It's been said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. To this I can now add that a little democracy can be equally perilous, too
Rail transport consultant (and fellow Twitter-er) Vernon Baseley of York has drawn my attention to the democracy website FixMyTransport.com and a request by them aimed directly at people who get angry about the condition of public toilets in bus and railway stations.
"We want to find the worst station loos in GB. Send us a photo," they said, which Vernon reckoned might be the worst ever competition to be launched in the UK. I wouldn't disagree. I mean, would you want to be on the judging panel of that one...?
They've got a point, though. Some of the public toilets it's been my own misfortune to encounter whilst waiting for a bus or train have been not far short of scandalous. Foul, faintly dangerous, dank and little more than enclosed open sewers, if that's not a contradiction in terms. The people at FixMyTransport.com have definitely touched a nerve.
And FixMyTransport isn't run by some mad geezer in his bedroom, neither. It is run by mySociety, which operates a number of well-known democracy and transparency websites in the UK - TheyWorkForYou, for example, as well as the Number 10 petition website.
However, I'm not sure if they have quite thought this one through.
I have absolutely nothing against FixMyTransport. They seem genuinely successful in sorting out the sort of public transport problems which really irritate people – things like persistently broken ticket machines, buses that always leave early, or silly rules that do nothing but inconvenience the traveller. Their website is designed specifically to help people to take positive action to counter and correct the problem.
I blogged recently about a man in Northern Ireland who had been locked up as a potential terrorist because he was caught taking photos of army vehicles going in and out of an army base. His solicitor described him as "a trainspotter, a loner, an anorak, a nerd with no friends" and said that if he was put beside an airport "he would take pictures of planes", but they still locked him up.
I also said at the time that I'd heard numerous cases of bus enthusiasts and other people innocently taking photos of buses being questioned – hassled, even - by the police.
So – consider, if you will, what you might say to a bus station inspector who had just stumbled upon you loitering in the public toilets... with a camera.
Did you feel that shiver just then? Yeh. Me too.
Look, it's fine to complain about dirty toilets, it's fine to write letters to your MP and your local paper about them, is even OK to go on local radio late at night and rant on drunkenly about the inconvenience of public conveniences. I suppose it's even OK to barricade them with like-minded militants, if you feel that strongly about it.
But please, please don't get caught lurking in the gents with a camera, because it's entirely possible that people just might misunderstand what you're trying to do.
Of course, you might feel totally fine about taking photographs of complete strangers with their todgers hanging out. And then uploading them to the internet. But however just and convincing your argument might sound to you now, believe me it will not sound nearly as convincing in front of that jury...