I don’t know how to parse the sentence I’m reading on a fridge belonging to the TiE office in Sunnyvale, California.
“TiE” stands for “The Indus Entrepreneurs,” and its website describes it as a nonprofit association inspiring “entrepreneurs through mentoring, networking, education, incubating, and funding programs and activities.”
To young Indians, TiE is the star of the west. It guides them once they arrive on this blessed shore of the United States. A young entrepreneur waits, with bated breath, for the blessing of an angel and the smile of a savior. (I’m wondering why, in 2001, two of the early saviors never returned 27 of my messages when I was writing a story about philanthropy in the valley. I could have been saved.)
I’m seated at what those of us from India call a canteen or a “mess”—a cafeteria and gathering place. I’m waiting in this large cheerless room resembling the back office of a Costco. My husband is here for a meeting for the 2016 summit after which we have a lunch date.
The mess is a bit of a mess. The smell of stale garlic, soy sauce and coffee has seeped into the five sofas. A Roosevelt Popcorn Popper stands next to a salt canister and a bottle of olive oil. Yesterday’s popcorn litters today’s tray. Several six-foot Costco tables are stacked up against a wall on the far left. Aluminum foil pans sit atop a fridge.
There are two white refrigerators in the room. According to the note, one calls itself the TiE Incubators Refrigerator. I open it to see what is incubating inside: A lot of ice. I want to pencil in my change, a small apostrophe, to clarify matters for ordinary people: This is the TiE Incubators’ Refrigerator.
Behind me, a microwave zaps a lunch. An Indian gentleman in a blue full-sleeved shirt stands right in front of it, checking if his lunch is ready. About me, important-looking men in dark blazers walk back and forth, speaking into cell phones. They must be angels. Women traipse around, looking svelte in short skirts, tight pants and riding boots. To my left, men and women spill out of a conference room—Indian, Iranian, Chinese, Hispanic, Caucasian—hugging their overcoats and sweaters. Five minutes after they have left, the lights go off automatically. TiE’s origin is Indian. Of that there is little doubt. A dying Indian will turn off the fan, the heater, the air-conditioning and broadband before he lies down to breathe his last.
What’s troubling me is the note on the other refrigerator called the "TiE Staff Refrigerator": “Event food will be kept in this refrigerator and will be taken out by staff only next day for lunch to be enjoyed by all. (Smiley)”
I stare at it for a long time, parsing, unsuccessfully, at every attempt. Is the “event food” inside the fridge to be touched only by TiE staff? Or is the food to be taken out only the day following an event? I’m not sure. I offer the following revision, at no cost, to TiE: “After an event, any leftover food shall be stored in this refrigerator. It will be served, by the staff, at lunch the following day. (Smiley)”