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Sex and the Single Geek

March 26 1999
by Del Miller
Contributing Columnist


It ain't easy being a geek. Not if you are also a red-blooded American male with all the hormonal baggage the honor entails. Computing just isn't a high profile spectator sport and as a life-of-the-party sort of attraction it ranks behind lampshades on the head and swallowing the tequila worm as means to impress the female of the species. Muscling out rock stars and football players for the attentions of the opposite sex puts us all at roughly the same competitive advantage that petunias might have in the Amazon rain forest.

Not that there isn't a boatload of virtue to claim from ones digital prowess, but that peculiar propensity for transistor-transistor logic somehow interferes with satisfying those other undeniable drives, and no, that doesn't refer to the rotating media type either. It's just that when your best friend is made of cold, hard, doped silicon rather than warm, soft, pheromone infused flesh, obsessions with the former tends to dissuade the latter from displaying similar interest in you. What to do?

Australian bowerbirds seem to have worked out a remarkable protocol for attracting a mate, in which the male simply builds a bright, shiny, colorful shrine to women. In a gratuitous appeal to his prospective lady's vanity he arranges available foliage into a little birdie bachelor pad and then adorns his creation with bright leaves, pretty flowers, shoestrings, beer can tabs, chewing gum foil and anything else that looks shiny and rare -- or in more human terms, I suppose, expensive. The females fly around until they spot a particularly pretty display, drop in for a look-see and, if suitably impressed, they stay for a bit of tailfeather ruffling.

Alas, human females aren't so easily netted. The sophistication that goes with large forebrains means that it takes more than fawning, lower order tricks of desperate males, such as bribing the girls with baubles and fancy bits. Right?


Let me explain this doubtful distinction through the the device of an absolutely true story:

I had lived in Southern California for only a few months when a bad case of diseased karma caused my car to break down against the shoulderless barrier of the innermost of twelve lanes of the Santa Monica Freeway on a desperately hot, friday afternoon, during the rush hour kick-off of a Fourth-of-July weekend, smack in the middle of south-central Los Angeles.

On a good day, the Santa Monica is the busiest freeway in the country but on a holiday weekend it is insane. Put a broken down car in the middle of it and modern psychiatry soon runs out of appropriate terminology. I sat helplessly in my dead car as traffic crawled viscously around me, giving my fellow motorists both time and proximity to offer pointed suggestions in the most surly of fashions. They weren't at all helpful, but I still felt obligated to do something, so I climbed through the window and into the eight-inch gap between my car and the center divider to assess my options.

Perhaps the surface of Venus would have been less hospitable to human life but not by much I reckon. The air temperature was well into three digits and the wind blast from the semis on the other side of the divider were both bone-rattling and instantly desiccating. The tropical sun blazed and the pavement radiated the sort of heat that made you feel like a potato chip. The elevated roadbed was rocking in earthquake fashion and the million or so piston engines, the slap of tires on expansion joints, the wind noise and blaring automobile horns made a horrifying racket. My clothes were soaked with sweat and I was seized by a very strong desire to be with my mother.

Salvation was a mere hundred feet away but unfortunately the most direct route stretched in front of a large number of very annoyed individuals who wished I were dead. With limited options, I decided to be the first person in history to hitch-hike sideways across a highway. Gulping, I boldly stuck out my thumb and smiled as friendly a smile as I could muster. Good samaritans were in short supply that day, however, so I stood there, seemingly forever, pleasantly grinning in rising panic until finally someone stopped.

My savior was a happy, happy Mexican driving a beat-up, backfiring '51 Chevy pickup with chicken feathers all over the cab and racks filled to the sky with migrant farm workers. He spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish, so I tried to explain, using only hand signals, the unlikely concept that I only wanted to go to the opposite shoulder. Skeptical but smiling, Senor Friendly ruefully shook his head and accommodated my request with a traffic maneuver I've seen performed only by Shriners on motorcycles. This move pretty much destroyed any tattered remnant of traffic flow but he did manage to reach the edge of the road where he left me to find a payphone deep in the bowels of the worst neighborhood in Los Angeles.

I was looking especially dapper in my silk tie and european cut suit, there under the San Pedro overpass, amidst the urban tumbleweeds of trash bags, newspapers and dangerous looking winos. I eventually found a working telephone and began discussing the location of reputable mechanics with the recorded voices of automated information attendants. I wasn't getting anywhere with this and all the while, in my mind's eye, I could see my car being parted out like a carp amongst piranha. You can imagine my mixed relief then, when I spied a tow-truck clanking merrily past with my car.

In a striking and ironic negative-image of O. J.. at the airport, I raced three, very sweaty blocks and jumped into the cab with the startled driver. Fast talk and twenty dollars persuaded him to take the car to a mechanic instead of the police pound.

