Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thought Picnic: Keyed Off

Black Maria
As it rained behind the County Court, there was a man crouched at the door of a van, probably bigger depending on what your imagination allows to be the size of a van.
At a time, this type of van was known as a Black Maria and yet there is no clear etymology of this vehicle name, rather, it is slang that has become part of common usage, but let me take you on another ride with this Black Maria story.
The Black Maria nowadays is no more painted black, but white with tinted porthole windows at the standing height of whoever occupies the back of the van. Many times as the van leaves court, photographers raise their cameras to the windows to take pictures, I do not think I have ever seen one picture that shows the occupants of the Black Maria.
Broken key
Yet the story is stranger still because the man crouched at the driver's door was trying to get into the van, probably the driver and from what I could see him do, it appeared he was trying to tease or prise the key out of the keyhole.
I could only guess that some accident had resulted in the key to the van being broken in the lock, which made me wonder why Black Maria's were not equipped with wireless key fobs like you have for cars.
Then you realise that criminals might acquire the technology to control the locks of the Black Maria and in the process the State might lose the control they have over those they have decided to confine for the purposes of justice.
Locked in or locked out
Being locked out of your van gives you the freedom to walk away, then what if someone were locked in the back of the van and the keys happened to be broken in the lock, spare keys will be useless until a locksmith is asked to come and help out.
It might well be that those who were brought to court with the Black Maria will be going home if acquitted for using other means of transport to return to the comforts at Her Majesty's pleasure.
That is the dread of a key broken in the lock, with the keys you can keep people in prison and with the keys broken in the lock, perchance, you have kept people out of prison.


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