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The Standardized Man   By:

The Standardized Man by Stephen Bartholomew

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction February 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

The dilemma of "The Man in the White Suit" was but a minor irritation compared to Charles and his "all weather" suit!

THE STANDARDIZED MAN

BY STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW

The turbocar swiped an embankment at ninety miles an hour; the result was, of course, inevitable. It was a magnificent crash, and the driver was thrown clear at the end of it for a distance of 50 feet.

Charles looked at the body and got his bright idea.

The trouble had started a couple of weeks before, when Edwin, Charles' laboratory co ordinator, had called him into his office just before Charles was due to leave for home. It was a distinct breach of etiquette to cause a worker to arrive home at any time besides his accustomed hour, so Charles knew whatever Edwin wanted must be important. He sat down opposite the Co ordinator and assumed a politely questioning look.

"Charles, you know I wouldn't call you here at this hour if it wasn't important," Edwin said, pursing his lips.

"Of course not, sir," Charles replied, waiting.

"The fact of the matter is, we are in dire straits." Edwin stared at the other ominously. "As you well know, the Textile Industry, like every other business firm in the world, has functioned entirely without economic troubles of any sort for the past fifty years."

"Well, of course, sir...."

"And you are also well aware of what would be the results of any financial deviation in any of these firms, particularly in a major industry such as our own."

"Certainly, sir. Ours is a delicately balanced economic system. Any slight change in the economic status of one firm would...."

"Exactly!" Edwin leaned across the desk and glared at him. "I have just come from a Board of Directors meeting. And it was made known to us that during the past three weeks our margin of profit has fallen off by three tenths of a per cent!"

Charles' face turned pasty white. He swallowed and took a deep breath.

"Will that information be made public, sir?"

"Naturally not! But we aren't sure just how long we can keep it a secret! The fact of the matter is, the IBM says that our profit margin will continue to spiral downward at a gradually increasing rate unless some drastic change occurs in our production set up!"

Edwin leaned back and clasped his hands, composing himself. "The precise reasons for the existence of the situation are quite obscure. However, the IBM has informed us that the problem can be remedied if we make a particular change in our production system, and it has informed us as to the nature of that change."

He stood up and placed a finger on a capacitance switch. A panel in the Wall slid back to reveal six sales charts. There were two each marked Winter , Summer and Spring Fall . Three were designated marlons , and three marilyns . Each of them showed a red line rising steeply on the left, levelling out to a perfectly straight bar all the way across, then dipping sharply again.

"Look here," Edwin said. "These are the sales charts for our six suits. As you know, we make three different types for marlons, and three for marilyns. Hot weather, cold weather, and medium weather. Each suit is designed to last a carefully calculated length of time, and each consumer need only buy three suits a year. They are exactly alike except for slight size differences, and because of elastic fabrics these differences are held to a minimum. With this system the Textile Industry attained the ultimate in Standardization, the ultimate in efficiency."

Charles rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Has the IBM suggested any alternative to our system, any possible change?"

Edwin sat down again, folded his arms on the desk, and scowled... Continue reading book >>




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