Why do hard-core geeks barely tolerate my presence? Because I don't take collectible fantasy game cards or Japanimation seriously? Because I suck at most video games? So what if I can't recite dialogue from Monty Python movies from memory? Perhaps they don't like the fruity smell of my deodorant. I decided it was time to figure out why I couldn't fit into Nature's Most Persecuted Genotype. I would totally immerse myself in nerddom and stalk their sordid haunts to learn where I go wrong. Like the fam ous anthropologists of our time, I would attempt to live among them freely and, having gained their trust, would finally be welcome as one of their own. Or maybe they'd just throw rotten bananas at me. It was a risk I had to face.
I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at the convention center. Most people think of Trekkies as pathetic, drooling nerdlings, and some are. Surprisingly, most of the people at the event were normal, 30-50 year-old yuppies with money to burn. Not having flaming wads of cash on hand, I was forced to sneak into the $30/day event. It was a simple matter of smudging colored magic marker on my hand and flashing it at the guards as I entered. I referred to it as my extemporaneous press pass. Interne t media don't get much respect.
Once inside, the taste of geek is palpable but overwhelmed by the bitterness of commercialism. The majority of the floor space was devoted to dealer booths selling anything trek related, from Shatner-faced phone cards to Do-It-Yourself Klingon prosthetic
kits. Even the Franklin Mint had a booth promoting its $1000+ finely crafted collectibles. One booth made me shiver. It featured the new Star Trek credit card. A smiling pawn approached, patter ready to fire.
"The Star Trek(tm) Card comes with a free year's membership to the Official Fan Club(tm)."
"Doesn't this go against everything the Federation stands for?" I was trying to stay in character.
"We have a low 17.1% APR," he added.
"I bet GENE(tm) wouldn't have approved," I added a bit louder. Some heads turn at the mention of the Sacred Creator's name. The drone-of-the-Man quickly tried to divert his attention elsewhere. "In fact," I added, "I don't th ink there's even money in the Federation." Several employees were openly frowning at me. I took this as a sign that they, too, understood the irony of their situation. "This, my friends, is against all that Star Trek represents! Everyone sho uld be provided for according to their needs!" I was shouting now, and some security people began hovering in the background. My Marxian-Federation diatribe wasn't going over very well, and my impromptu credentials might not hold up to close scruti ny, so I moved on. I had not made many friends yet.
The next display that caught my attention featured a big picture of a cruise ship under a banner labeled Cruise Trek. On a table was a scrapbook filled with photos of Scotty and Wesley posing on a shuffleboard court with happy vacation-goers. You can ac
tually go on a cruise with selected members of the cast. Amazing. I had to know more.
"Does the cast pilot the boat?" I asked the lady behind the counter.
"Do you play shuffleboard with pucks that look like tribbles?"
"Does Scotty ever go into the boiler room, bang on the pipes say 'She's givin' all the power she's got!'?"
"No. But it's a lot of fun. You get to hang out with the cast for a week. We're going to Bermuda this year."
"How much is it?"
"$1200. It's really a bargain," she added. I start to wonder if I should purchase the gem-encrusted silver model of the Enterprise-D or go on a trip with Yeoman Rand. My budget just couldn't possibly handle both with the twins in private schoo l and all.
"Are you the cruise director?" I asked.
"I organize the trip so I guess you could say I am like Julie from the Love Boat."
"But you aren't into blow like she was."
"Excuse me?" The woman's expression changed from mild amusement to one of shock, as if I had accused her of snortin' coke right off the counter there. I still wasn't making any friends. I do have to admit that the idea of taking a vacation with actors from your favorite TV show could really catch on. I would be first in line to sail to Puerto Vallarta aboard Cruise 90210.
My belly-shirt-filled fantasy is rudely interrupted by two men in a heated debate at a 'Klingon Only' dealer's table.
"No, you're conjugating K'Luuthh wrong," one man instructed, "It's K'Laugh Shtopek Varratnan!"
"K'laan Shotpek Vilavan!" the other shouted.
"You just told me that 'the water is dog.'"
"No, I didn't!" the second man protested. He was angry.
I hesitantly interrupted, "Are you speaking Klingon?"
