Don’t Mess With The Law
The closing stage of a court case.
Judge: Now, you have admitted that on the tenth of last month, you attacked the plaintiff, Mr Splutterworth, in his fish and chip shop,* The Plaice Place. However, you have so far said very little in your defence, so before I decide on your punishment, have you anything to add?
Defendant: Yes. I did it all right, but I was provoked beyond endurance.
Judge: In what way?
Defendant: I was short-changed.
Defendant: I always buy plaice and chips from Splutterworth’s shop on Mondays and Fridays. When I got my parcel home that day I emptied it onto a plate, checked the fish for size and counted the chips.
Judge: Do you always do that?
Defendant: Yes. I like to be sure I get value for money. Fish and chips are expensive these days.
Judge: And what did you find on that occasion?
Defendant: The fish was up to standard, but I didn’t get the usual portion of chips.
Judge: Explain, please.
Defendant: A serving of chips from The Plaice Place is normally at least thirty chips. Sometimes there’s a bonus of two or three, but in that lot I got only twenty-six.
Judge: I understand. However my impression has always been that someone serving chips usually puts a scoopful into a bag. Surely there must be some give and take here. I mean, perhaps some of the chips were bigger than usual.
Defendant: No they weren’t. Splutterworth’s chips are on average two point four inches long, as they were that evening, and they’re always the same thickness because of the way he cuts them.
Judge: I see. Aren’t they a little on the short side?
Defendant: They are. I think he uses smaller potatoes than I find in some of the other shops. Still, that doesn’t matter. The point is that thirty chips, averaging that length give me seventy-two inches of chips per portion.
Judge: So if you were to connect them all together, end to end, you would have a six-foot chip.
Defendant: That’s correct.
Judge: What does Mr Splutterworth charge for a portion of chips?
Defendant: One pound twenty.
Judge: Hmn. Twenty pence per foot of chip. That sounds reasonable. However, on the occasion in question you were four chips short, or to put it another way, the deficiency was . . . let me see . . . nine point six inches.
Judge: You appear to have reacted rather sharply. Allow me to refresh my memory. You put the chips back into the bag, which you took to the shop and hurled at Mr Splutterworth, causing him to leap backwards, strike his hand against the deep fryer and burn his palm.
Defendant: Well, unless you like fish and chips as much as I do, you couldn’t have any idea of the mental anguish I suffered.
Judge: I don’t eat them any more. I wish that were possible but my digestion can’t cope with such things these days.
Defendant: Oh, I can put you right there. What you need to do is take peppermint oil before you tackle them.
Judge: Really? Are you sure that will work?
Defendant: Certain. You can get high-strength capsules from the health food shop in Middle Street.
Judge: Thank you. I’m much obliged for the tip. It would be a pleasure to eat fish and chips again. But we’re getting off the point here. Your conduct was disproportionate to what you saw as Mr Splutterworth’s offence and I am minded to make an example of you to discourage anyone else from such behaviour. The sentence is seven days in jail.
Defendant: Well, there’s gratitude for you. I put your guts right and you send me to the slammer for a week. They say the law’s an ass. It is, and so are you.
Judge: Ah, contempt of court now, is it? Well, I’ll give you seven days for that as well.
Defendant: Seven days, eh? That’s too short to match my contempt for this court.
Judge: Oh, is it? How about fourteen days?
Defendant: Better, but not good enough.
Judge: My word, you’re a hard man to please. How would twenty-eight days suit you?
D: Still a bit light.
Judge: All right. I’ll let you decide. Pick a number.
Defendant: Well, you catch me a bit off guard, but I once read a book where it said that the answer to the meaning of life, the Universe and everything is forty-two. Is that okay?
Judge: It is, and I will let the seven days for the offence run concurrently with it, meaning that you are to serve forty-two days in total. You’re about to learn that we have suitable accommodation for the likes of you. Just step out of the dock and the bailiff will escort you to your hell.
Defendant: Don’t you mean cell?
Judge: You haven’t seen it yet.
*For those unfamiliar with UK dietary habits, fish and chip shops have existed in Britain for over 150 years. They provide a deep-fried meal comprising a piece of fish and a portion of chipped potatoes (known in some countries as French fries). The food is usually, though not necessarily, supplied on a takeaway basis.
* * *