I was called to Delphi in Greece to find out about a woman who has been reported as shrieking wildly after inhaling noxious fumes. She is called Pythia. I report to the reception and am escorted to see Pythia by a priest of the Oracle.

 

“Please show me the working conditions that Pythia works under,” I said to the priest.

 

He showed me a hole in the ground.

 

“This is it?” I asked

 

He nodded. I peered into the hole and saw that there was quite a drop before I could see rock.

 

“I am going to issue you with a lack of safety compliance notice for this hole in the ground – it’s also a tripping hazard as anyone could walk along here and trip over the edge of the hole.”

 

“Only one person ever comes here and that is the Oracle herself.”

 

“That is irrelevant – the possibility of a problem is still there – you must at least put some tape around the hole indicating there is a hazard, at least give a visual warning.”

 

“That will get in Pythia’s way.”

 

“That can’t be helped – rules are rules – I feel a bit peculiar – what is in that hole?”

 

“Mainly fresh air?”

 

“No, I need to sniff that again and take a reading.”

 

I stuck my head into the hole and inhaled deeply, just once.

 

“Whoooooooo weeeeeeee what’s in there? Aaaargghhh weeeeeeee wow that’s woofffff woof nay nay strong.”

 

“My interpretation from what you say is that in a past life you were a dog who was frightened by horses on a regular basis.”

 

“I am frightened by what’s in those fumes – where is Pythia? I have to meet her. Those are poisonous fumes and shouldn’t be inhaled by anyone. I will have to issue you with a anti-noxious fumes order HGWKKK-3i2i22 because that’s against the law. Also, I can still smell them, so there is inadequate ventilation in here, which contravenes foul-air directive 52622-92929 of the Fresh Air Act. You must open up the temple to allow the wind to clear away these fumes before they affect other people.”

 

“Under the rules of the temple, only The Oracle is allowed in here.”

 

“She is entitled to breathe clean air and not be poisoned by those fumes.”

 

“Well, actually, we would go out of business if that was the case.”

 

“You mean she’s a slave and has no say in the matter.”

 

“She is employed by us a seer and there are certain conditions she has to adhere to, one of which is to inhale those vapours – I prefer vapours to fumes by the way – that’s part of the agreement we have with her.”

 

“That contravenes so many employment laws I couldn’t begin to list them all – this is sounding like the woman, Pythia, is kept as a slave – is that correct?”

 

“No, not really.”

 

“Is she allowed to freely leave the confines of the temple?”

 

“No, but the temple is rather large.”

 

“She is kept here in a drugged state, which contravenes the edict 3999juh0-33wn of the employment laws allowing people to be free to think their own thoughts when working at their job.”

 

“It’s not really a job – more a vocation I think you’ll find, having the ability to predict the future is not something everyone can do.”

 

“She doesn’t seem to predict anything – if she sticks her head down that hole for more than five seconds she will be hallucinating and won’t be coherent.”

 

“Which is where we come in – we tell people what she’s saying.”

 

“Please fetch Pythia to me. Freedom of speech is so basic that it isn’t even covered in the earliest Health and Safety Legislation.”

 

The priest returned holding Pythia by the upper arm.

 

“Hello Pythia, my name is Brian, I would like to ask you a few questions.”

 

“Arrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhh”, replied Pythia.

 

“She says, hello how are you – it’s a lovely day at the temple today isn’t it? What a nice looking man you, do you have a girlfriend?”

 

“She didn’t say that she said Arrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhh”.

 

“I was probably gripping her arm too hard, but that’s what she meant to say, I am sure.”

 

“Pythia – do you like your job?”

 

“Asdede hhdhdhhshhshhsh werrrrrddddddd.”

 

“She says she does very much.”

 

“No she didn’t, she’s stoned out of her mind, I am closing this place down until you provide your employee with clean air in her working environment.”

 

“Wait a minute, I believe I have provided you with the wrong employee by mistake – I will find you another employee.”

 

The priest dragged the oracle away with him and then returned with a large woman wearing a crown.

 

“This is the right one, sorry about the confusion, they look quite similar.”

 

“This one’s wearing a crown – who was the other one?”

 

“She’s one of the people who guards the temple precincts and scares away wild dogs.”

 

“Right, well hello Oracle, what is your name?”

 

“Your venture will be a success.”

 

“Will it – well I am glad to hear that, but how are you?”

 

“Your venture will be failure, please pay more money for it to be a success.”

 

“As you can see she speaks clearly and coherently without any interference from me,” said the priest.

 

“Your venture will be a success.”

 

“Yes, she does although I feel that she might just be more stoned than the other one – does this one put her head down the hole?”

 

“She…doesn’t no, but with that tape around the hole she won’t be able to get near it will she?”

 

“Your venture will be failure, please pay more money for it to be a success.”

 

“Well, this appears to be beyond my remit – fraud is dealt with by another department and is not my concern.”

 

“Well, we have to make a living you know – we’ve been around for a thousand years and we have a 65% success rate, which is good for an Oracle.”

 

“Is it?”

 

“Your venture will be a success.”

 

“OK, I am leaving, but not before I put the tape around the hole just to make sure no one falls for that. I couldn’t live with myself if someone hurt themselves.”

 

“I quite understand, just doing your job.”

 

“Indeed I am, bye Pythia.”

 

“Your venture will be a failure, please pay more money for it to be a success.”

Extract from the diary of a Health and Safety Time Executive