"Of course," said the first guy, "You can learn it too." He gestured towards a display filled with the Official Klingon(tm) Dictionary. I thumbed through it. Some Uber-nerd took the time to invent an entirely fictional language, and these two had bothered to learn conversational Klingon. I guess you never know when you could find yourself late at night out of gas in the Klingon part of town and need directions to the local filling station. Being a good nerd must really be hard wor k. I took two years of Spanish in college, and about the only phrase I remember is, "Please do not execute me by rifle, I'm an American!" (!No me fusilas, soy americano!) which is as close to speaking Klingon as I care to get. I put the book do wn and started to walk away.
"Kaplow!" the first one saluted after me.
"God Bless You," I replied.
After showing my smudged hand to another three security guards, I was ushered into an immense hall filled with about three thousand people cheering the zany antics of Riker and Troi live on-stage. After wowing the audience, they finished their set and p eople began filing out by the horde. This was a good opportunity to grab a good seat up front for what the program simply described as "Hypno-Trek, A Journey into the Mind." I don't know why people were leaving, but the prospect of seeing peop le hypnotized to think they're Sulu is my idea of entertainment. Besides, I'd have a great seat when Data would speak afterwards.
I made my way halfway through the hall when I noticed the seats change from normal folding to plush red chairs. A nearby sign read "Preferred Seating Only." I certainly preferred these seats, so I decided to boldly go to about the 15th row and sat down. These special seats were each assigned to a Super Trekkie who paid an extra $30/day. What do these people do for a living?
Hypno-Trek was a terrible disappointment. Instead of hypnotizing people into believing they were Romulans hell-bent on destroying Earth, this poor excuse of an entertainer hypnotized people into thinking they were too hot or too cold. What a waste of my
time. The assigned seats around me began to fill with people waiting to see a real-live Data. I was just hoping the person whose seat I had liberated wouldn't show up. And no one did. But about twenty minutes into his speech, an usher approached the tw
o ladies sitting next to me who whispered something into this guy's ear.
"Could I see your Preferred Seating badge?" He held out his hand in that Cop-Want-ID manner I love so much. I played dumb and hoped he would go away. The ladies started glaring at me. "Sir, do you have a ticket?" he added more loudly . Everyone in the immediate area was now upset at this "disturbance" in the expensive seats. I know when I am not wanted, so I packed up my bag and clomped out the back door, rejected.
Whether it's on IRC, Compuserve CB, or my local BBS, chatting is usually a big waste of time. People rarely have anything interesting to say at all, and if you start acting "kooky" they freak out. I was committed to my project and nevertheless started to log into the America Online chat rooms when my bosses were out to lunch. Now, I know that AOL isn't the internet, but I've read several magazine articles in the last year in which reporters talk about their experiences on AOL misidentifying t he chat rooms as part of the internet so I will too. Besides, if it got boring I could read my e-mail.
I entered the chat area, created a room called, "I farted", and waited for my new friends to arrive. And waited. As I was about to conclude that no one wanted to speak with the flatulent, two people entered my room! Here is the transcript of out scintillating conversation: (Dr Bubonic is me.)
You have just changed to room "I farted"
BIGTEX18 : YOU STINK
Dr Bubonic : Thank you. I am farting on the keys to my computer right now. I lost my fingers in the war, and I can only type with my gas. I have great sphincter control.
(I waited 30 seconds and neither one of them typed anything, so I continued.)
Dr Bubonic : When I lost my throat to Cancer, instead of drilling a stoma into my throat and speaking like a burping frog, I learned to fart my words out. I feel more like a human when I chat online because people can understand me much easier. Un fortunately, I can only produce so much.. excuse me.. gas.
(30 more seconds pass)
Dr Bubonic : Don't you guys ever fart?
Dr Bubonic : Ok. Fine. I understand. You are silently awed by my gaseous ability.
Rawmeat1 : wassup
I couldn't believe it. After my heartfelt narrative about a man who could only interact with others through colonic gas spurts, the only response I could elicit from these strangers was "wassup"? These weren't nerds, they were losers. I left them alone to exchange wassups.
