And in the ashtray, was a card with this message...
I didn't need to try and make sense of this little absurdity because I was already acquainted with this piece of Greek logic through the experience of my friend, Andy Stokes, who is a smoker and who had encountered something similar on a Greek ferry earlier this year.
Andy takes up the tale...
When we got to our cabin I noticed there was an ashtray on the table, however there was a large red no-smoking sign actually printed on the ashtray. I was totally confused – they had supplied an ashtray suggesting that smoking was permitted in the cabin but there was a no-smoking sign indicating that it was not. If they did not want you to smoke then surely they would not have provided an ashtray and the no-smoking sign would have been on the door or on the wall. If they did allow you to smoke why have a no-smoking sign???Whilst it was probably the Greeks who invented logic, as David pointed out to me the other day (when faced with some equally illogical piece of thinking), there is one thing that all those celebrated Greek thinkers have in common...
Curiosity got the better of me and I went to the information desk. This is the conversation - verbatim - between the clerk and me:
Me: I have an ashtray in my cabin which has a no-smoking sign printed on it.
Me: Well, does that mean that I can smoke or not?
Clerk: Yes, you can smoke in your cabin if you wish.
Me: So why does the ashtray have a no-smoking sign?
Clerk: Ah, that is there for people who choose not to smoke.
Sometimes people say things that stop you dead in your tracks and you are unable to come up with an answer. This was one of them. The logical extension to his argument was that the no-smoking sign on the ashtray was necessary otherwise non-smokers might feel obliged to start smoking just because an ashtray had been provided.
Yep! They've all been dead for at least 2000 years!