ceci n'est pas un tri

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/05/10 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/05/10/594166.aspx

(if the title of this post does not ring any bells, then the post probably will not do much for you, either!)

It was delivered to Microsoft the day before yesterday, a little before 1:00pm, by someone from FedEx. In less than 24 hours it was at my office door, and I was asked to sign for it.

The deliveryman, sensing my confusion at the box that was addressed to me with no office number on it, with a From: line that I did not recognize, asked "Were you expecting a package?"

"Is anyone ever expecting a package?" I answer, with a somewhat philosophical tone. Laughing, he leaves me with this 23.9 pound box and heads down the hall to deliver what looks like business cards to someone else....

I look down at the package and open it up with a pair of scissors. Well trained from my youth, I open up the envelope that presumably contains a card that will reveal the source of the box before I look at the contents of the box.

It indeed contains a card, a plain card with no pattern on the outside and no signature on the inside. Handwritten is the following line:

Ceci N'est Pas un Bribe

Now I know just enough french to know that:

As I lift that foam lid, a smile comes to my face. It is a case of twenty-four 200 ml. bottles of San Pellegrino Limonata. A drink that I have mentioned previously here is my both my favorite and favourite beverage. :-)

Not knowing what the gift is or who it comes from, I can't tell if "Ceci N'est Pas un Bribe" is meant with the same type of depth of meaning as Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" or not.

On the plus side of the "bribe" argument, it is a very fascinatingly effective symbolic bribe. I mean, no one works in the rank and file at MS if they want to get rich, and this is just the sort of thing that would appeal to me, at least in its originality and ability to get me to pay attention.

On the minus side of the "bribe" argument, not knowing the source of the case or even what was actually being requested (I mean, there was no feature request or locale data or music CD for an agent or proposal or anything else!) makes it rather ineffective as the sort of means of persuasion that would typically come with such an accoutrement....

As intrigued as I ever, I look again at the card and at the box for clues. I look at the FedEx tracking number and try their web site but there is no hint other than the fact that the package was shipped by a company that is a soda distributor and that there is no hint as to who paid them to deliver it.

Calling the soda company yielded a gentle scolding about privacy concerns. When I explain why I am interested, he suggests that perhaps among those who I know I have an admirer who speaks French and I could use that as a clue?

I am momentarily tempted to explain that given the line of work I am in that this does not seem like paricularly fruitful line of inquiry, even ignoring the likelihood that the sender is in all likelihood less of a French speaker and more of someone who would smile about the allusion to the surrealist via a snowclone and the fact that I would be smiling about it, too.

But rather than run up the bill on their 800-number, I decided to politely thank him and get off the phone, instead.

It made for a pleasant little distraction for the rest of the day as I went on to look into some bugs and issues in my email inbox. Certainly it got my attention!

I just realized that by blogging about this, I have added a challenge to my benefactor -- how will he or she prove that they are indeed the source of the San Pellegrino? :-)

Just kidding -- the person who sent it knows the sode distrubutor that did the sending of the case. If they wanted to reveal themselves, they have an easy way prove their identity....

So, to whoever my nameless benefactor is -- thank you for the very kind gesture, a gesture that was and is very appreciated....

# Luciano on 10 May 2006 3:31 AM:

Between all the GOOD italian things you can drink, you choose a San Pellegrino Limonata?

A distrusted italian :)

# Serge Wautier on 10 May 2006 4:51 PM:

Since I'm both one of Magritte's compatriotes and a native French speaker, I obviously qualify as an expert to solve this puzzle:

'Bribe' does actually exist in French but is a female word: une bribe.
Une bribe is a little piece of something. The word is not very common and I would say it's used mostly in familiar language:

J'ai pas compris une bribe de ce qu'il a dit = I didn't get a word of what he said.

Which leads us to the obvious question: Is there any kind of representation of a little piece of something on the box. If not, we can reasonably start considering the scenario where bribe is used in its English meaning.

No, Michael, don't thank me for this wonderfully useful hint. It's my pleasure to help! :-)

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