Here’s a question for all you ethicists out there: how wrong does somebody else’s conversation have to be before you will intervene and correct it? I’m not talking abstract philosophical discussions here where the worse thing that can happen is that the interlocutors make a bit of a twat of themselves, but where actual advice is being given, advice that if taken is likely to work out badly.
Take yesterday, when I found myself crammed into a seat next to an American who was asking his British companions the best way for him to get himself and his luggage to Gloucester Road. They, not letting total ignorance of the London Underground system get in the way of their answer, were confidently proposing that he take the Waterloo and City line north east to Bank, before changing onto the Circle line westbound to Gloucester Road. As they then turned to the tricky question of whether it would be quicker to take the Circle line from Bank, rather than walk to Monument to change, (‘Can you actually get the Circle from Bank?’ ‘Oh yes, you can but you have to go up lots of steps and walk a long way. Almost as far as if you walked to Monument instead’) I was having to bite my tongue hard to prevent myself from chipping in and suggesting taking the Northern line up to Embankment and changing there. In the end, having wrestled with my conscience and won, I decided that the fact that his companions would be taking the drain with him and could point him in the right direction (or at least carry his luggage for him while he searched for the mythical Circle line platforms at Bank) probably outweighed the benefit of my intervening. But how wrong would they have to have been before I would have to have spoken out? Sending him via King’s Cross? Via Amersham? Never? Where would you draw the line?