The Rat takes a sour bite of the Big Apple at this year


According to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's book, it takes a village to raise a
child. Well, it takes a city to fry a Rat, and that city is New York.

Heading for PC Expo there last month, the Rat padlocked his cubicle, ordered all the
servers to behave while he was gone, and caught an underutilized T1 line to Manhattan's
West Side, home of the Javits Center--the world's largest freestanding, permanent,
scaffolding structure.

To the Cyberrodent, it seemed like one big snap-trap. After just a few days in the Big
Apple, he was longing for his safe command bunker. Actually, New York wasn't as much to
blame as PC Expo was. But something of the city's character carried over to the show, like
a west-of-Broadway Three-Card Monte scam.

Aside from the physical toll of wandering through the throngs of visitors and several
thousand booths, the Rat sprained a paw in a pothole trying to dodge one of the few taxis
to grace the show site with its presence. Within moments, he was surrounded by Javits
employees seeking to avert a lawsuit.

Inside, the digerati seemed bent on exceeding the fire code occupancy limit. PC Expo
this year merged with Networks Expo and the new Web.X Internet show, so every inch of
floor space was occupied by displays. The Rat, never big on crowds, sewed his wallet
pocket shut lest his government credit card fall into the hands of a search-engine vendor.

Even the pressroom, normally a quiet sanctuary for the Credentialed Quadruped, wasn't
safe this year. The Rat was just stuffing his pockets with cheese squares from the IBM
refreshment table when he was waylaid by a speed-metal guitarist-cum-music instructor
touting herself as the Great Kat. What was she promoting? Her latest interactive CD-ROM .

"Great," sighed the Rat, as if the very name of that sharp-toothed
enchantress in vinyl weren't offensive enough. The disk, titled "Digital Beethoven on
CyberSpeed," contained the Great Kat's heavy-metal versions of works by classical

Just what the Rat needed to hear while stuck in New York looking for a new server

Out on the floor, reputable hardware and software vendors stuck to their usual ways of
getting attention: 500-gigawatt audio systems, dance-club music and actress wannabes
performing stage shows. One vendor even tried to convince the Rat that his video
accelerator could increase a network server's disk performance.

Naturally, the cab line was full of hucksters, too. While waiting in a downpour for a
taxi, the Rodent's press badge was spotted by two sellers of customized notebooks. As the
drowned Rat gave up on the wait and dashed off, the bag man cried, "Wait--don't you
want to see what we can do with personal digital assistants?" The Rat's recent
sensitivity training held his tongue in check.

About 15,000 badge-scans later, the weary Rat beat a retreat in the rain to Penn
Station through the computer T-shirted hordes and caught a strand of fiber-optic cable to
head back to the safety of his climate-controlled concrete cubicle.

Unchaining the entrance, he found 253 new voice-mail messages. Apparently the e-mail
server had crashed again, despite his specific instructions to the contrary. The Rat
kicked the disobedient system, respraining his injured paw, and limped back to his desk to
elevate and ice.

The next trade show the Rat goes to will be a virtual one.

The Packet Rat oce managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace.

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