The Baker Street Irregulars are holding their January "dinner" virtually this year for the first time. Invitations have gone out, and I have signed up. It's been a few years, and I'm curious. The thing is, my curiosity always makes me wonder things, and that's where I tend to get into trouble with some folks, especially concerning the Big Sherlockian Institution. Because I tend to be a little public with the thoughts that most reserve for personal conversations, so as not to get into the sorts of trouble that I get into.
But since I'm already in that strange purgatory of certain people's shit list, why not just dig that hole a little deeper. So let me ask this question:
If you were running the Baker Street Irregulars, and a pandemic forced you to hold that annual meeting online for the very first time . . . why not make it open to everyone?
Every reasonable excuse I've ever heard for keeping the dinner and membership limited has had to do with banquet venue size. It was never "we don't want people to know what we're doing." Nothing that weird or out-of-the-Sherlockian-ordinary goes on there. So why place limits on it?
Is there a fear that if everyone saw what goes on there, the mystique might go away? A fear that a wide open virtual dinner might lead everyone to expect to be able to come once a physical dinner was possible again? Or is just the "exclusive" part of the Baker Street Irregulars so ingrained at this point that the very concept of a wide open BSI meeting is not even on the table? One hates to think it's fear or a locked-in mindset.
What purpose do limits like that serve?
Any other corporate entity, and let's be honest, there is a certain brand-based incorporated aspect to the BSI, would see thinking-inside-the-box limits as something to be avoided. But historically, the organization's first reaction to any new thing is to see it as a threat and tighten the sphincter. The internet? Whoa! Hold up! A new Holmes fan base thanks to a hit TV show? Whoa! We're a literary society! The turns come very slowly. And this whole pandemic Zoom shift in Sherlockian lifestyles has been a high-acceleration drive into a turn none of us were ready for.
But, as any optimist knows, challenges like this offer opportunities as well as troubles. There is an opportunity here that many Sherlockians and groups are taking advantage of, and pushing new ideas forward. It's a little ironic that the BSI chose to charge thirty-five dollars for the virtual event and build into that cost a donation to its own charity for helping its members and guests afford the costs of its annual dinner. One of the growing issues across the board in America is finding ways to help fund people unable to pay high prices, rather than just lowering prices, so on that one, maybe they get a pass. But this was definitely a moment where some fresh thought would have been welcomed.
The BSI "dinner" packet price includes a souvenir, and I have a feeling that the group won't be able to hold the "dinner" without the standard group photo so everyone can show they were there, so I'm betting it might be a screenshot of all the little Zoom windows. New idea, or just same old, same old? (Which is also called tradition, of course. Ah, tradition!)
It's going to be a very interesting year in any case, and I shall be curious to see how it all does play out. And seeing if curiosity kills the cat, as the saying goes. We shall see.