Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

Every once in a while, a student group invites me to a free dinner, which pleases me, not only because faculty salaries were frozen last year, but also because I enjoy getting to know students in an informal setting.

This past week, I went to the Hillel Faculty Night Dinner, where the students have a tradition of asking the faculty attending to introduce themselves and answer a surprise question, such as, “What is your favorite building on campus?” This time, it was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I didn’t have a good answer to that question, so I decided to use a trick I learned in humanities classes. I ignored the question asked and answered another one, “What is the strangest incident you have experienced involving a Jewish student?”

“Without a doubt, that would be the amazing case of Louis Lamon,” I said, responding to my own question.

Louis Lamon* was one of my all-time favorite teaching assistants in 6.034, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence. One year, when Louis was a teaching assistant, our final examination was on a Monday morning, so on Monday afternoon the staff, about eight or ten of us, were sitting at a big table working away through a stack of 250 examinations. We were just getting started at the time the conflict exam was scheduled over in a distant classroom. We decided to take turns proctoring. I took the first turn.

When I returned from proctoring, I was feeling pretty goofy, it being the end of the term, so I decided to hack the staff.

“Wow, I just had my first experience with quiz rage,” I said as I sat down at the grading table.

“What’s that?” asked Louis.

“It’s a little like road rage, I guess. A student seemed to be having trouble with the exam, and then, about 20 minutes in, he started cursing and swearing loudly. I couldn’t calm him down. I finally had to call the campus police and have him taken away. They told me it happens once or twice each semester.”

“Who was it?” said Louis.

I thought it would add realism to describe one of Louis’s students, an Israeli named Ben Brotsky*, who happened to be taking the conflict exam. “I don’t know,” I pretended, but some of the cursing and swearing was in a language unfamiliar to me, maybe Hebrew.”

“You know,” said Louis. “I think it might be one of mine, is he [physical description]?”

“Yes,” I said “That’s what he looks like.”

Then, a few minutes later, Louis said, “He once told me a scud landed a few doors from where he lived in Israel; maybe it is some form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

“Yes, Louis,” I replied, “Maybe it’s post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

Then, it came time for Louis to go off to the conflict-exam room for the final shift. About half way through his shift, I decided I should go and make sure he was ok with the hack and not too sore about getting snookered. But, when I arrived, he grabbed my arm and whispered into my ear, “He’s back.”

“Oh my god,” I said, improvising rapidly. “Louis, don’t do anything to upset him. I talked to his advisor, and he has a history of violence. He was a commando in the Israeli army. He could kill you in seconds with a wire…like that power cord attached to his laptop.”

“Ok,” said Louis. “I’ll be careful.”

A little while later, Louis returned to the room where we were all grading, looking highly upset, and said, “I confronted Ben after the exam.”

“Oh, oh,” I thought to myself, “now I’m in trouble.”

So, I started to explain, “Listen, Louis…,” but he interrupted me. “We’ve got to do something,” said Louis with emphasis. “The guy is so psychotic, he didn’t remember a thing about the incident.”

Amazing.