"A measure for fresh herrings? Did I hear that correctly?”

While the store’s computer could no doubt help the customer, Dave Solicit took pride in his ability to operate it more efficiently. He was often able to save as many as three or four steps in a single transaction. As well, he loved interacting with all the different people who came looking for hardware. His hardware store was located on the border between a ResiZone and CommerceZone. He got the best of both worlds while his nearest competition was saddled with all the orders from the IndustryZone. Industry requests were always so dry.

"Yes sir, a measure for fresh herrings. I've got a scope for when we do salmon and Scenties for tuna but the owner was asking about introducing some new items to the menu and..."

"Of course, of course, I see now. You're busy trying to be a chef and he expects you'll waste a weekend learning how to recognize a fresh herring."

"Unassisted no less!"

"Oh yes, I've met my share of chefs here, I'm familiar with the requests owners can make. Let me look through the Catalogue here and see what we can put together. In the meantime, please feel free to browse around the store, this may take me a few moments."

"Thank you."

This one was a pretty standard request. Dave averaged close to 50% ‘fulfilled with existing’ and was able to combine another 30% on his own. The last twenty or so had to be referred to the Invention Request Department.

The Catalogue, the store’s computer, had been listening to their conversation and had tabbed Pink-scope™ and ScentiStrips™ for him. A quick glance told him that both had been manufactured more than five years ago. That boded well for fulfilling this order with an existing device. A few more moments searching however failed to turn up anything for measuring the freshness of a herring. There were devices for baiting herring, catching herring, cleaning, feeding, finding, luring and a host of other GPDs (General Purpose Devices) that had been modified for herring specificity. There was nothing for the freshness test though, that was odd.

"Excuse me? Sir? Yes, I'm sorry, I didn't get your name before."

"It's Walter."

“Right, Walter, it doesn’t appear as if there is an existing device for this so I’m going to see what I can put together for you. Do you mind waiting a few more moments?”

“No, go right ahead.” Walter was browsing new titles available for the MediaMach. He figured if he got done here early enough he might have time to take in a Feely with the Missus before heading back to the restaurant. “Probably the reason there is nothing in there is that herring only came off the No Fish List last year. It hasn’t really caught on yet, a lot of people only know them from old Monty skits.”

“’Monty’ sir?”

“Or maybe not… An old TV show, not really important.”

“Oh, right sir, TV. We did see a bit of that in grade school, I never really took to it though. A lot of those old programs had no prompts you know, aside from the… what was it called… the laugh track? Yes, aside from the laugh track you got no clues on how they expected you to feel about it. Anyways, it’ll just be a few more minutes. I’m halfway through here.”

The Catalogue had seemed stumped for a moment, spending almost twenty seconds chewing over herring and GPDs and whatever else it referenced before it responded to Dave with the optimal combine. It seemed herring freshness could be determined safely by age and touch. There were several other factors available as well but these two devices lent themselves easily to a combine. Two quick crosses gave Dave the rest of the information he needed.

"Ok Walter, what I've come up with so far is a Dater and a PressureSense. Of course I'll get the request in to IRD immediately. I imagine this one will only require a Junior Inventor, which means you should have your device within a few weeks. Until then, these two in conjunction should serve for you."

"The things you do for… Do you have the inputs for the Dater or do I need to look those up as well?"

"Oh no sir, I've looked those up and I can input them for you. According to my charts here a herring is still fresh for 3 days after display. You hold the Dater over the label on the herrings and it'll do the math for you. The PressureSense as well is already calibrated. Just hold it to one of the herrings and you'll get a YesNo."

"Well, I suppose that'll have to work. I can't believe the extra work I'm putting in on these… And you'll have a measure for fresh herrings in a week or two?"

"Yes sir, it shouldn't be any longer than two weeks. Combining two devices like this should be fairly straight-forward."

"Well.. thanks for you help, uhm, Dave. Guess I should get a move on if I'm going to pick up the herring in time for the Prepper. You'll call when the measure comes in?"

"Of course sir, and I'm sorry again that we didn't have something easier for you. I guess no one has needed a measure for herrings up until now."

“Yes, well, always glad to do my part to ‘Make it Easier’. You know, I’m responsible for four combines and two new devices? That’s right, I’ve almost contributed… almost contrib trib…uted almost contributed…” Walter ground to halt, eyes glazed over, swaying ever so slightly to the rhythm of his own heartbeat.

”Sir? Walter?! Are you…?”

At the sound of his name Walter seemed to come out of it a little bit. He looked curiously around the store before bringing his gaze back to bare on Dave. He inquired, “This a hardware store?”

A wee bit frightened now Dave answered, “Yes sir, it is. Are you quite alright Walter?”

”Yes, I think I am… What a strange sensation, do you know? I think my fuckin Thinker™ just failed. That isn’t supposed to happen is it?” It was there that Walter noticed the small bag in his hand. “I’ve paid you for these?”

”You have sir. Can I call someone for you sir?”

”I suppose you’d better, though I’m not sure who… What was I doing here?”

”You’re a chef Walter. You came to get a measure for fresh herrings.”

”’A measure for fresh herrings?’ How daft.”