Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Electroshocking mules & a confession

Sometimes, when it's late at night and no one is looking, I head into the top floor coat closet. It smells of dust and memories left out too long. I usually try to get what I need quickly, in case breathing in these forgotten things might cause lung cancer. I fumble around for the light, push aside the old wet suit and college robes and forcibly wiggle my head towards the back. I usually just squeeze enough of my torso in so I can get to the hidden safe. Couple of numbers right, couple of numbers left and thunk clack!

Right under the love letters from ex-girlfriends and a stack of $2 bills is a key. In one fluid motion, I slide my hand deftly under all the "valuables", palm the key, close the safe, pop myself out of the closet and watch as everything falls back into place. It's all very ninja like and would be immensely satisfying in that way if not for the closet door that always sticks. It grunts loudly as I close it; I'm sure one day when I'm electroshocking mules, I'll reminisce to the similar sounds with a laugh.

At this point, you're probably wondering, what's with the key? Is it to open another safe full of unimaginable wealth? Does it have a twin and if I use it in unison with someone else, the world explodes? Oh silly you and your imagination. No, it's not that simple. Some things don't fit in a safe you see. Some things, you don't want locked in to keep it from outsiders but locked in so it doesn't get out.

I make my way downstairs and into the backyard. There's a chainlink gate behind the pool equipment shed and no, it's not locked. The gate opens with a creak; think zapped hampsters, not mules. As I try not to trip on the brightly-colored noodle floaties (what ARE those things called?) littered about, I make my way towards the far back of the shed. The front of the shed, you see, houses the actual equipment and has a door that's never locked. On the back side is a door too but this one is firmly locked, always. From back here, the natural assumption is that behind the door is just more equipment, humming loudly and doing its thing. If it makes you feel better, you can keep thinking that.

I unlock the door and step inside. I don't knock because there's no need for pleasantries and because he wouldn't care. The room is small, barely large enough to fit a loveseat, a coffee table and a TV. Laid out on the table are some DM guidebooks, a plastic tricorder and some printed maps to a text MUD. The small TV is straining to display an epic battle scene in space, the volume cracks and the pixels seem to be perpetually trying to catch up but more often than not, they snowflake out in exhaustion. Sitting in the middle of the couch with a bag of Ranch Doritos is me.

Now before you freak out, let me just tell you that everything I've been saying is in metaphor. Yes, that's me in the room but there's really no room, no pool noodles and no mules were harmed in the making of this story. If you take one look at the room, you can probably tell what part of me I'm talking about. I'm guessing if you reading this, you're guilty of it too. Yup, that's right, I lock away my geek.

I'm not proud of it but what choice do I have? The world is not kind to geeks. You can't exactly walk in to a meeting with a worldwide brand and chat up the time you rolled 5 20's in a row. You don't win clients by voicing your concern that in Stargate the movie, they always came out of the gate frosty and in the show, they totally ignored it. You definitely don't talk about how your date reminds you of an Aes Sedai, green, not black.

No, you don't do any of those things. You keep it hidden in a pool shed, let it get some light when no one's looking and let it do it's thing in solitude. It's a sad state but what are you going to do?

I'd like to end this story by declaring loudly that we should all let our geeks out. That we should build careers from our awkward fascinations and follow in the footsteps of uber-geeks like Gates. And yet, I can't do that, I'd be lying. I really don't want to build a career out of my geek's interests and I kinda enjoy the guilty pleasure of it all.

What I've come to realize is that my shed-shackled geek is indispensable but works best behind the scenes. I may be rationalizing and you can call me out on it if you wish but to me, the geek is my secret weapon in life. This fascination I have for the curious, the intellectual and the obscure has made me an expert in my field. The drive to know things, do things no one else does and generally not give a damn about what everyone else is doing is invaluable.

So if it's ok with you, I'm going to keep my geek exactly where he is. Once in a while, I'll grab my key and head down to the shed for a game of AoE or a Buffy marathon. And everytime I do, I'll learn a thing or two about myself or remind myself of what's important. Sure, I'll lock that door back up but don't worry, he's fine, he's got a ton of Doritos.


Karl Castaneda said...

You've got to have an outlet for your geekiness. I write about games, Ken - I know all about that stuff. My parents often ask me what I'm writing about, and then give me confused looks (no matter how simply I put it). I'm not heading for the NFL, I don't want to be a doctor or lawyer - I just want to talk about how I'm worried about Clover Studios' current direction.

Luckily, I'm still a writer, and having crossed over into respectable fiction occasionally, I can still come off normal - this is mostly used with the opposite sex, because they'll have none of this, "I know it's Saturday night, hon, but I'm fighting Krauser" crappola.

But I've still got an outlet. I talk games online, write about them for a few websites, and release podcasts of my convesations with associates. All of this is very geeky, but I also don't feel like I'm neglecting who I am.

I'm Karl Castaneda, and one time I had a dream about Tales of Symphonia.

Ken said...

So do you prefer the padlocked door or the deadbolt? My geek's pretty good at picking the deadbolt. =)