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The airport shuttle MBA

I think I've learned something after all the pain and sweat of this first year. Well, I was pretty sure that was the case. But of all things, my airport shuttle ride right after finals made it official.

Friday morning, 7 a.m. Rousing myself after 2.5 hours of sleep the night before a trip to New Orleans (Professor Koppell, if you're reading this, that was a long paper), I call a cab to take me to the airport shuttle pickup point on the New Haven Green. It's hit or miss with the cabs in New Haven; sometimes they answer and come immediately, and other times it's a long wait. This time, after being on hold forever, I'm promised a taxi "right away" -- then wait in vain for about 10 minutes. Mildly panicked now that I'll miss the shuttle, I call back and am put on hold again. What the heck does it take to get a 5-minute cab ride in this town? I think angrily. Then, my bleary, sleep-deprived mind whispers, unbidden: It's a queuing problem. They probably don't have enough servers, and the wait times are not linear. Oh my god, I have to make my flight. This is no time to be thinking about operations.

7:45 a.m. The shuttle -- which I did catch, mercifully -- drives past an upscale casual dining restaurant in the suburbs, called American Steakhouse. I think about American Steakhouse versus, say, Morton's on the cost-quality spectrum. I wonder whether the American Steakhouse stratum of dining is a terrible business to be in during economic downturns. There's some more official way of saying that, right? My mind strains, coffee-less. Oh yeah. Demand is elastic.

7:50 a.m. The undergrad who caught the shuttle with me fell asleep long ago, sprawled over his bag in the back seat. Annoyingly, I can't seem to do the same. So I keep staring out the window.

8:15 a.m. We roll past a McDonald's. The sign says "billions and billions served." Didn't it used to say the number of billions served when we were kids? I muse. Like "45 billion served." I picture some MBA intern sitting in McDonald's headquarters, calculating that sending all the McDonald's in the world the little plastic letters for the words "billions and billions" would be a positive NPV project, saving all that effort of keeping count, disseminating the count to all the franchises, and having some poor guy climb a ladder to put up a new number every once in a while (and probably incurring an insurance expense). Huh. Believe me, I would not have thought that thought a year ago. It's like I can't shut it off. I guess that's why we pay the big bucks, for this new lens through which we see the world. Nothing like a ride to LaGuardia to illustrate the utility of the integrated curriculum.