Rooms with a sexual theme seemed to be the most popular ones, so I decided my next room would be called, "My Mom Wants You." No sooner had I created the room than I was besieged with requests for more information about my mother and her sexual prowess:
LustOnlee: Ur mom wants me?
Dr Bubonic : Ah.. yes.
LustOnlee: So ur mom does want me!
Dr Bubonic : She goes to the highest bidder.
LustOnlee: What are we using for barter?
Dr Bubonic : Gold, wheat or sheep
LustOnlee: How bout my nude gif for her nude gif?
Dr Bubonic : Gee, Mom would love that.
LustOnlee: Tell me about mom! Does she have a gif to trade?
Dr Bubonic : Sure, I have a whole portfolio. My mom is hot.
LustOnlee: Will send if ur sure mom will send hers.
Dr Bubonic : My mom would love to.
LustOnlee: Sent. Tell mom I luv 3-ways.
Dr Bubonic : Great. I'm sure she'll be thrilled.
In less than 10 minutes I had received no less than six requests for nude pictures from a bunch of horny guys. Even a bisexual woman wanted to arrange a threesome with her, me, and my mom. I even got a lovely naked picture of my new friend, LustOnlee. I may not have found any nerds, but at least I know if my career as an entertainer never earns me any money, I can be a hi-tech pimp.
I hadn't played these games in years, but when I saw a flyer advertising a local gaming convention, I knew I would find nerds-a-plenty there. But this time, instead of trying to win them over with my rapier wit and irresistible charm, I would pommel them into submission with my superior strategic skills and iron will. Nerds Bow to Me!
I got to the airport Hyatt around 9:30 AM, an ungodly hour for a Saturday, but the place was humming with excited and sweaty taped-glasses-fat-guy-with-speech-impediment type Nerds. It was great. Even the people at the Star Trek convention would be embarr assed to be seen here. But not me.
Most of the early morning buzz revolved around a game called Magic: The Gathering. It's a simple card game in which players assume the role of a battling wizard who casts spells at other players for no apparent reason other than to kill each other. I'd s
imply buy a deck of the cards, figure it out and start beating nerds by the fistful. Unfortunately, getting into the game is a bit more complicated than buying a pack of cards. It has a built-in hook: You don't get all the cards to the game when you buy i
t. The only way to do so is to buy separate incomplete "booster" packs. Like Baseball cards, this creates a demand for rare, powerful cards driving their prices into the realm of feed-myself-for-a-week heights. The flea market area was almost
solely devoted to the feeding frenzy of rabid Magic players desperately seeking relative bargains among an assortment of shifty-looking dealers. I couldn't believe the amount of money trading hands. One player-cum-dealer confided that in one hour he ha
d made more than $500. Cash. He had spent about $200 on the cards originally, but was now tired of the game and selling off his cards. He rented a table in the flea market for a mere $15/hour and had sold about a third of his stock . Even a Wall Street
analyst would be impressed by those returns.
"I don't know who's buying all this stuff," he told me, "but if you wanted to get into the game now, you'd have to shell out hundreds of dollars to be competitive. They're nuts."
Playing the game was out of the question, but I still had to get in on this scam. I didn't have any cards of my own, so I did the next best thing. I grabbed some notebook paper and a borrowed pen, sat down at an empty table and made some "collectib le" cards of my own. One card, titled The Exploding Head card, would allow you to crush your opponents 'real-life' head with a hammer. A touching graphic demonstrated its proper use. Another allowed carnal relations with a chicken, but when played as an action, your opponent would have to go out and buy McNuggets for you. Pretty powerful if you ask me. I proudly displayed my creations on a table and waited for copious riches to sweep me over.
"What's this?" someone asked, approaching my set-up. Ahh! A sucker!
"These are a special set of cards for any collectible card game. Each one of these creations is a one-of-a-kind collectible signed by the artist and guaranteed to increase in value." He stared at them for another 30 seconds, shook his head disa pprovingly and moved on.
"Is this supposed to be a joke?" another asked incredulously.
"Does it look like a joke?"
"It's not funny." He stomped over to another table shaking his head. How dare I make fun of Magic! It was then that a Person With Badge noticed my activity and approached explaining that they needed my table, and could I please leave, etc. etc . I wonder if these people all come from the same vat. I hadn't really played any games yet, so I picked up my cards and left peacefully.
