Ware's Law and People in Authority
Murphy Law is rather less subtle than mine, but the results are often the same
A lot of people of heard of Parkinson’s Law. Cyril Northcote Parkinson came up with a number of these laws the first being that, in any organization – but in particular the public service - “Work expands to fill the time available for it completion.” Even more of us have heard of Murphy’s Law which states: “That if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Far fewer have heard of Ware’s Law which I discovered and put words to myself. In my vanity I named this conception or idea, which I now believe to be a fundamental law, after myself. I call it Ware’s Law. So what does Ware’s Law state?
How was this law discovered?
Ware’s Law states “That the seriousness of an announcement made by anyone in authority is inversely proportional to the seriousness of the real event.”
So how was this law discovered?
Well, it came about by long observation. In the twenty-five years I served as a radio operator, on ships, in aviation and with the police I noticed that, without failure, when an untoward event happened, particularly if it were really serious, those in charge always played it down; the idea being not to cause panic.
"You may rest assured there is nothing to worry about
"Pumps are a bit slow...
For example. I was once on a little 540 ton ship in a raging cyclone. It was a black night and the seas came out of the darkness like small mountains. The vessel had lost its diesel generator so the power was out, the ship in darkness. I knew from the yells that were coming up the voice pipe from below that the engine room was flooding and that the pumps were not coping. As my little radio office opened right onto the bridge behind the ship’s wheel, I was well aware how bad things were. This was especially so when our captain asked me if my battery-powered transmitter was working okay and that I had a good contact with the nearest naval base. Then, a moment later, he spoke quietly to a senior NCO about getting the lifeboats swung out.
This is a stout ship
"There is nothing to be concerned about..."
So what did the captain announce over the battery-powered ship’s loudhailer system to our little crew.
“This is the captain speaking…we’ve lost our lights and are taking a little battering. But this is a sound ship. There is nothing to be concerned about. That is all.”
Then again, from an aircraft’s pilot who could not stay airborne: “This is Alfa Bravo Charlie, we’ve lost an engine. Am unable to maintain height and will put down on the mudflats on the northern side of the Fly River.” All very casual. An overloaded Cessna 337 about to do a crash landing on the crocodile infested banks of a New Guinea river.
We're just experiencing a little trouble on the flight deck
The more casual-sounding the remark...
If this had only happened on those two occasions it wouldn’t have resulted in my coming up with the observation that I did. But it continued to happen over the years. It was endemic. Big problem, play it down. Ordinary situation, make a fuss so people listen. Mark my words, the more casual the announcement, the more serious the situation.
If a ship or airline captain says “- I have a serious announcement to make” – rest easy. It’ll be some formality about having various papers to fill in and hand on reaching the seaport or airport. Or about there being an unexpected change in the gate they’ll going through on disembarkation. Something to do with customs or the like. Certainly nothing serious.
It's just an oil pressure warning light...
It's just a precaution ladies and gentelmen...
However, if you hear an apologetic cough through the public address system and then. “Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain speaking. Er…we have a slight problem on the flight deck” – panic! It probably means the plane is about to run out of fuel, is totally lost, or one of the wings has just fallen off. Mark my words, Ware’s Law is valid. If you don’t believe me, I ask you simply to observe. It won’t take long before you realize that what has been stated here is factual. I only hope, for your sake you don’t hear to many ‘casual’ voices from authorities that “all is okay.” in your world.
More on the writer
- Tom Ware Public Speaking The Prince of Storytellers
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