In the peace and quiet of an early morning coffee break, I’m staring out of the window when one word catches my eye; ‘OUTSIDE’.
It is a statement of the obvious, the word is embossed on my car’s tyre but why write ‘OUTSIDE’ on a tyre? All of us, at some time will have put a garment on the wrong way round. The inside-out sock, the vest with the label showing; but a tyre? It is, I suspect, physically impossible to fit even a bicycle tyre, let alone a car tyre inside-out. Except this is not what the label means. This is the outer facing side of a properly fitting tyre; the inside is facing the engine, the middle of the car.
In my youth I tried a little acting and on one occasion my costume included a shirt with a lacy collar, kindly lent by the wardrobe mistress. Like many ladies’ shirts, this one buttoned at the back, enabling the lace decoration to be unimpeded by an opening. I knew this but on first costume fitting I still managed to get it wrong. Only when someone pointed out the large lace rough at my back did I realised that I had slipped into the shirt my normal way, buttons to the front, lace out of sight. Not inside out, just back to front.
Life is full of labels and instructions. From those irritatingly familiar safety notices on public transport to the leaflets that come with almost everything we buy; leaflets we seldom read until something goes wrong. With years of experience we know the makers’ instructions off by heart, even if we’ve never read them – we just know what they should say. The longer I live the more ‘I know’, the less likely I am to read or listen to instructions; the more frustrated I get when something doesn’t work as it should.
I’m sure the tyre fitter knows his job but it is comforting to see the safety label that confirms this. We, too, have makers instructions: the Word of God in scripture and other Christian literature; the chat line of worship and prayer. When did you last consult your copy?
Rev’d Philip Payne
The Notice Sheet for 16 July can be found here