October 14

World Standards Day

 

“Before the collapse, this was the day when representatives from world governments got together in London and decided on standard practices.  What additives to allow in gasoline, purification levels for drinking water, standards for international telecommunication — that sort of thing.”

Sometimes Wyatt’s recitations got on your nerves, but they also offered a way to pass otherwise tedious time — in the food line, for example, which always moved at a snail’s pace.

“That’s also where you got rulings about permissible ingredients in food,” Wyatt continued.  “You could have 127 mites or aphids in a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter.  Two dozen fragments of larger insects in a pound of rice, or eleven hairs from ‘small mammals’.”

You’re used to Wyatt, but it amazes you that others in line don’t try to silence him.  They don’t even scowl in his direction, or hold their stomach at his unsavory descriptions.

“On an unrelated point” (which never stopped him before), “a scientific study once determined that reducing the number of choices in a fast-food restaurant doesn’t make the lines move any faster.  People still wait until they get to the front to decide what to order.”

This time, Wyatt did get a few scowls.  But he was right.  You were finally at the front of the line, and it had taken a ridiculous amount of time.

There were only two large cauldrons on offer, and there wasn’t really a good choice.  You pointed to the thick stew on the right, which the worker heaped onto a paper plate, then handed to you with a plastic cup of water.  Sunlight seemed to glow through the side of the water cup, though the day, as usual, was overcast.  Bits of protein the size of raisins did backstrokes through the plated mass of stew.

“Of course, we’ve all had to relax our standards a bit,” Wyatt said by way of coda, carrying his own plate and glowing cup away from the serving line.