Best of RAH:
Lord of the Pies
by Dave Bealer
This commentary first appeared in the June 1993 issue of Random
Copyright © 1993 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.
Throughout recorded history certain people, places and things have
had strange, almost mystical relationships with other people, places
and things. Joined forever in legend, song and deed, these pairings
have become inseparable: King Arthur and the Holy Grail, Babe Ruth
and the home run, Lizzie Borden and her axe, lemmings and the sea,
computer programmers and pizza.
Anyone who has spent time in a computer center can confirm the last
relationship. Pizza is the preferred fuel for all night coding and
debugging sessions. Even the U.S. Commerce Department has noted the
unusually high number of pizza delivery businesses within 5 miles of
every computer center. In some small college towns, pizza delivery
now accounts for as much as 71% of all off-campus revenue.
Certain cynics have noted that many of these computer centers are
located on college campuses and that the whole campus, not just the
computer center, is responsible for the abnormally high pizza
delivery statistics. These cynics have neglected two factors which
confirm the Commerce Department figures. The first is the presence
of parking spaces marked for the exclusive use of pizza delivery
drivers right next to the handicapped and campus police spaces in
front of the computer center. Of course, pizza delivery vehicles are
now recognized as emergency vehicles in 38 states. This new status
simply confirms the way they were driven all along.
The second factor is the four lane highway being constructed between
pizza delivery row and the computer center on many of these campuses.
Non-essential campus buildings, like the English and Mathematics
departments, have been torn down to make room for these critical
The most telling fact is that all pizza delivery drivers working
within range of any computer center do not need directions or a
specific address to find the place. Just order "the usual" for the
night shift at XYZ Corporation Computer Center; thirty minutes or
less later a large Greek Pizza with double anchovies will appear in
the terminal room. Not that computer centers are all that popular
with pizza delivery drivers. Programmers are notoriously bad
tippers. Most well paid professionals tip like they were still
impoverished college students.
Getting the pies delivered usually turns out to be the easiest part
of pizza acquisition for any group of two or more programmers. Nasty
arguments are sure to break out before the order is even placed over
such crucial elements as toppings and how many pies of what size to
order. Vegetarian programmers are an annoyingly large and quite
vocal minority who cause no end of frustration for their carnivorous
brethren. The Alpha-Vegans are the pickiest eaters of all; they
insist that the pizza crust be made only from grain that voluntarily
threw itself on the special ceremonial scythe.
Toppings are not the only bone of contention for pizza ordering mobs
of programmers. There are now many varieties of pizza available.
There is white pizza without tomato sauce, red pizza with tomato
sauce, green pizza with guacamole sauce, and purple pizza with grape
soda sauce. Then there is the matter of crust thickness. Pizza
crust now comes in all sizes from whisper thin phyllo dough crust to
super industrial strength foot-thick crust, which can double as a
mattress or life raft.
The final decision to be made before any pizza order can be placed is
where the order will be placed. Pizza brand loyalty is quite strong
for many programmers. Said loyalty can approach cult status with
certain folks. The Dominosians battle the Little Ceasarians, who
battle the Pizza Hutterites. Then there are the favorite locally
owned places, like the omnipresent Luigi's: home of the "Impersonal
Pan Pizza." Many of these contests take the form of "stick to the
ceiling" cheesiness tests. These conflicts waste a great of deal of
pizza and are not popular with the computer center custodial staff,
who never get any pizza out of the deal, save what they can scrape
off the ceiling.
The real combat begins when the pizza finally arrives and it's time
to decide who pays for it. The pizza is usually stone cold by the
time the finances are settled. Microwave ovens are becoming standard
equipment at most computer centers.
The one puzzle still facing researchers delving into the matter of
pizza and programmers is the "mystery of the final slice." Many
pizza eating groups will fight tooth and nail over the final slice,
whereas other groups will leave the final slice for the vultures.
This last behavior pattern took the experts completely by surprise.
Granted, the final slice is often a sad, undersized specimen, usually
bereft of toppings, or occasionally even cheese itself. But it still
counts as one of the basic food groups for programmers, along with
just about anything that can be obtained from a vending machine at
three in the morning. Pizza behavior scientists at the laboratories
of Industrial Smoke and Mirrors have applied for a $25 million grant
from the government to expand mankind's knowledge in this crucial field.
Common Sense is not Politically Correct.
Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who
works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the
largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront
townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he
assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor.
Dave can be reached via e-mail at: