Campus Life

How to Pick Up … at MIT

Everyone has, had, or will have this problem. Some have solved it. Others have given up. Colloquially, we refer to the problem as “picking up.” Here, one can’t help but draw a natural comparison to “picking up” hardware at a computer store. If only things were as simple as ordering to specification or as exciting as a buy-one-get-one-free sale. But perhaps the real dilemma lies in the vagueness of our colloquial talk. In light of the fact that MIT students are such unbelievable pset solvers, we might as well reformulate our problem in a more familiar language: 

The problem: Given location L {MIT}, individual I, and no prior contact, how does one introduce, woo, and win (in true MIT fashion) I’s AIM contact?

Now this is a puzzle worth solving — and solve it we shall … at least in theory (unless you like experiments). From personal experience, I can shed some light on logical, but unfortunately incorrect, solutions: 

“Hi, I know you! I’ve read your Facebook profile …”

“How about you be sin²θ and I be cos²θ so together we’re 1.”

“I’m ______. How do you like me so far?”

“Did you come here alone? You must be pretty desperate.”

And my personal favorite: “Did we used to go to elementary school together?”

I’d toss the blunt John Nash approach of “Will you sleep with me?” into the incorrect pile, however Richard Feynman successfully solved the problem using such a line.

In response to my inability to solve the problem, my brother asks me, “Approximately how much time do you actively spend trying to meet girls?” A quick back of the envelope calculation reveals this number to be less than 0.1 percent. “Ah, there’s your problem,” he says. To help rectify my difficulties, he buys me the book How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes. Great. Now instead of “sincere guy,” I’m on due course to “devious creep.” Then again, I guess there’s no harm in seeing what Leil has to say about talking to anyone, even MIT folk right? I flip past “Avoid Sounding Like a Jerk,” “Sound Smarter Than You Are,” and “Come Off as 100% Credible” to “How to Use Your Eyes to Make Someone Fall in Love With You.” Alrighty then. I have eyes. How hard can it be? 

“Clever Romeos use epoxy eyes to make women fall in love with them … Use epoxy eyes to push their erotic buttons …”

What are epoxy eyes anyway? Am I supposed to stare? Flipping a few more pages I find “How to Make People Want to Start a Conversation With You.” This section looks more promising. “Singles proficient at meeting potential sweethearts … [basically wear something catchy or funny so that others have an excuse to start a conversation].” What could I wear that other students might find interesting? I quickly realize most MIT students think an integral is sexy. Mental note to self: must integrate more math paraphernalia into daily wardrobe.

Now with the bait on our hooks, we still need to find our fishing hole, that is, where to meet other individuals. Off campus locations (ie. {MIT}c ) essentially consist of pubs, clubs, or parties. Here the real perks of MIT can take over. Dropping the “I go to MIT” bomb at such local establishments might as well be equivalent to fishing with dynamite. The fish don’t have a chance — they hear the words and come belly up. Unfortunately, trying to pick up with “I go to MIT” on MIT soil doesn’t have the same charm.

If it is so easy to pick up off campus, why stay localized to MIT? The recent blockbuster hit “Superbad” presents some excellent wisdom. Ideally, one does not want to meet their significant other at a bar, but rather somewhere nice, like a pumpkin patch. I’ve searched high and low and MIT is one pumpkin patch short of a pie. Potentially nice replacements include the chapel, the library, and the Athena cluster. I’d rather leave the chapel as the sacred place I go to pray to God (“Don’t smoke me on this next midterm”). Checking out the library, I realize students here actually intend to work. At my undergraduate institute, the library was literally a cesspool. One would often find the study rooms filled with nicely dressed individuals, sipping lattés, type-talking over AIM.

So I’ve racked my engineering brain and, sparing the technical details, I’ll tell you my solution to the problem — but seriously, don’t copy it or you might end up kicked off campus picking up the pieces of the “I used to go to MIT” bomb. 


Hang out in the Athena clusters wearing a Fourier transform shirt, making use of your cool new mechanical pencil and instant messenger. If your target individual doesn’t take note, resort to emergency measures: create an excuse and ask for technical help, say with the printer. Just remember though, if you do succeed in scoring their AIM account ID, try to hold back on the natural tendency to yell …