Friday, February 6, 2009

Real Genius

There's massive stereotype about nerds that many people stretch and apply to engineers. Large glasses, incompletely broken voices, pants that reach the ankles, braces, acne, awkwardness with women - the list goes on. While going to college in India for Electrical engg., I'd read a lot about the Star Wars geeks, Computer Science (CS) nerds, linux gurus and all that. Heck, any Star Wars wikipedia talk page will give you the feeling you're on a different planet. All impressions were gathered from videos, satires and jokes so I had this whole mental image of computer science brainiacs half a world away.

When I did get here, I realized that the non-engineers (and sometimes even non CS majors) held these stereotypes to be true, mainly because they'd met as many CS nerds as I had - none. It took me some time to get into that world, and boy was that a learning experience.

To a large extent, the stereotypes are true. But not so many of them in 1 person. Uh, not to many people in 1 lab anyway. Reality is like the assortment of fruity colorful sprinkles on an under baked cupcake. In the 2 projects I did with CS nerds, I found a handful of these curious cases. Funnily enough, most of them had girlfriends, and that was when I was single - didn't do a lot to the self-image.
Of course, I didn't go to MIT or summat and I'm told their computer labs are swarming with grown up McLovins, but I'll probably never find out for myself.

What I realized was that Americans in general have some pretty annoying habits, and they get massively amplified in geeks and nerds. To the "thank-you-come-again" Indian mind, the American accent is a lazy, slow drawl with not too distinct enunciation. A nerd speaks a lot slower and deliberately the rest of the yanks do, and it can get highly annoying waiting for him to finish.

Indians are a reactionary lot, so facial reactions are important in a conversation. Some nerds will keep their faces extremely devoid of expression while listening, sometimes not even making eye contact. When it's their turn to talk, the really self-absorbed ones will take about a minute to wind up and will not stop, making the victim pray for the fastest form of death, pain no factor.

Nerd jokes can be funny, if you understand science. Really well. Most of their humor is derived from the wry observational wit Americans are typically good at. It is however, extremely predictable, and rather focused about science pop culture - which can range from cult nerd movies to comics (paper or electronic). The response to a joke is usually a shy smile or a silent chuckle. And then more jokes. Getting caught in such a crossfire is perilous to health.

Nerds aren't that bad, really. They can piss you off at times but are pretty harmless as far as most things go. Not the Japanese/manga obsessed types. You guys are sick. Shoo, scat.