Mousetrap Tech

Mousetrap Tech

Roy Lisker
April 18, 1980

After the departure of the Pied Piper, the village of Hamelin established a university. In its charter it was stipulated that all academic programs and research projects would be dedicated to the perfection of mousetrap technology. Mousetrap Tech was expected in a few years to develop enough modern weaponry to stave off all future attacks by rats or mice. Hamelin would not, could not permit a replay of the recent catastrophe. It was everyone's fervent wish that the lose of an entire generation of children would eventually be compensated for by the influx of a youthful student community, bringing prosperity, charm and culture once more to village life. Street musicians, of course, were placed under a perpetual ban.

Because Mousetrap Tech had been set up to teach one subject, it was not at first structured by schools and departments. Yet by the end of the first semester the university had already bifurcated: the first sub-division assembled all the courses teaching ways to build better mousetraps. In the second division were grouped all those specialties involved in thinking up ways to catch better mice ( or rats). The logos of Mousetrap Tech covered both of them : We Are Building A Better Mousetrap.

The two school were distinguished by acronyms. The School of Sciences became known as the C.A.M.E. : Center for Advanced Mousetrap Engineering . The second, the school of Arts and Letters, was called the C.O.M.E.: Contra-Ordinary Mouse Extermination . Each school would eventually have its own buildings, faculties and curriculum. Around that time also, Mousetrap Tech changed its name to the Institute for Mousetrap Technology : IMT .

Within a short time each of them had grown very jealous of its prerogatives. COME cultivated its reputation for providing a liberal arts, humanistic, relatively impractical formation, which it deemed a "higher" sort of education.

CAME sneered at the pretensions of the COME, claiming as it did to be ever in pursuit of the so-called 'superior rat', while lacking the basic nuts-and-bolts horsesense needed for the catching of real ones.

Professors and administrators in each faculty used every occasion to assert that its rival was in violation of the charter principles of the IMT. They identified each other as rip-offs of the taxpayers money, and swore that its entire staff was a bunch of mere pseudo-scientists, lazy and unproductive, either airy-headed mystics or unimaginative realists as the case might be, interested only in tenure and their pensions, wicked and even stupid.

To give the impression of handling this self-generated atmosphere of conflict, seminars were arranged at the IMT at least once a month, ostensibly for the purpose of forming new and coherent bases for the establishment of inter-disciplinary studies. Nothing ever came of them. When the time came for sending in grant applications the schools fought like cats and dogs. As a consequence the IMT evolved into an institution of higher learning at which only a fraction of what was being taught had anything to do with exterminating rodents. By that time most of its superstructure was given over to mediating the rivalry between the COME and the CAME.

To the outside world the character of the IMT could appear extremely baffling. Within it however one found a certain class that had been studying these developments for some time with close attention and grim satisfaction: over a hundred genera of rats and mice. In the century of its existence the state-of-the-art weaponry of the CAME had eliminated all but the strongest, swiftest and most intelligent rats, while the researches of the COME had generated truly superior breeds of rodents, with a command of several languages and a strong grasp of ideological principles.

These evolutionary advances of the rat population proceeded in lockstep with the irreversible decadence of the IMT. Finally there came a time when a exact balance was reached between Hamelin's capacity to ward off invasions by rats, and their capacity to survive and reproduce.

Shortly afterwards, several armies of rats and mice descended from different directions on the helpless village of Hamelin and gobbled up most of its population. Served up at the tables of the victory banquet a few days later were the faculty and administration of the IMT .

MORAL : If you're out to build a better mousetrap, don't start a university.

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