Once Upon A Time there lived a fruit farmer. For many years, he had grown strawberries – and every year, he employed casual labour to pick them. But in recent years, the adverse weather had driven those labourers to indoor jobs, making it progressively harder to find pickers.
And this year, with his strawberries now ripe and having had little response to his newspaper adverts, he was becoming desperate. So, with a crop far too large for him and his wife to pick, he decided his only remaining course of action was to join the growing movement towards “Pick Your Own” farming.
This was a last resort, as the public would always pick only the biggest and easiest-to-reach fruit, leaving the rest of it to rot. But as it was his only option and being a law-abiding citizen, the next morning he drove into town to seek permission from the Town Council to erect a sign.
Having queued for half an hour, he finally arrived at the Inquiries Desk and after explaining his business, was directed to the Town Planning Department. Another twenty minutes of queuing and he was re-directed to the Roadside Structures Department. Then another half an hour…
This went on until late that afternoon, when he finally found himself facing the correct bureaucrat. For the umpteenth time that day, he explained his problem and his intended solution.
“I’m sorry,” said the man, “Experience has shown that unofficial road-side signs are distracting to motorists. Also, the queues that form, block traffic. I’m afraid I cannot give you permission to erect your sign. Furthermore, having made this enquiry, you are now on record – which means should you go ahead and erect the sign, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“But that’s outrageous!” shouted the farmer. “There are a number of fruit farms on my road and several of them have such signs. Furthermore, I’ve seen similar signs dotted all over this county. How come they can do it and I can’t?”
“Simple, sir,” replied the bureaucrat, smiling, “They didn’t ask.”