For thousands of years it was essential for kings and emperors and dictators to employ “tasters” (a profession difficult to write a job advertisement for, you would think), whose job it was of course, brave soul, to have a bit of every item of food or drink to be consumed by his ruler in case someone was trying to poison him. The taster would roll over dead after consuming the morsel of larks tongues or sip of Dom Perignon, thus allowing the king or emperor to pause before consuming the lethal item in question and arrange for all the kitchen and serving staff to be boiled in oil.
An essential safeguard for people who were generally hated by the 99% of the population who weren’t benefiting from their rule, and who were unable to see sophisticated poisons arriving at their dinner table in the way that they would observe an assassin equipped with sword, knife or spear. Pretty successful survival technique.
It’s a profession that went out of fashion for some reason, but it could do with a revival. Oh, not for emperors and kings and dictators, but, for, well me. I think I’d like someone who could check out the rubbish food from take-away outlets, see if it was safe for me to eat. Same with supermarket food. I mean I’m guessing there must be items of actual unharmful food in both places, but I’d rather not damage myself trying to find them. Perhaps Morgan Spurlock (of “Super Size Me” fame) would like the job. But it would go well beyond Big Macs or apples sprayed with pesticides.
I’d like my taster (employed from “Tasters ‘R’ Us”) to walk ahead of me in shopping centres, sampling the air before I breathe it, drink from water taps before I slake my thirst, oh and test the decibel level of muzak and store announcements and their IQ (irritation quotient) before I even enter the front door.
Speaking of announcements there’s another service I’d like performed, perhaps by a different branch of “Tasters ‘R’ Us” called “Listeners ‘R’ Us”. This would involve some brave soul checking out any news/current affairs media I was likely to come into contact with – radio shock jocks, News Ltd newspaper columnists, IPA staff seminars on the ABC, blogs by right wing nut jobs, tweets from conservative tweetbots, speeches by neocon politicians, books by former Labor politicians determined to bite the hand that once preselected them, the whole horrible mix of colourless, odourless, and certainly tasteless but audible poisons spewing out into the world every minute of every hour of every day. Poisons not of the body but of the mind, the job of the taster to preserve not my life but my sanity, at the cost of his own. When he rolled over screaming and kicking, throwing bricks at tv, pulling radio out of socket, burning newspapers in the backyard, I would know that his mind had been poisoned beyond endurance and I should stay clear of the responsible media. And call for a new taster. These days it would be a much shorter job occupancy than the taster for a Roman Emperor.
But, like the Emperor, it would give me peace of mind. Anyone else want to give “Listeners ‘R’ Us” a call? I might buy shares in their company. Oh and “Tasters ‘R’ Us” of course, bet you’d like them to walk in front of you too.