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Carrying Capacity

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Janice Sanders sunk into her saggy, yet comfortable couch as she flicked on the television. As a fuzzy image crackled across the static screen, an authoritative voice rang through the gloomy apartment.
“This is a public service announcement,” the woman began, “Flu vaccinations are currently out of supply at government sanctioned clinics, so please do not loiter. We cannot help you at this time.”
Over on the west coast, consequences of the looming population crisis in the United States had struck another victim- a prevalent American car company. Their executive had just received a disturbing phone call at main headquarters.
Thomas Maltus, the executive, paced nervously along the hallway outside of his office. Each time around, his collar grew tighter, as his mind struggled with unfortunate news.
Much to his dismay, an assistant rushed over to him, sure that something must be wrong.
She inquired, as to not be overheard, “What’s the matter,” she whispered frantically, “Who called?”
“It was the Department of Transportation, and they have…requested that we…” At this moment, he trailed off, and led the assistant, Margaret, into his office to explain further.
“But we must comply,” Thomas insisted.
“Will the customers be informed?” She replied in a dazed state.
“I suspect not, however, it is not my decision.”
Margaret thought a bit and asked, rather slowly, “Is this,” she stuttered, “Is this happening at other companies?”
“Between you and me, I have a friend who works for a pharmaceutical business, and while she has refused to be specific, has told me that the company’s… standards have been changed. Now please, organize a meeting with the design team.”
Later that day, the head of the design team, Mark, walked into a small conference room to have his anxious eyes meet twelve others.
“As you well know,” he began, “there is some important news regarding our new line of cars for 2017. We have been instructed by the Department of Transportation to readjust our safety standards.”
As he explained in greater detail, the team leader noticed the mild looks of his peers, and felt strangely uneasy.
“Today we will only brainstorm a bit, just to get into the right mindset. Does anyone have any ideas?”
“Perhaps we could develop airbags that only function 88 percent of the time!” A young engineer piped up.
“Good, good,” Mark said, feeling a bit more comfortable. “Anyone else?”
“What about brakes that occasionally cause the car to lurch forward?”
Mark couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity.



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