The Ecphorizer

Vatican Roulette
Elmo Fish

Issue #45 (May 1985)

Howard Throckmorton
Chairman of the Board
Aphrodite Airlines

[quoteright]This proposal is in response to your request that we explore ways to use the Data Processing Department to generate revenue. The notion occurred to us during iterations of the Monte Carlo

Subscribers can telephone ... from any bed in the country ...


We have developed a system with the code name of VATICAN ROULETTE, which will take advantage of existing terminals, computers, and data entry staff, with no capital investment in extra equipment. The new system dovetails nicely with the idle time in our Reservations Department.

The market to be served is that vast population of women who, during the graveyard shift, are normally variously occupied in bed rather than flying on Aphrodite Airlines.

At the time of registration into the VATICAN ROULETTE system, new subscribers supply basic biographical data: date of recent onset of menses, frequency etc., and a code word. A master file is created on disk. On receipt of their subscription check the system will print a six-month forecast of fertile and infertile days discreetly entitled "Table of Periodic Functions," and mail a copy for confirmation. Subscribers subsequentally phone in fresh data and we update their master files.

The forecast program will have a statistical level of confidence of 95%, giving n degrees of freedom. New forecasts (with optional appointments calendar) will be printed monthly and sent to subscribers in a plastic cylinder small enough to fit in a handbag. Together with a bill.

The real-time value of the service becomes apparent on the graveyard shift. Subscribers can telephone the nearest Aphrodite Airlines Reservation Office from any bed in the country, quoting their code name or number. Our staff member interrogates the computer via the otherwise idle Reservations terminal, and returns a simple "yes," "no," or "risky." Complete confidentiality is maintained.

It is noteworthy that activities which stimulate the need for this service tend to peak between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am, optimally coincident with low traffic volumes in our message switching system.

Preliminary market research among the staff of Aphrodite Airlines reveals that a ready market for such a service already exists among the stewardesses. This immediately suggests advantages and improvements in our night scheduling. We attach sample reports "Aircrew Availability Status" for management, and "Contingent and Past Due Liabilities" for pilots. The VATICAN ROULETTE system could profitably be franchised to other airlines.

Our Legal Department should be sure to include a waiver of responsibility in the wording of the contract agreement between Aphrodite Airlines and VATICAN ROULETTE subscribers. And of course more than usual care will be taken by Data Processing Department when implementing these computer programs. Aphrodite Airlines could set an interesting legal precedent by becoming the first corporate body in history to appear as defendant in a paternity suit. If the jury is not well-hung the decision might go against us.

To minimize the effects of such an eventuality we suggest that the Data Processing Department, in collaboration with the Personnel Department, revise their Policies and Hiring Procedures to include nepotism. After all, such "Sons of Aphrodite" would be endowed with the primary job requirement for programmers: illegitimacy. 

ELMO FISH (our generic name for anonymous contributors) surfaces again in this issue with another outrage. He swims with his own personal style, ever resisting the bait of conscience and the lures of literary propriety. This article was written by Paul Gregson and reprinted in Issue #5 (The Paul Gregson Issue) of The Ecphorizer Online and can be viewed here.

More Articles by Elmo Fish

We have collected the essential data you need to easily include this page on your blog. Just click and copy!close
E-mail Print to PDF Blog
Return to Table of Contents for Issue #45