30 years later
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
I met Dr. Pit after 30 years at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Responding to my email, he agreed to meet me, and although our rendezvous was in a museum with a collection of 4,000 impressionist works of art, we spent less than a half hour looking and the better part of four hours in the cafeteria, chatting.
I had envisioned this meeting for decades and had held myself back because I was in awe of him. (I’m also in awe of Jim, my wife’s research guide, but that’s not the point here). The feeling stems from their breadth and depth of knowledge, and the selfless goodness of their beings.
I first met Dr. Pit at the university where I did my Masters in Electrical Engineering. I worked for him. He took the last three letters from my first name and called me Pol (phonetically Paul). He and a class friend in India are the only two who did that, and I loved it.
I reminded Pit of something he did for me. He has obviously moved on and was obscure about this repetitive act of his. He had no idea how seminal it was for me.
At the end of each semester, Pit would pick up the phone in the Emag. Lab where I worked, and call the Head of our Department. He would typically ask, “So what is Paul going to work on next semester?”
This question would ensure future funding for my work AND tuition waiver too.
Pit confirmed that he was still dabbling with differential equations, electromagnetic fields, consulting from 4am till 11 am daily, and everybody knew not to disturb him in that duration (except I, hahaha). He was aghast that I was doing NOTHING, and hinted that he might send some of the equations my way.
We talked about the technical nature (I think) of his investments, and how he avoided the global market collapse of 2008, unlike myself.
After my university days, Dr. Pit had expressed deep concern about our - my fiancée and my - personal finances. I was happy to report to him that my wife and I had stabilized now.
If I had the skills essential to capture my thrill and rapture during our four hour encounter, I would. But sans that skill, your device would drop from your palm, and you would nod off.
I did get bold enough to remind Dr. Pit that he had introduced his then girlfriend to my fiancée and I, at an Indian restaurant. He was as handsome as the devil, and she was so very pretty.
He had mentioned (in the presence of this pretty young lady) that he was hesitant about her because she was so young, being the daughter of a friend, AND because she was infatuated.
No, the relationship did not proceed, but they are in touch, and her son now calls Dr. Pit for help with his homework. Dr. Pit also felt free to bring up another dalliance. Haha!
My old mentor was aware that I might be digitizing our dialogue, and requested me to slash specifics.
We ended our hours long conversation with me showing off my son’s Tesla Model 3, which had automatically driven me to the Barnes Foundation.
I summoned the Tesla with my iPhone to come pick me up. It had parked itself on a busy thoroughfare. Now it acted confused. The headlights came on, it moved backwards a few feet, then moved forwards towards me, but stopped yards away. It may have been the proximity of the cars passing by that caused the confusion.
My professor said goodbye and walked away. I instructed the car to drive me 133 miles home.
(On the way the Tesla scolded me twice for not having both my hands on the steering wheel, and when I stopped later, a message popped up on the screen saying that if I got 3 more similar warnings, the self driving software would be revoked permanently. But I digress as usual).
I had been apprehensive that meeting Dr. Pit would wipe away my memories of his demeanor and appearance when I was his student. Happily, my memories remain.