Poorly-handled rabbit incident at Circular Quay library

Customs House (Detail)Earlier today I saw something which shouldn’t have happened. Rather than walk away, I said something about it. And rather than leave it there, I sent this email to the City of Sydney. I also tweeted it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

[Update: On Thursday I received an email from the City of Sydney’s security operations manager, saying there would be “an internal investigation into this matter”.]

This is a complaint.

Two hours ago [at the time of writing] I saw an older man chucked out of the Circular Quay library for the heinous crime of trying to take a photograph with his pet rabbit. It was poorly handled. This is not on.

I’ve already discussed this with the staff member involved, but I could tell he just wanted me to go away. So I’m putting this on record, and I’m hoping it’ll lead to actual change rather than a boilerplate bureaucratic response. Please don’t disappoint me.

I’ll start at the beginning…

Around 4.45pm on Tuesday, I was leaving the library when I saw a man set down his rabbit on the corner of the 3D city model. It was a big rabbit, clean and well-behaved, with smooth orange-brown fur. It was a good rabbit, a rabbit that anyone would be proud to own. I stopped to watch.

As the man stepped back to take a photograph of his bunny friend with the model city in the background, a staff member approached. The security guy. I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation, but the security guy stood close in front of the man, a metre away with the rabbit between them, in a stance which said “I am in control and you will obey me”.

It was clear to me that the man was confused, if nothing else because English wasn’t his first language. Was the problem walking on the glass floor? There were signs indicating it was wet, and a hazard. Was it photography? Was it the rabbit?

It was also clear to me that the man was being compliant. He was trying to understand the request and, once he understood that he had to leave, to leave at his own pace, keeping the rabbit calm while he moved to collect the bag in which he’d been carrying it.

Each time the man paused, however, the security guy stepped forward into his personal space. His body language was aggressive, the tone of his voice ever more assertive. This continued as the man slowly left the building, the security guy continually pressing forward into his personal space. It was clear that the man was frustrated by this constant pressure.

If I had to paraphrase the conversation, it would be like this:

Man: OK, I’m leaving.
Security guy: You have to leave now.
[repeat]

As the man stepped down onto the plaza, he turned, and for the first time in this entire encounter he raised his voice in frustration. “I’ll never see you again,” he said, not understanding why he was being pursued, then a few words I didn’t hear.

“Fuck you,” he finally said, before walking away.

The rabbit expressed no opinion.

Here’s what I think is wrong with all this…

There was simply no need whatsoever for aggressive policing by the security guy. He disagrees with me on the word “aggressive”, but stepping into the personal space of someone half your size, and staying there, is an aggressive act.

Once the man had finally understood what was required of him, and he was walking from the building, there was no need for close pursuit. The security guy could’ve just stood back and watch him leave. He didn’t seem to have anything else to do at the time.

I decided to confront the security guy about this. I spoke with him near the front desk. Two staff members witnessed it, but they said they didn’t see the incident itself.

The security guy pointed out that there’s a no-animals policy. Fair enough. But one brown rabbit is hardly an existential threat. There was no need for this situation to be rushed, let alone dealt with so aggressively.

It was just a rabbit, for God’s sake!

He also said that the man was intoxicated. I have no idea whether he was or wasn’t. That hadn’t been part of the conversation between them. But even if he was intoxicated, so what? Yes, he should be asked to leave, but why add pressure to an until-then harmless situation?

He also said that the man had been abusive. Yes, but only once, and only after he’d been under continuous pressure.

I wonder how this all might have gone if the person with the rabbit had been a child or tourist, rather than an older man with limited English.

I wonder whether a better way of handling this might have been to say, with a smile, “Mate, you can’t have a rabbit in here. Take the photo quickly, but then you’ll have to take the rabbit outside.” It would have made a cute photo, and it wouldn’t have harmed anyone.

To be clear, the security guy was nowhere near being violent or even abusive. I’m not making that kind of accusation.

But far too often we see an escalation of aggression in situations which present no risk of harm, or even of inconvenience, to anyone but the police or security personnel involved. These are the situations which turn a simple eviction into a fight, or an arrest into a fatal shooting.

The causes are usually a lack of patience, and a personal need by police or security personnel to feel that their commands are being obeyed promptly, rather let the situation unfold at its natural pace.

This was one of those cases. A tiny one, to be sure, but it’s still something that I think we should speak out against.

It was just a rabbit, for God’s sake!

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

Stilgherrian

[Photo: Customs House (Detail). The facade of Customs House at Circular Quay, Sydney. This building houses the Circular Quay branch of the City of Sydney Library, amongst other things, photographed on 14 February 2018. Note: This version of the text corrects a some typing errors.]