I decided to enter a tournament for a game I used to play called Car Wars. You design a fearsome battle wagon and push a cardboard representation of it around a piece of graph paper while ramming and firing weapons at other player's cars. I used to be goo d and had won a customized nylon autoduelling windbreaker in a 1986 tournament. These guys had a huge assortment of books, rules supplements and magazines I had never seen before. They spoke in jargon that would make a CB armed trucker proud. "I go t an incendiary VMG in the front with 2 linked HDFTs to the left. You're gonna burn!" someone bragged. Uh yeah, me too good buddy. I was in for trouble.
Out of the arena gate, my car pounded away at my nearest foe with my giant blast cannon. I sped up and plowed into his side at 60 mph, crushing the driver against the arena wall. A Kill! Spittle foamed at the edge of my mouth as bloodlust filled my war
rior-soul. It was then that another player, the Rules Monger, first showed his true coward-self. "You have to roll the dice now," he said.
"To see if you are unconscious. Look on page 72. It's an optional rule. You have to roll two dice to see if the impact stunned you." I didn't remember this rule, but I hadn't played the game in a long time so I rolled the dice. I rolled hig h, indicating my dazed driver was now semi-conscious. As my car drifted helplessly, the Rules Monger whipped around and plowed into its damaged front end. Pretty convenient, remembering an optional rule like that. His car's reinforced bumper plowed thr ough my front end, the engine, the passengers, and out the rear of my car leaving a hollow tube of twisted metal on the arena floor. He went on to kill 3 other people too, winning the first round of the competition. A friend of his came into the room and asked how the game went for him. "I wish you were playing. Nobody here is very good," he said loudly enough for everyone to hear. Either he was going down the second round, or I was going to wait by his car in the parking lot and beat him up .
The second round started well. I blasted away the tire of one player, rammed the front of another, and set fire to a third. I was racking up the kills! The Rules Monger was quiet. He only needed to kill one player to cinch the tournament and was circli
ng, waiting. After a few rounds of waiting he started to crack. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't kill anybody. Near the end of the game, it came down to me, the Monger and a severely damaged third car. Mr. Monger pounced on the crippled target
, ramming him from behind. The other car miraculously maintained control as Rules whipped by at 110 mph. Then I came up from behind and shot his tire out, cinching the lead in kill points. It was just me and Monger... and I was winning. His car was in
better shape than mine, but he looked really nervous. Did he know something I didn't? I studied the board. From the sludgy pit of my brain, an idea surfaced. No, better than an idea. A rule.
"If I can get my car out of the arena now, I have enough points to win, right?" I watched Senior Monger twitch.
"Yeah, you don't have to kill me," he admitted, "You'd win." I punched the accelerator of my cardboard car and sped out the arena to victory. I had out ruled the Monger himself. The nerds around the table congratulated me and tried to strike up conversations asking for advice and tips. Mission accomplished. I had won the momentous battle and the respect of my Nerd peers. For a brief instant I was King of The Nerds. It was late, I was tired, so instead of basking in my new found gl ory, I mumbled some thank-yous and left.
The blue ribbon I won is stuck inconspicuously between some Domino's coupons and my forged Employee of the Quarter certificate on my refrigerator. It's there to remind me that I could be a self-aggrandizing, self-important nerd too. When I think about i t, the only difference between acceptance among these hard-core dweebs and the "popular" kids is the criteria they judge you by. Rejecting physical prowess and sexual conquest, the Nerd judges you based on your score at Pac-Man, your SAT score, and the size of your comic book collection. Generally, both groups are dead serious about their chosen pursuits and act threatened when confronted with irony or humor. That isn't to say I've given up on my new nerd pals either. I have since found frie nds, on and offline, who share a similar love for the same nerdy things I do but don't take them so seriously. I may not have taped glasses, a pocket protector, or be devoted to Tolkien, but I'm still gosh darned nerdy. I have to go kill a Dragon.
COOLUMBIA HOUSE OF VD
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The Journal of SSubstance, Wit,and Dangerous Masturbatory Habits