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Dietary Disaster

By Anamika Mukherjee

An office shuttle conveys me 20-odd km to my workplace every day. The two km trek (over untarred roads) from the pick-up (or drop-off, if you prefer) point to my doorstep is achieved on foot. This exciting path takes me past an uncovered drain (which serves as the local toilet), cows and cow dung, restaurants, provisions stores, chemists’ shops and their inevitable neighbours liquor stores (have you never noticed how the two are often found side-by-side?), a pub, a VCD library, a photography store, a cyber cafe and a traffic light (in no particular order).

One day, on my walk home at the end of the day, I decided to buy something to munch from one of the provision stores. I picked up a packet of four cupcakes. I knew I would regret this later, as I was supposedly, at the time, on a diet (which, of course, explains why the temptation of four crumbly, dry, tasteless cup cakes was so irresistible).

After guiltily feasting on half of this sinful treat, I persuaded myself to keep the other half for the next day, thereby partially exonerating myself. I bundled up the plastic bag and stuffed it in the bottom of my office bag, so thoughtfully provided by Intel to carry my precious laptop in.

I then happily forgot all about the miserable cupcakes until I reached office the next day and unpacked my laptop and found it crawling with ants. I was so shocked I almost dropped it. With a silent curse on the makers of cupcakes, I dug out the plastic packet and flung it into the dustbin.

I spent the rest of the day trying to get the ants out of my laptop. I brushed them off with my fingers, wiped them off with my pristine white handkerchief, blew at them, causing them to retreat into the safety of the keyboard, and finally, when all else failed, swore at them. While all this frantic activity was not exactly in vain, it must be said that it was of very limited utility. The more ants I managed to get rid of, the more of them were to be seen scurrying around under the keys, shuttling between 8, * and F9, sometimes emerging for a breather from under the Esc key, at other times, to my horror, disappearing into sundry ports, drives, inlets and other manner of openings on the laptop. What they could possibly have found of any interest in there, I don’t understand, but they certainly seemed to prefer it to the cupcakes (which is not, perhaps, entirely surprising).

In the first two hours, I got rid of about 75% of the pests. Which is to say, I only had about another 25,000 of them to weed out. I discovered that if I pressed the keys in the centre of the keyboard at random, it caused them to go scurrying to the border areas, whence I could pick them out with the help of my long nails. I spent about half an hour at this exciting activity, in the course of which I managed to accidentally press some keys that should not be pressed (e.g. the power button) and had to re-boot my machine. Twice.

Then I had to go for a meeting. Needless to say, I spent much of the meeting time examining my laptop and the conference table for signs of life, pouncing on some all-but-invisible speck every few minutes with a strangled cry. I got some very strange looks from my colleagues, but they were much too well-mannered to say anything. Word must have got around though, because I noticed people eyeing me suspiciously and keeping a discreet distance at lunch time.

In the afternoon, things were better. The ants had either tired of the game and left, or else settled down for a comfortable snooze in my laptop innards. Or possibly, I had killed them all with my periodic attacks on the keyboard. In any case, I managed to work on a few documents and send them for review, though I later got review comments asking me to remove strange, meaningless strings of text that had somehow appeared at various points in the files.

Towards evening, I dusted off my desk and myself, littering the floor with dead bodies. The culprit cupcakes were still lying in my dustbin, ignored by the few surviving ants that were limping around morosely. I opened my laptop bag, preparing to pack up and go home, and found – oh no! – you guessed it – more ants!

Moral of the story:

  • Don’t keep food in your laptop bag

  • Which leads to Corollary 1: If you buy for cupcakes, for Christ’s sake eat them all!

  • Which leads to Corollary 2: Don’t diet – it isn’t worth the effort

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Comments and information welcome. Write to anamika dot mukherjee at amukherjeeworld dot net
Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.