After settling things with the terribly amused mechanic, [Note: I am the only person I've ever known who ACTUALLY had sugar put in their gas tank - yet another aspect of the dating business here -- but that's another story.] I found a nearby bar and took a sponge bath in the restroom with paper towels and a World electric hand dryer, then returned to the bar and devoted my full attention to drinking all the liquor they had.

With the aid of the alcohol, I finally loosened up enough to survey my surroundings. It was a trendy establishment, just off Wilshire Boulevard with a well heeled clientele. My luck appeared to be improving. Then suddenly an incandescently beautiful young woman approached and asked if she could join me. I assured her that she was welcome by stuttering and casually drooling Vodka off my chin. She picked up on my cue and began some friendly small talk:

	She: "You live around here?"
	Me: "Not actually, home is on the other side of Pasadena."
	She: "What brings you here?"	
	Me:  "My car died on the freeway, it was awful."
	She: (touched) "Really, what kind of car is it?"
	Me:  "It's a mustang"
	She: "...Oh." (Turns on her heel and walks off)

If this young lady had been a bowerbird, then my poor car would have represented a rather shabby bower. She was obviously looking for shinier, prettier trinkets -- like say, a BMW or a Porsche.

The point here, is that the difference between a bower-chick and a human-chick is distressingly, vanishingly tiny. Just to see how tiny I propose a small thought experiment:

Imagine you're attending a truly nice party, drink in hand, standing stag and enjoying yourself. Your endocrine antennae are pulsing at red alert, on the lookout for the woman of your dreams, or at least the woman of an off-hour, idle thought. Suddenly, the crowd parts and there she is, all slinky and enticing. You sidle up and begin the conversation which naturally turns to the subject of your personal interests. Despite the inner voice telling you its a mistake, your naivety circuits cut in and, to your horror you hear your own, actual voice informing this nubile young thing that you have a computer. She blinks once and you can almost see that faint glaze spreading over her iris. She haltingly, as if against her own better judgment, asks you about your computer. Being on your own turf inspires a wave of foolish confidence and you pull yourself to your full upright and locked position, suavely straighten your lapels and give your head that debonair shrug of the supremely confident, and you say, "Well, little lady, I have a Packard-Bell 601 with Intel inside, and is it ever a beauty!"

The strange little gulping noise from her throat, would ordinarily be message enough but you're revved up, and you start to tell her about the clock chipping you did last weekend and how you had to hack the DLL in order to get the IDE address to register. She starts to backpedal as you describe the ordeal of finding the correct dip switch setting for your new modem. With wild hand gestures you launch into the details for finding the secret passage from level 7 to level 8 of the game you've been playing over the net, but the object of your desire has fallen to the floor clutching her throat. As you pound the hors d'ouerve table reliving the thrill of blasting demons from the pits of hell with the photon blaster you found on the third moon of the planet Okra, you feel strong hands dragging you away from her horrified face. Your still-ranting self follows a neat ballistic arc from the doorstep to the yard outside, body aquiver with untold tales from the wild world of computing.

It suddenly occurs to you, as you lay there in silence with your nose buried to the cheekbones in damp sod, that you've made a foolish, stupid mistake. You should never have used the photon blaster on a demon, that's a job for an anti-matter grenade!

You claw divots from the lawn charging for home with the sure-fire route to level 12 seared into your brain. Rounding the hedge you crash headlong into little miss succulent who is now leaving the party with the semi-literate, drummer from a local thrash band. He punches you.

Sure, its not a pretty picture, but it is one to which all of us geeks can relate. Hey, I was young once too, you know.

But it needn't turn out that way. Replay the same scenario with one small change and see the difference:

You're at the same party, standing by the wall with a drink in your hand. You have the same desire to propagate the species coursing through your veins and associated organs. Suddenly the crowd parts and again, there she is. You maneuver closer, make your howdy-do and the small talk ensues. She asks what you like to do and just as before, you mention your computer, but this time, quicker than the dying twinkle of a heavily glazed eye, you quietly say, "I've got a Mac" Intrigued, she arches an eyebrow and you add, "'s Strawberry."

You can faintly hear the soft, angelic, butterfly music of feminine eyelashes a-flutter. "What," she asks, her voice suddenly husky, "do you use it for?" You turn your eyes to an imaginary star and answer, firmly but simply, "I ...CREATE!" She swoons. She is yours forever.

At least that's how it happened to me.

So, you see, all this arguing about price/performance ratios, software availability and ease of use are entirely beside the point. The real value of a computer - or anything else for that matter, is not a matter of specifications. What the Macintosh gives us is something that SpecMarks can't buy.

It gets us women.

about the author

Del Miller is a mechanical engineer by education but he has spent the last decade selling embedded computers into the Aerospace industry.

He lives in a quiet canyon in southern California, with a wonderful woman and way more cats than the law should allow. In his spare time he designs sensing equipment for materials testing applications, reads about the future and tries vainly to keep his opinions to himself.

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