“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
At some point during my youth, I made an ill-fated attempt to make it through the seven Chronicles of Narnia books. Although I grew up as something of a bookworm, I seem to recall I made it through about two and a half of the books (give or take a few hundred pages or so) before my notoriously short attention span was exceeded, and the books ended up on a long forgotten shelf somewhere. This was, of course, long before the Harry Potter books showed up, and cunningly managed to get kids glued to far longer books than I was used to (I don’t think any of the Narnia books was really all that long, if I recall correctly.) Needless to say, I remember little of this, but about the only thing that did stick out was a scene from The Magician’s Nephew in which the two protagonists enter a hallway in the palace of a long-since destroyed kingdom, finding a large number of what appears to be people frozen in time. In this room is a golden bell with a sign containing the poem above. To make a long story short, someone gets driven to distraction by their curiosity, ends up ringing the bell, and unleashes some sort of horrendous evil on the world. I should really make another attempt to read these books somewhere along the line so I actually know what I’m talking about here, but in a nutshell, that’s seems to be what happened.
The reason I bring this up is because of the sign above, which showed up today on one of the doors at my workplace. One of the first things someone would notice about the place where I work is that unlike most workplaces, there aren’t a whole lot of cubicles around. Sure, they do still manage to find a few dark corners of the building here and there to stick some cubes for the contractors and vendors (which is, of course, where I almost always end up in these places,) but most of the employees in the building either share or have their own offices. This means that there are a lot of doors in the building that all look the same. In fact, I’d say that there’s probably upwards of 100 doors on just the one floor of the building I happen to work on. You don’t really notice them after a while… At least not until they put up something like this notice on one of them.
I’d say that I probably pass by this particular door at least five times a day, without giving anything but the most fleeting of passing thoughts to it. Of course, once someone puts up a big, ominous-looking notice on the door, that changes everything. All of a sudden, there’s ADVENTURE behind that door. Sure, it’s the type of adventure that almost always ends with tragic results, smoldering hair and lengthy OSHA investigations, but there seems to be something built into the human psyche that craves this type of thing. Since I have absolutely no reason to enter this particular room at any time (and I’d probably find it locked if I tried anyway) I have no idea what’s actually inside there, but somehow I suspect that it wouldn’t be any less dangerous for someone such as myself to enter this room at any other time than it is right now. It’s just that the big ominous sign on the door makes it all that much more enticing for some unknown reason. It’s the kind of thing that makes six-year olds think that matches would make an entertaining plaything (and to be honest, it does kind of have a point on that one, just don’t tell that to any of my future offspring,) and compels people to jump into the lion pen at the zoo because they think that somehow they’re special enough that the lions won’t believe that they just ordered room service. I suspect that in most of these cases copious quantities of alcohol frequently contribute as well, but those seem to only occasionally show up at my workplace.
Even so, now that they’re sticking giant warnings on the door, I find myself somewhat curious about what’s actually in there. I’d like to think I’ve got enough common sense to know that there’s probably a significant quantity of fiery doom which awaits me if I dare to tempt it (and presumably plenty of trouble with HR if I managed to survive that,) but try as I might, that foolhardy little bit of daredevil curiosity residing somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind just won’t seem to go away. It’ll probably slink back off into the shadows soon enough once the signs go away and the door goes back to being just another big chunk of wood in the hallway. But somewhere along the line, I just know it’ll be back at a particularly inopportune time. Maybe I better go play with matches for a while, just to be on the safe side.