A group of hungry desi students often visit the Indian buffet restaurant near the Stanford campus. Why? Because the owner also allows takeout at the buffet so we can get one and divide it into two. At that time we were poor graduate students with not enough money to eat a lot.
The restaurant has a sign that reads “What you can take in the box”
This is when a group of nerdy engineers decide to try and be creative.
We began filling the collection container with only one specific type of curry. For example, 2 of us will go and start packing one container that only contains butter chicken and one that only contains paneer palak. We also began to optimize the pieces for curry. We will then return home and eat this with frozen chapatis and fresh rice.
This increased our throughput from two people per box to three.
The next step of the master plan is pure genius. Nobody said the box needed to be closed. So we started filling curries in every part of the box and grinned at the owner when we collected. He is a very friendly Punjabi and while he may be annoyed with exploitation, he accepts it with good enthusiasm and praises us for innovation and with a warm smile says it’s fine and that he understands that we are hungry students just trying to save a few dollars.
This increased our throughput from two people per box to six.
Computer Science nerds have an obsession with optimization and of course we want to live up to reputation. So this last step is the pinnacle of our creativity and maybe the only thing we will always remember. We realized that we were limited in the number of curries we could put out at the depth of the box. So, we coated the whole box with quartered naan from the buffet to enable us to significantly more volume and fill our “bowl” with curry.
This increased our throughput from two people per box to ten.
EVEN MORE SAVED MONEY!
Next time we go to the restaurant, the sign has been changed. Now it reads:
“What you can take in the CLOSE box”.
Uncle just stood there and smiled when he saw our faces and walked away LIKE A BOSS that we stood there surprised at how easily he fooled us. When we came to pay for the day, I couldn’t help looking at him with the utmost respect and saying, “Uncle who played well, Played well!”
I learned a very important life lesson that day.
No matter how smart your optimization techniques as an engineer are, you will never match the problem-solving skills of an experienced entrepreneur.