Sunday, May 1, 2011

Noop: The Man Who Stood In Lines (But Did Not Do Anything Else)

Noop, or No-op, is a machine language instruction that does nothing. Noop stands for No Operation. It is used in computer processors to effectively skip a step of instructions, allowing other instructions to complete or synchronize. The term noop is also used to describe a process, function, or operation that does not do anything.

Harold had a problem. He was trying to coordinate the purchase of four season concert tickets to the Old Toronto orchestra, but the new ticket rules had made this almost impossible. Specifically, the orchestra had recently introduced the following rules:

1) There would be a single ticket line on opening day,

2) Each person was allowed to buy at most two tickets,

3) Each person had to have their top 10 seating preferences listed on a preference card that they would give to the ticket agent, and

4) The ticket agent would give them the top (available) choice from this list.

A giant display screen outside the ticket office allowed patrons to see which seats were still available.

The problem was that these new rules made it very difficult to buy four seats together. Harold could buy two and his friend Alex could buy two, but they would still need to coordinate. Because seats sold out fast and the ticket window insisted that the cards were filled out ahead of time, there was no time to coordinate. If Alex waited to see what seats Harold bought, there might not be any seats open nearby.

Luckily, seven days before the line started to form for the season tickets, Harold had a discussion with his friend Noop. Noop was not a fan of the orchestra and had no intention of ever going to see a concert.

"I could stand in line with you guys." offered Noop.

"How would that help?" asked Harold. "You do not even like the orchestra. You once described it as 'a bunch of people all playing the same song at the same time' as though that was a bad thing."

"Yeah. Why do they all play the same song? It seems kind of boring to me." admitted Noop. "But, since you are my friend, I can help you out."

"How?" asked Harold. He had been wrestling with this ticket problem for six months, and he had not found a solution.

"I can just stand between you in line. When it is my turn, I will ask the ticket seller a question and leave. It should give you enough time to coordinate with Alex. And I absolutely guarantee not to buy any tickets."

Harold thought about it. By inserting Noop in the line, he could buy himself a small amount of time to fill out his own card. This could actually work.

"And you promise to not buy any tickets?" confirmed Harold. The plan hinged on Noop literally doing nothing except taking up a space in line.

"I have no interest in the orchestra." reiterated Noop. "Unless, of course, they make it a contact sport. My money would be on the tuba section."

A week later, the three friends tried the plan. It worked perfectly, and they managed to purchase four seats together. Noop slowed down the line just enough for Harold to relay his ticket purchase to Alex, who then listed his top two choices as the pairs of seats on either side of Harold's pair.

While it was a successful day for Alex and Harold, it was a life changing experience for Noop. He realized that he could create an entire career out of simply standing in line. He went straight to the local printing press and ordered a thousand fliers that read: "Need a moment to coordinate? Need time to make a decision? Call Noop -- The man who stands in lines but does not do anything else."

Noop retired ten years later as a millionaire.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.