Monday, October 23, 2006

the quiescent nerd myth

as many of you know, i spent the last 3 years working as a research coordinator for the COGS, a multi-site study of schizophrenia. then, earlier this summer, a research angel came to relieve me of my COGS protocols, scheduling duties, and crashing database. i was delighted. but although i expected ms. sara goodnow to do a dynamite job in my place, i never expected her to be such a valuable asset to the 17 point scale. indeed, it turns out that sara bowls a 120, heralds from rural new york, and is dating a doctoral engineering student. these attributes make her unequivocally qualified as an informant in my latest blogging pursuit, an autobiographical biography of the other andrew (or something like that).

the felicity of sara was revealed at an off-site lunch on an otherwise gray day. seeking respite from another slice of hospital pizza, sara and i tumbled from sean's honda prelude into a philly cheesesteak dive on airport way. we made our way to the counter and pondered the menu. behind the cash register, a woman fixed me with an icy stare--apparently this wasn't the city of brotherly love. i mumbled an order. she frowned and thrust her open palm toward me. scrambling for my wallet i promptly forgot whether i had ordered the medium or large. "goose-chicken," i thought, "i really would prefer the medium," but she was already taking sean's order. "yikes." if this wasn't philly, then where was the characteristic seattle friendliness?

afraid for my food, i swallowed my curiosity. things were getting grim. in retrospect, i suppose that meant we were ripe for a miracle. after all, we tend to notice the light when it's dark not in the daylight. when our sandwiches arrived, we discussed our evening plans. a momentary burn in my throat tore my attention from the conversation. hmmmmmm, horse radish. after a swig of water, i looked up to hear sara talking of engineers, "i don't know," she drawled, "they're just really quiet...maybe it's a brainy awkwardness...."

as sara's words trailed off, my mind snapped into blog mode. yes, i thought, whether they be english profs, computer geeks, or [fill in a random intellectual stereotype, e.g., engineers], brainiacs seem to lack the natural rhythms of everyday conversation. chatting with smart folks is a bit like my morning commute. you crawl sluggishly forward, hit an open stretch after the aurora bridge, take the harbor island exit into gridlock, and then escape into the steady streets of beacon hill. start, stop, start, stop. such conversations are intriguing yet strained.

and, until recently, i would have lumped the other andrew into this category. after all, i rarely watched him interact with others, and our conversations tended to hover in a state of friendly, well-meaning awkwardness. but in the last months, i've realized that this impression of andrew is more likely an indicator of how i respond to people that i perceive as brainy than a true picture of the other andrew. perhaps it's a bit of what sociologists like to call the self-fulfilling prophecy. i think, "wow, that person is wicked smart," and then begin to waiver in my conversational confidence. i flip the censorship switch and suddenly all of my questions, all of my odd quirky perspectives, all of my conversation kindling are deemed irrelevant; they are turned to an invisible mush. perhaps then my ineptitude makes smart person uncomfortable, and, somehow sensing that i expect them to be incapable of anything but dull nerd-speak, they too stall.

if this sounds crazy, consider the following evidence from our case study: (a) over the last few months i have learned that andrew is surprisingly quite gregarious; he laughs, he quips, he speaks thoughtfully; indeed, he seems perfectly comfortable in conversation; (b) actually, my first point has so convinced me that i don't feel the need to continue with this list.

so "where do we go from here? the words are coming out all weird. where are you now when i need you...?"

andrew david. "laughing at andrew's camera skills and blogging troubles" mount pilchuck, wa.
539 to go.


Mari said...

andrew what's going on i just saw this post like 10 minutes ago...and it's 2:48 in the morning. what are you doing editing your blog at a time like this???

andrew said...

i couldn't sleep, and as i was rolling around in bed, i thought "something isn't right with that post."

and why were you up at 2:48am???

Mari said...

2:48 is prime time to view the 17-point-scale in all its unedited glory. why else would i be awake?