April 12th, 2016



“DNE” written on a whiteboard or chalkboard is supposed to mean “do not erase”. When I was a student at the University of Georgia, I saw it only infrequently, but it seems to have been more common elsewhere, or in any event, become so subsequently.

Randall Munroe, of XKCD fame, called attention to “DNE” usage with this strip several years ago:

I've seen advertisers put their URLs on chalkboards, encircled with a DNE. They went unerased for months. If you see this, feel free to replace the URL with xkcd.com.

Recently, I decided to test for myself how sacrosanct something marked with “DNE” would actually be in practice:


When I added that, the board was full of random gibberish from various meetings that had been held in the room. Now it’s blank — except for my circled mystery code.

Two weeks and counting.



All The Cool People

Green tea latte

So there I was, sitting in a very crowded Starbucks in terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport. If you’ve been there, you know the one — right next to the United Club just after security. It’s typically a scene of complete pandemonium as travelers, flight crew, and TSA employees pack the line trying to get their caffeine fix on. It’s not easy to just relax there, but you can if you really try.

I was sitting at one end of the long bar-height table that runs the length of the store, drinking my drink and not thinking much about anything. I had about 90 minutes to wait until my connecting flight boarded.

A twentysomething woman came up to me and asked, apologetically, if she could put her stuff down to my right, at the end of the long table. I said “But of course. All the cool people sit here.” and scooted over a bit.

She stood at the end of the long table next to me, chatting with a friend she was apparently traveling with, drinking her drink. When I heard her comment that she was just about the only person she knew who ever ordered the Starbucks green tea latte, I looked owlishly at her and lifted the lid off my own drink, revealing that to be precisely what I was enjoying.

“Ohmigosh,” she exclaimed. “Someone else who likes that!”

I nodded urbanely. “All the cool people do.”

They went on talking and I went on ruminating and drinking my drink.

Then she happened to glance at my cup, which as per Starbucks normal practice, had my name scrawled on it. “Is your name Jay? My dad’s name is Jay!”

Imperturbably, I nodded. “All the cool people…”

She laughed. I smiled.

Sometimes it is possible to connect with another human being, even in the unlikeliest of places.