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The Wurst of It

DOES the grant precede the evaluation, or does the savant think up something to study and then apply for funds? If the cold weather hangs on and I can't work outdoors too long at a time, I might be available for some sausage research for a moderate amount. Here, for example, is a learned professor with more degrees than a Masonic thermometer, and he tells us the average person gets into bed and then takes 20 minutes to fall asleep. The average family has 3 people, so we can compute that it takes an hour and 10 minutes for a household to settle down and begin knittin' on the ravell'd sleeve of care, etc.

I don't care what that costs; it's a good thing to know.

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I also wonder slightly how this professor went about his work - how many average people he consulted and how he, or they, knew when they were asleep (i.e., when they ceased to be awake). Were I a professor, speaking subjunctively, I would hesitate to make it known in a competitive environment that my erudition is devoted to bedside attention while somebody falls asleep, but there you are.

``That,'' I said in the supermarket the other morning, ``would be something to take to bed and lie awake thinking about it.''

We had mortgaged the summer residence again and were grocery shopping, and she had said, ``Oh, yes - some Oscars!'' For no particular reason we take Oscar Mayer weenies, but I have learned his competitors have gone along with him, so any brand name will suit.

I stepped to the proper counter and reached for the Oscars, and I didn't see any. The vice-president who regularly goes along ahead of us to mark up the prices was near enough so I said, ``No Oscars?''

He said, ``Certainly, sir - right here.''

He pointed, and I thus learned that Oscar is making his hot dogs in a new, elongated size, and I didn't recognize them. ``What happened?'' I asked.

``Been made longer. Now they fit the hot dog bun.''

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``Same sausage?''

``Same sausage.''

If you lie awake after you go to bed, and toss and turn, and have plenty of time to meditate, give a thought to why the sausage people made their sausages longer rather than hang tough and make the bakers reduce the size of their buns.

We're all wrought up constantly over unsolvable frictions that imperil man's welfare, from stripped woodlots to open gunfire, and we toss and turn and have no answers. Here, right in the supermarket and close to home, is an opportunity to stand the world on end and begin a confusing quarrel that will happily take our minds off all else. Butchers vs. Bakers, and even Dean Swift, which end of his eggs aside, will admire.

We need people signing petitions by the mile, demonstrating in the streets, conferences and summit meetings, short buns against long buns, ``Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!'' And we certainly need an academician to study and (at great expense) report.

What is the impact with the millers? Are the bakers adamant about shortening? Why did Oscar Mayer give in? Were there preliminary surveys in the consumer area? Nobody came to consult me about a preference; how about you?

Would you have been willing to lie awake in your downy, staring wild-eyed into the midnight dark, giving a hoot one way or the other about the Great Weenie Crisis?

If so, what else have you done lately to foster the arts and add to our cultural advantages - on a global scale, that is. This is certainly no time for people to hop into bed and fall asleep straightaway.

And the wurst of it is that the vice-president in the supermarket compounded the problem with concomitant confusion. After we had jested briefly about the new look for Oscar Mayer, he showed me that the other weenie people had lengthened, too, and he suggested that if I were, again subjunctively, about to give the matter periphrastic thought, I should consider something neither the butchers nor the bakers have embraced.

``Why,'' he asked, ``do they all wrap hot dogs eight to a package, but the bakers always sell buns by sixes and dozens?'' ``Do they now!'' I shouted. ``Yes,'' he said, ``they do. And the first number that comes out even is 24. Why don't they do something about that? Who wants 24 people around every time he has a picnic?''

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