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Don Denoncourt
Don Denoncourt

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The Donut Scam

When I was twenty two I was a systems operator for the Information Technology department of a manufacturing company. My hours were 10 AM to 7 PM. I was a fanatical fitness guy and I typically would run six to ten miles every morning before work. When I got to the office I was always ravenously hungry. The computer center was on the second floor. As I walked through the dozens of clusters of office desks on the first floor, I'd sometimes spot a box or two of donuts that still contained a few leftovers despite the late morning. I'd make note of the location and go to the computer center.

After about twenty minutes or so of initial work, I'd begin my donut scam.

The office was outfitted with green screen dumb terminals that communicated with an IBM System/38. From the S/38 I was able to view the status of all terminals. I could see who was logged in and if the machine was in a transaction. If a machine close to the leftover donuts was not in use, I would disable it. And wait. Soon I'd get a call about a nonfunctional terminal. I'd ask some questions and say I'd be right down to look at it. I'd also ask where they were located (even though I knew damn well the box was right by my coveted donuts.) I'd go down to the first office floor and fiddle with the terminal a bit. Maybe whack the side of the machine once or twice. I'd check the connection cables. I’m not sure (these were the 80s and my memory is fuzzy) but I might have gotten under the desk and looked up. I'm trying to say it was really obvious I knew what I was doing! Then I'd tell the greenscreenless team I needed to go back to the mainframe and investigate the communication status. A quick trip upstairs and one keystroke made the terminal functional again. I'd go back downstairs to the unsuspecting group and try it. Obviously, the terminal would be working just fine. I'd chat with the ladies a bit and then, if they hadn't directly offered, I'd -- for the first time - - coyly notice the leftover donuts. "Do you mind if I take a donut?" I'd politely ask. Sure they'd always say.

The pods of desks that I targeted for the donut scam were always populated by thirty- to forty- something ladies. Looking back, I realize that part of the scam was that I was a good looking twenty-something fit and muscular man (my wife assures me I used to be good looking.) Had the pod of desks been populated by men I'm quite sure they would have body blocked the donuts.

Unfortunately my donut scamming didn't last long because, after a couple months, I moved from second shift system operator to first shift programmer. But I wasn't running in the morning so hunger was less of an issue.

Nowadays, when I ask about spare donuts, co-workers look at me like they want to say: "I don't think you need a donut. Maybe you should go for a run instead." Plus the thirty- or forty- something ladies are a bit less than impressed with this sixty year old pudgy man. Anyway, the end of this story is now I must buy my own donuts.

Top comments (1)

leob profile image

Good ol' days, nice anecdote! Green terminals, punch cards, IBM PC's booting into embedded BASIC ...