GETTING IT MEASURED
When Mr and Mrs Mediocre had tried for six months to achieve pregnancy and to no effect, Mr Mediocre was submitted to tests, or rather, his sperm were. They were discovered to be perfectly normal. When a further six months of strenuous copulation had elapsed and Mrs Mediocre remained unimpregnated, she, or her ovaries, were submitted to tests. They too were found to be perfectly normal. Mr and Mrs Mediocre were distressed. An abnormality in either would have permitted corrective action, but the absolute regularity of their reproductive apparatuses meant that there was nothing to be done but to copulate ferociously. Poor couple!
Still, in spite of the deprivation of professional intervention Mrs Mediocre at length noticed that her monthly cycle was disrupted. She was submitted to a pregnancy test whose positive result they celebrated in champagne. As her belly began to round nicely she underwent further tests: blood pressure, levels of iron, scans and an amniocentesis which revealed that the foetus was male and perfectly normal. Mrs Mediocre's perfectly normal baby was delivered after a perfectly normal forty weeks and a perfectly normal if prolonged labour during which she and it were subjected to tests for delation, heart rate, ketones in the urine, frequency of contractions, strength of contractions and immediately after delivery the baby was weighed and manipulated by a paediatrician who declared him perfectly normal in every respect.
But Johnny Mediocre was not normal.
It took some time and a few thousand tests for it to be revealed, but it finally emerged that little Johnny was below average! The Mediocres were heartbroken.
"But what does it mean?" asked Mrs Mediocre of the bespectacled, smart-suited lady who sat at the other side of the desk.
"It means, I'm afraid," the lady uttered in great seriousness, "that your son is and always will be below average. He was conceived below average, born below average, will live below average and die below average."
Mrs Mediocre burst into tears and her husband put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
"But can't he live a normal life?" he asked.
"Of course," the lady expert returned. "Normal but below average."
The Mediocres left the Regional Testing Coordination Centre and went home with their below average son. As soon as he was out of the car he called for his below average friend and played a game of below average soccer in the garden. Mrs Mediocre watched as she did the dishes. What a pity he couldn't play an average or above average game! When she called him in, he sat in his below average way at the table and ate his below average lunch. Mrs Mediocre watched him and wondered if his enjoyment were below average.
"Can I have some more!" The boy cried when his plate was empty.
As the years went by the Mediocres grew accustomed to the idea that their child was below average. Sometimes they almost forgot it. Then Johnny would arrive home from school with his report and for every subject would be written, in so many or not so many words: "Below average."
"But what is average?" Mrs Mediocre one day wondered aloud to her husband.
"It's what our son's below, dear", he replied.
"Ah," she uttered, enlightened.
The Mediocres loved their child, of course, but they could never forget that he was below average and in some secret place, they almost resented him for it.
He grew to below average height, fell in below average love with a below average girl and engaged in below average passion. He was heading for below average marriage when something remarkable happened. Like all young men of his years and situation, he was submitted to a Potency Test in order to reveal his Potency Quotient. This was arrived at by measuring the length and circumference of the penis, weighing the testicles and dividing the sum of the two figures by the square of the distance from the tip of the erection to the belly button, which in turn was multiplied by a number representing the curvature of the buttocks, added to the logarithm of your grandfather's birthday and subtracted from the number of hairs in your left armpit. To everyone's surprise and some people's horror, Johnny Mediocre's score was above average!
"There must be some mistake," said the lady expert behind the desk, gravely.
Mr Mediocre looked at the plaque which sat before her: Dr M.A.D. Tester M.A., M.A., M.A., PhD, PhD, PhD, B.S.A., B.O.A.C., B.M.W., B.S.E., V.H.F., T.S.B. Such a well-qualified woman couldn't possibly be entirely wrong.
"But he passed the test, fair and square," said Mr. Mediocre. "He has proven, scientifically, that he is above average."
Mrs Mediocre beamed with pride.
"Sometimes, " intoned the lady expert, "mistakes can be made. A slight miscalculation here, a small computer error there. I think he shall have to be retested."
"Retested!" exclaimed Mr. Mediocre in horror. "But if he'd been shown to be below average, we wouldn't have had the right to a retest."
"Ah!" said the lady expert, "but you are not experts."
Mr and Mrs Mediocre were crestfallen. For a brief period the stigma of having a child mathematically proven to be below average had lifted. They were able to tell all their friends with pride that Johnny had a Potency Quotient of 210 which, according to the retrospective calculations of the best minds in the field, was twenty-three points ahead of the Marquis de Sade himself! But now they feared the worst.
Dr Tester spoke to her colleagues.
"If these findings are correct, it will subvert the whole of our science. It is well established that people born between five past three and ten to five in the morning in inclement weather, on the first Friday of the month and conceived by parents who have never earned more than twenty thousand a year, are below average on every measure known to modern understanding. Something must have gone wrong in the testing. What would be the point, after all, of tests which did not produce the results we expect?"
Johnny Mediocre was duly retested; his penis measured in length and circumference; his testicles weighed on the most accurate testicle scales available; the numbers fed to the hungry computer.
Eureka! Below average!
His score was even lower that those which the retrospective calculations of the best minds had produced for every British Prime Minister since Palmerston!
Dr Tester beamed with pride.
"We knew we were right. Mismeasurement on the first test."
She handed the computer print-out of the results of the second test to Mr Mediocre. There it was, in black and white, confirmed by computer, incontrovertible. For the rest of their days, Mr and Mrs Mediocre, like their son, his future wife and progeny would live in the shadow of below-averageness.
And so it came about.
Johnny Mediocre married his below average love, produced three below average children, lived in below average domestic happiness until his below average divorce after which, little by little he lost below average contact with his below average son and two daughters. His below average parents died, his mother first and his father two months later and Johnny, retiring from his below average job to live on a below average pension, declined into below average old age and died in his turn, a below average death.
Everything in his life was just as it should have been according to the statistics of the best minds in the field. Dr Tester became a professor and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society For the Testing and Grading of Human Potential, the highest scientific award in the land. Thanks to her pioneering work some day the entire population of the world will be graded according to seven ranks: Outstanding, Good, Average, Below Average, Well Below Average, Poor and Complete Crap.
"Then it will be possible," she declared "to apportion goods and benefits strictly according to scientifically determined merit."
She has recently established the Centre for the Scientific Study and Appraisal of Human Merit, of which, given her merit, she is, of course, the head.
And Johnny Mediocre lies in his below average grave his below average body decomposing through below average eternity.