1985 – Rice University Department of Computer Science

The notice on the bulletin board in the Mudd Building said simply that the instruction for COMP 210, the introductory programming course, was looking for labbies for the semester. Responsibilities including grading labs, and having 4 hours of “office hours” per week, where you could help student figure things out.

You had to call a phone number and leave a message (How quaint now). So I did.

Two days later, I had an answering machine message which told me the time and date of the orientation session.

No interview at all.



Well, that’s the job search related portion of this story, but I can’t help actually telling a story around this job.

The course work was being done on Macs. This may or may not have been the first semester it was not taught on the Vaxes, but it was awfully close. The Mac was introduced into the Mudd Lab almost immediately after it was announced in the spring of 1984. This was fall of 1985, and the Macs had mostly been upgraded to the 512K Macs. The assignments were using a product called MacPascal. Whatever.

My office hours were Sunday evenings after my jazz radio shift, 7-11. Labs were due on Monday, so I kept busy.

One Friday night, I actually had nothing to do, and about 6:45, I got a phone call:

(Woman on other end of phone with very loud background music): Hello? Is this the labbie for COMP 210?

Me: Yes. I can barely hear you.

Woman (trying to cup mouthpiece of phone): Hi. Was wondering if you could help me with my lab?

Me: My office hours are Sunday, 7-11.

Woman: I know, but I can’t get to campus on Sundays. I have to work. I was wondering if you could come to where I work and help me when I have downtime. I have my Mac here…

Me: Where do you work?

Woman: I am an exotic dancer at the Boobie Rock Club, at Westheimer and Montrose. I dance 20 minutes, and then have 40 minutes to work on school work. I work until last call at 2:00.

At this point, a couple of thoughts went through my head. First, I thought that this must be some kind of prank, and somebody was going to take pictures of me at the club and try to humiliate me. Suspecting it was a joke, I was tempted to go. The humiliation, if any, would not actually be effective. While I was not a patron of those establishments, being seen in one would not ruin my life.

Second, I thought that this could actually be somebody real, but that it was a setup to try to rob me. Well, I had no car, and no money. The danger then was assault. I thought that this was a really low risk.

In the five seconds before I answered her, I came to the conclusion that this might be legit. I was intrigued, but…

Me: Well, I have no car, only a bike. And it is 30 degrees outside. It would take me a couple of hours to get there, and even if I were willing to ride my bike in the cold to the Curve, I don’t know that there is a place I could lock it up. Not to mention the fact that riding home in the middle of the night in Houston is not appealing at all. I think you are going to have to find somebody else to help you, or come by the Mudd Building during my office hours.

Woman: Well, I wish we could work something out. Sorry to bother you.

She never gave me her name, and I never figured out if I knew any Rice students who worked as strippers.


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