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It May Not Be Right, But is it Even Wrong? The Boardwasher and “Blown Away”

By Dan Scolnic

Features columnist

I know. “Hey, aren’t you the boardwasher?” isn’t exactly the best pick-up line in the world. It’s not the worst either, but I just couldn’t think of anything better to say. I was standing in front of a girl for whom I show up early to class to see, so I had to say something. I wanted to say that I’m her biggest fan, but that’s probably not the case. There are guys who sit in the front row and give running commentary on her board washing. It may not be pretty, but guys do that here.

I want to give another example of guys at MIT. There is a movie “Blown Away” starring Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones. The whole movie takes place in Boston and Jeff Bridges is the expert in the city’s bomb squad. In the first scene, Jeff Bridges is called out of his son’s birthday party because there is a bomb at MIT. The bomb is in the computer lab, which, like most computer labs at MIT, is one computer and many desks.

When he gets there, he sees this girl typing over and over again that she loves her boyfriend. We learn that the boyfriend is the bomber, and the bomb will go off if she stops typing or “when the hard drive runs out of available bytes.” Jeff Bridges, at the last second, cuts the correct wire and proceeds to throw up in Killian Court. So what happened to MIT guys? How did we get to be depicted so badly?

The answer is that we are the guys people believe can make bombs. If there was any college where a boy could somehow figure out how to make a crazy bomb, people would assume it was MIT. They didn’t pick Harvard for a reason. It is not that MIT guys are inherently any different than any other guys; it’s just that MIT guys are better engineering students.

If you tell an MIT guy about the whole “Blown Away” bomb episode, he’ll immediately disregard doing this to his girlfriend as not even worth considering, but then start trying to figure out how they made the bomb. He’ll start asking: Do you think they attached levers to the keyboard and if the keys don’t go at a certain pattern it will go off? Do you think he put it somewhere inside the hardware so if she stopped then something would turn off and then the bomb would go off? The hard drive will run out of available bytes -- what college do you think the writer went to?

The boardwasher, in any class at any school, would have had guys talking about her. It is not a great thing to say about guys, but hey, that’s why people call them guys. The only difference is that at MIT, she’s washing boards for classes like quantum mechanics.

All guys have girlfriend problems. All guys can get depressed and some of them will do very stupid things, but that MIT guys know how to do very stupid things in very smart ways.

But remember something, it’s not just that we can do stupid things in smart ways, but we can do great romantic things in smart ways. No one ever said we couldn’t use that same creativity for something else. Just give us the chance and we’ll blow you away.