Algorithms to Delight

Are you the sort of person to colour-code your keys or key-rings?

If so, you’re likely a bit of a nerd, sure, but you’ve made your life easier by applying a simple algorithm for finding a particular key amid a pile of other keys. If you’re not gaining a little pleasure every time your algorithm works, perhaps it’s time to start. It’s simple and clever.

I have no such system. I have unmarked keys everywhere. Any time I need to find one, I have to wade through linty jacket pocket after linty jacket pocket. If that doesn’t work, I’m off fumbling between the sofa cushions. And then I repeat the process.

After researching algorithms recently, I discovered that computer scientists call my type of key finding algorithm a “shit algorithm”. I get that. I leave the house frustrated every single time. My algorithm for finding keys is not delighting me.

My Algorithm for Delight

I have better algorithm though. In fact, my food ordering algorithm appears to be one of the best on the market, so I want to share it with you. It’s very simple.

I start by reading the menu top down, like normal people, and I stop at the first dish that catches my fancy. That’s the one I order. Then I put the menu down, and continue ogling the waitresses, Trump-stylee.

In the process of ogling, I completely forget about my food until I hear “who ordered the porcini mushroom lasagne?”. Then I pause my ogling and think: gosh, that sounds nice!

And suddenly it’s there, in front of me, exactly the dish I would have wanted if I’d chosen it myself. I’m delighted. My algorithm surprises and delights me, and my food tastes all the better for it.

Your Algorithm for Disappointment

That’s not your algorithm though. If I may hazard a guess, yours looks more like this. Read the starters a bit, but not really, and then move on the mains and dessert. You’re just glossing over at this point, picking out the odd sautéed potato perhaps. And then you go back to the start.

And, following the instructions of your algorithm, you perform this same process, in increasing degrees of agitation, as the growing volume of food data starts spinning your mind. Your head is now awash with asparagus and tiramisu. And you still haven’t decided.

With the time and effort it has taken you to read the menu, your blood sugar level has started to dip until you can barely read any more. And, even as the waiter comes over to take your order, you’re performing a final whirlwind review of the menu to make 101.1% sure you didn’t miss anything on your first 99 reads.

Your decision is becoming urgent, yet unbearable, and when you do finally have to commit to choosing something, you’re both fearful and exhausted. Yet, you can’t even relax after you’ve ordered. The next part of your algorithm – paranoia over future food envy – requires you to question your choice again and again, until you go all but nuts.

When your order arrives, you finally snap out of your slump, and like a starved prisoner finally receiving some sustenance, you devour your food not so much for the flavour but simply to stay alive. If the food is not as good as you’d hoped – as so often happens after the scrutiny you’ve invested in ordering – you’re disappointed, yet again.

These algorithm things are personal, of course, and only you can know whether your food ordering algorithm is as well tuned as it could be. For all I know, perhaps you get a perverse kick from hyper-anxiety just before eating and, like a gambler, you’re more addicted to failure than success.

With that said, I’ll leave you to ponder whether you want to take another look at your food ordering algorithm, just to make sure it’s really working at its full potential.

In the meantime, I need to find my keys. And wallet. And phone.

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