Extra Ordinary

"Is that Mr Smith? Mr Norman Smith?"
"Good morning, Mr Smith. My name's Felicity Honeywell and I'm ringing from the Daily Burble. Do you have time for a chat or do you have a sales meeting to go to?"
"Yes...er, no...I mean, actually I do have a phone conference in twenty minutes. How did you know?"
"Statistical studies have shown that marketing executives are most likely to schedule meetings for around this time on a Tuesday morning."
"Really? Gosh. I never knew that. Hang on, how do you know I'm in marketing?"
"That's exactly what I'm calling you about, Mr Smith. Or may I call you Norman?"
"Call me Norm. Most people do."
"Very well, Norm. I'm delighted to tell you that after extensive research The Daily Burble has found you to be the most average man in the country. You are Mr UK. Congratulations!"
"Oh, thank you. Er, what does that mean exactly?"
"It's very simple. According to the latest data, you and your lovely wife and children best fit the profile of a typical family in modern Britain."
"I don't understand. How do you know?"
"The internet is a wonderful thing, Norm. We cross-referenced a variety of public and proprietary databases and guess whose name popped out?"
"Gosh. Wait till I tell Carol. That's my wife, by the way..."
"Yes, I know."
"You do? Oh, I suppose you do"
"Is she looking forward to the school holidays?"
"Oh, yes. She teaches reception..."
"I know."
"Oh, so you do. Sorry."
"No need to apologise."
"My son's not too happy, though. He's got his A-Level's coming up."
"I know that, too."
"Oh, yes. How silly of me."
"Don't worry about it. I know quite a lot about you."
"Like what?"
"Oh, you know. Family, job, health, politics. Tastes in shopping, entertainment, travel. Things like that."
"What kind of thing?"
"Let me see. Well, for example, our data tells me you drink a lot of mineral water."
"That's right. I do."
"There you go, then. And I'm currently looking at some market research which says that the majority of households in your socioeconomic bracket regularly buy bottled water."
"Is that good?"
"Well, it's a useful corroboration for this newspaper story. Not too great for the planet, though."
"Why's that?"
"This research also says that the majority of bottles get thrown away instead of recycled."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that."
"Anyway...Let's get back to the subject. So, how do you feel?"
"About being Mr UK?"
"Hrm...How am I supposed to feel?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you seem to know everything else about me. How is the most average man in the country supposed to feel?"
"Oh, I see. I'm afraid we don't have the data on that. This is the first time we've done this survey."
"Ah. That makes sense, I guess."
"So what?"
"How do you feel?"
"Oh. No different than usual, I suppose."
"Can I quote you on that?"
"Feel free."
"Thank you."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Please do."
"What made you do it?"
"Do what?"
"This Mr UK thing."
"Well, we're always reading about extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. Or ordinary things happening to extraordinary people. So I thought it'd be nice to write about the ordinary things which happen to ordinary people."
"See, now I'm confused."
"How so?"
"If I go into McDonald's and ask for extra large fries, I get more fries. But if my daughter does extra-curricular activities or what-have-you at school, they're not in the curriculum."
"Why does 'extra' mean both more and not? What does extraordinary really mean?"
"That's a good question. After all, even the smallest person can change the course of the future."
"Where's that a quote from? The Wizard of Oz?"
"Gulliver's Travels, isn't it?"
"Well, we're all special."
"Isn't that just another way of saying nobody is?"
"Hrm. Let me write this down..."
"I've just thought of something. What if I change my mind?"
"Excuse me?"
"What if I wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide I'm not going to buy any more bottled water? Am I no longer Mr UK or does the rest of the world magically follow my lead?"
"Hang on a sec. My computer's beeping at me..."
"And if I can change the little things, does that mean I can change the big things as well?"
"I've just got a new email from that market research company..."
"Sorry, I've got a sales meeting to go to..."

@ Lucy Sheppard / lucifer[at]chiark.greenend.org.uk / Home