You have no doubt heard the outrage surrounding a North Carolina teacher who took a toddler’s lunch away on the grounds that it did not meet Federal nutrition guidelines. Instead of the turkey and cheese sandwich and chips she brought in from home, the girl was required to eat three (presumably more nutritious) chicken nuggets from the school cafeteria (Here’s a reasonably balanced article about it from the Washington Post: Teacher’s mistake at school lunch led to upset calls of government meddling).
Something similar happened to the hero of my novel, Gimbel O’Hare. The story takes place a few years in the future, when the Nanny State has gone out of control. Gimbel works for a software company, in the Business Automation Division. This unfortunately named organization – its acronym is BAD – obtains tax advantages by participating in the (to date, fictitious) Federal Healthy Office Program. Here's an excerpt:
A few hours later, Gimbel was sitting by himself in the Building 2 cafeteria, picking over a flavorless lentil salad and trying to decide which he liked less – ‘stenics or lentils. The place used to have pretty good hamburgers, but BAD took them off the menu as part of the Healthy Office Program. Gimbel held up his bowl, tilted it towards the cafeteria cam, and waved. When he first joined BAD, he had wondered why there was a security camera in the dining area. It wasn’t as if anyone was going to steal paper napkins. The napkins here were so small that they were wholly inadequate for protecting pants from food stains. According to placards on the napkin dispensers, the napkin size had something to do with conserving the earth’s resources. How stained pants helped save the earth, Gimbel had no idea.
He finally learned the reason for the camera one day last summer when he brought a sandwich from home. That afternoon, Beverly summoned him to her office. When he arrived, she was waiting for him, as were a nurse in a white uniform and a security guard with a gun. They explained that Gimbel had been captured on video eating ham and cheese and that Division policy now required him to receive a lecture on the principles of good nutrition. The lecture took two hours, the low point being an animated video depicting an epic struggle of good and evil between Gary W. Grain (the “w” stood for “whole”, or maybe it was “wholesome”) and Lippy the Loathsome Lipid. After that, Gimbel refrained from bringing food from home. Sometimes he brought napkins.
I better get this into print fast, before more predictions come true.
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