Laugh Date: Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Best of RAH:
Lord of the Pies

by Dave Bealer

This commentary first appeared in the June 1993 issue of Random Access Humor.

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 thoroughfares.

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.

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Sound Byte

Common Sense is not Politically Correct.

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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:

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