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Dear Matt:

Well, it appears Girl Scout cookie season has finally come to an end. How many calories did the Girl Scouts unleash on America this year?

-- Craving Cookies in Ocean Beach

You realize, of course, that counting Girl Scout calories is like measuring the liver damage done by Cinco de Mayo. Why worry about it now? It's a done deal. The Samoas are history. Tagalongs reduced to a box of crumbs. Well, if ya gotta know, I guess ya gotta know. But you sure can kill a party.

First-- GSUSA, scouting's HQ, does not release figures for national cookie sales. For all we know, scouting could be, like, right behind Microsoft and Haliburton in revenues, but since all the cookie money stays local, the national demurs when it comes to gross figures. And the way we see it, the figures are pretty gross. We rounded up the math elves, locked them in a room with a case of Alohas and some Gatorade, and set them to work extrapolating some national numbers based on local sales. Of course, that means our final answer isn't precise, but it's so big, you'll be too stunned to quibble.

In 2003 the San Diego and Imperial Counties Council of Girl Scouts USA stared up at us with those big Girl Scout eyes and sold 2,853,672 boxes of cookies. Perpetual favorites, Thin Mints, accounted for 66,726 boxes. At 40 per box, that's 2,669,040 cookies; at 32 calories per cookie: 85,409,280 calories. Local calories. Just for Thin Mints. We did similar calculations for the other six flavors. To get comparable national numbers, we came up with this little cheme.

In the SD&IC Council, there are 30,812 active scouts, nationally 2,831,274 (which includes members of at least one virtual scout troop sitting at their computers in rural South Dakota). We calculated the total calories per local scout, then multiplied by the national membership. Local calorie total for all seven cookie flavors: 269,782,959. Calories per scout: 8756. Grand national calories: 24,790,635,144. A gigantic and meaningless number. However, translated into girth gained by all cookie eaters, at 3500 calories per pound of body weight, that's 7,083,038 pounds of pan-American love handles and thigh bulge.

Okay, happy now? You've got all the crumby little cookie secrets. After the fact, of course, the last Do-Si-Do just the scent of peanut butter on your breath. I can even hear you?"Next year, I'll be saner! More prudent! Limit myself to four boxes! Make them last for months!" Yeah, sure. Here's a sneak peek at next year. New flavors for 2004: Double Dutch (chocolate-chocolate chip) and Lemon Coolers (with lemon chips and powdered sugar). Grandma Alice recommends that you begin now to convince yourself that cookies eaten for charity actually contain no calories at all. They're canceled out by the virtue factor.

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