event being held indoors.”
And that’s the point where they lost me. The longer my career runs, you see, the more I come to realize it’s largely been a series of ridiculous propositions. As a writer I recognize that words are powerful. They are precise and have meaning. In the best tradition of the bureaucracy, however, the actual meaning of the words has little to no applicability to how we chose to use – or abuse – them on a daily basis.
By nothing more than an announcement from the podium, all of us in a partially filled auditorium collectively accepted that for all official purposes we were sitting outdoors. The sun was officially shining. The colors were officially fluttering in the breeze. They were decidedly not hanging limp and sodden from their staff. There absolutely was not official mud on the sidewalks from having bleachers towed into position during a driving rainstorm. Mud, droopy flags, and indoor ceremonies, you may know, never officially exist. They’re simply a figment of our collective, unofficial, imagination and a blatant violation of policy.
Why, you ask, perform the linguistic gymnastics of engaging in an indoor outdoor ceremony? As best I can tell it’s so the small group assembled on stage didn’t have to take off their hats. When you make the case thusly, how can it make anything other than absolutely perfect sense.
Experience has taught me that it helps dramatically if you’re willing to completely suspend disbelief for at least eight hours daily. On the other hand, if you you’re unwilling, it’s the kind of thing that might just drive a man to drink.