Monday, March 20, 2017

Purloined Pastry or The Case of the Vanishing Donut

It was a cold March day with the snow falling lightly.  A great day to take my break at the campus café with a cup of coffee and a donut.  It wasn’t the same as getting a donut at a bakery.  These donuts had been individually wrapped most likely for easy resale and sanitary reasons.

I selected a chocolate covered cake donut and placed it on the laptop that I had set down on the counter while waiting for my coffee.  Once the coffee was ready, I grabbed it and the laptop with the donut on top and headed for a window table.  After setting my items on the table I engaged a fellow employee in conversation about 10 feet away from the table.  After a minute of conversation, I returned to the table to find the donut missing.  I quickly survey those in café to determine likely suspects.  At the top of the list was my co-worker Tim who is known for practical joking.  He forcefully denied any participation in such a prank nor had he been seen in the vicinity of the table.  Two other suspects were too far away to practically make it to the table and back, they also were questioned and denied any culpability.

Curiosity is powerful and not easily satisfied.  The value of the donut was insignificant but there needed to be an explanation for how the donut seemingly vanished in thin air.  A review of security cameras provided the answer.

In the recording of the camera, we see the donut placed on the laptop.  We see my taking the laptop, but carelessly paying attention to how I carried it particularly with a donut on top.  We see my putting the laptop and coffee on the table, but the donut had fallen to the floor shortly after walking away from the counter.  We see a student waiting to place an order, taking a few steps, stooping down to pick up something and slip it into his pocket.  The donut had never made it to the table.  My assumption had been initially wrong.  It wasn’t stolen.  It had been lost.  Yet, the student was aware of who the donut belonged to.  What this Economics & Finance major didn’t know was who I was and the access I had to data regarding who made purchases when and where.  Access to data like building access and validity of magstripe cards used for building access and the purchase of meals.  Access to any digital data related to the campus, his comings and goings, his schedule.  Little did this individual know how miserable this data administrator could make his life.

There was no crime.  It was simply a case of something being lost and then found.  Vanished, yes.  Purloined, no.