QC koan: If baseball was played with hard-boiled eggs, how would you hit a home run?
The Case of the Disappearing Cookie
A man was out working in his yard. He happened to look up and saw three of his friends approaching from a distance. (If I wanted to be symbolic, I could name them Past, Present, and Future. If I wanted to be silly I could name them Larry, Moe, and Curly. If I wanted to emphasize the alphabet, I could name them Abe, Bob, and Cal.)
On seeing the three friends (whose names he very well knew), the man scurried into the house. If I had given the three friends names — such as Mirror, Mirage, and Mortality — it might be easier to understand why the man fled. But they were just a poorly timed trio. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared for their shade of company at that moment.
The three friends, who were otherwise occupied talking amongst themselves, were attracted by the sudden movement and looked over just in time to see the man hurry into his house. They suddenly felt a bit devilish, and decided to pay him a visit.
The man had instructed his wife to tell his three friends that he wasn’t home. Without questioning his motives, she decided it was easier just to go along. She told the three friends that her husband was out.
“No he’s not,” they said through their spokesman. “We saw him running into the house just a minute ago, so we know he’s here.”
The man was upstairs looking at the scene through his bedroom window. He opened the window and addressed them directly. “You just think you know. I could’ve left through the back door. I could be halfway to Bananastan by now.”
The three friends were curious why the man would reference Bananastan. As far as they could remember, he had never done so before. The spokesman decided to bring the subject back to topic, to rally behind the motion of having caught the intruder in his own house. “Sir, you’ll have to come quietly, for we have caught you with your hand in the cookie jar.” Why he chose to use the cookie jar metaphor is also unclear, as none of them had ever owned a cookie jar. The situation was quickly spinning into uncertainty, rather like scientists musing over the uncertainty principle and the location of subatomic cookie particles (surely a child could say that they found their way into the stomach).
When I was a kid, we had a black ceramic cookie jar in which my mother sometimes stored delicious cookies. There was an unidentified threat associated with getting your hand caught in the cookie jar. Perhaps a chore would magically come your way, or an evening’s desert would disappear. But the temptation was real. One deterrent my mother used was that she said she knew how many cookies were in the cookie jar, and would therefore know if any were missing. I knew that assertion had to be false. Counting cookies was more difficult than removing the lid. Another deterrent was the design of the jar itself. Lifting or replacing the lid made a distinct noise that my mother could hear from almost anywhere in the house. For me the lesson was clear. If you wanted illicit cookies, you had to be stealthy, very patiently removing and replacing the lid. You also had to be somewhat disciplined. You could only take one, and you could only raid the cookie jar occasionally. I knew my mother did not count the cookies, but making an estimation was as simple as removing the lid. In addition you had to be humble. That meant not bragging. If you don’t want to draw attention, it makes sense to settle in silence.
So how do you cope if your hand is caught in the cookie jar? One strategy is to deny, deny, deny as cleverly as possible. “No, I was just dusting it off.” “I was getting a cookie on the direct orders of my big sister.” “I was admiring the way the lid fit.” Once, I remember having gotten caught. I tried the truth. “I really love your cookies! It was hard to resist.” Suddenly your hand doesn’t need to be in the cookie jar. Without knowing exactly how it happened, you find yourself with a delicious cookie crumbling and dissolving in your mouth, and realize that the cookie fairy has somehow provided you with a gift.
As it turned out, the man’s wife had just finished baking up a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which became the breaking bread that complemented whatever beverage of choice was also bonding on that particular day. And the man and his friends ate four cookies apiece, perhaps because the number four is deeply symbolic, or perhaps it just worked out that way by chance. And they spoke of arcane topics, such as the life of Babe Ruth in retirement and what a dog-cat would look like and how it would act. They then formed a “fearsome foursome” allegiance, whose purpose was to fight the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Super powers were involved, such as “titanium skin.” (“You’d be a statue,” offered one man. “No, it would be flexible like skin. I did say titanium skin.)
The cookies were all gone. “That was sweet,” said the man. Everyone agreed. After exchanging expressions of mild contentment, they informally decided to break it up (I hope they took time to thank the man’s wife for her selfless contribution). They were leaving when the spokesman of the three friends had a recollection. “Invite us over any time you feel like disappearing.”