Weekly Wrap 287: Satisfactory start to summer, with flowers

Railway Parade near Wentworth Falls: click to embiggenMy week of Monday 30 November to Sunday 6 December 2015 went reasonably well. Although I didn’t do things exactly as predicted last week, there was enough progress to make me happy.

In the interests of getting this posted on schedule, I’ll go straight to the list…

Podcasts

Articles

Media Appearances

  • On Tuesday, I spoke about the VTech hack on ABC 612 Brisbane.
  • On Wednesday, I spoke about the VTech hack on Kinderling Radio.
  • On Wednesday evening, I took part in a panel discussion at the launch of the Sydney chapter of Electronic Frontiers Australia. The only recording is a very rough one for my own reference, so sorry, you won’t be hearing it.

5at5

Should 5at5 eventually reappear, you’ll know about it if you subscribe.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday, I went to VMware’s end-of-year drinks at O Bar and Dining, Australia Square. Apart from canap├ęs and champagne, I pocketed a pen. They so pwn me now.

The Week Ahead

On Monday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be making some sort of announcement regarding innovation, so I suspect I’ll be writing something for ZDNet. If not, well, there’s a thousand tasks of administrivia I need to deal with.

On Tuesday, I’m heading to Sydney for a medical appointment, an interview, and NetSuite’s end-of-year drinks. I’m then heading to the ABC’s Sydney studios to do a spot on ABC 774 Melbourne at 1900 AEDT.

On Wednesday, I’ll be dealing with a number of geek-for-hire tasks, and planning certain things for the next couple of weeks.

On Wednesdayetime=”2015-12-09T03:11:37+00:00″>Thursday, I’ll finally be producing that episode of The 9pm Edict podcast, tentatively titled “The 9pm Garden of Hate”, in which I’ll finish off all of the sponsored content that I owe my supporters. I plan to stream that recording session live at 2100 AEDT.

On Thursday, I’m heading to Sydney again for a medical appointment, amongst other things, and probably writing for ZDNet en route.

Friday will see me doing whatever remains to be done, which will include writing for ZDNet.

Further Ahead

I’ll record a “2015 Wrap” episode of the Corrupted Nerds podcast some time in the week beginning Monday 14 December.

The next episode of The 9pm Public House Forum, similar to the first one, will be recorded on the afternoon of Saturday 19 December. The venue will be confirmed in a few days, but it’s now looking like it’ll be somewhere in Sydney’s inner west.

I’ll also produce “2015 Wrap” episode of the Edict some time between Christmas and New Year.

[Update 9 December 2015: Edited to reflect schedule changes.]

[Photo: Railway Parade near Wentworth Falls. On the last day of spring, the yellow flowers of the Coreopsis lanceolata are everywhere. They’re a weed, but pretty nonetheless.]

Why tweeting my movements isn’t a safety risk

[Update 2.25pm: Comments on Twitter have persuaded me to emphasise that the question here is specifically about “personal safety” only, not lame and replaceable possessions, and my personal safety at that. As the second-last paragraph says, the risk profile might not be the same for everyone. These are the choices I’ve made with open eyes.]

“How do you think that tweeting your day plans affects your personal safety?” asked Ravneel Chand a short time ago. Overall, I reckon it actually increases my safety. Here’s why.

Background first. Here’s today’s “daily plan” tweet which, like those on pretty much every other day, is tweeted shortly before I settle down to work.

Thu plan: Bump out Waratah Cottage; 1032 train to Sydney; lunch (where?); errand Newtown/Enmore; write something; evening TBA.

Later in the morning I mentioned that I’d be catching a later train. And then, just as I left the house:

Mobile: Cab, shortly, to Wentworth Falls; 1132 train to Sydney Central; train to Town Hall station; 1335 walk to SEKRIT hotel and check in.

Clearly the fear being expressed is that by knowing my movements some bad person could more easily do me harm. But let’s do a proper risk assessment. You start one of those by enumerating the risks, and then you look at how this additional information might change those risks.

Continue reading “Why tweeting my movements isn’t a safety risk”

Links for 08 November 2009 through 18 November 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 08 November 2009 through 18 November 2009:

See what happens when you don’t curate your links for ten days, during which time there’s a conference which generates a bazillion things to link to? Sigh.

This is such a huge batch of links that I’ll start them over the fold. They’re not all about Media140 Sydney, trust me.

Continue reading “Links for 08 November 2009 through 18 November 2009”

Links for 23 April 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 23 April 2009, presented with perfectly-pointed toes: