Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stealthier Geeks

I'm now on Day Two of Doorknob Watch. After I sat around all afternoon, waiting for the guy to arrive sometime "after lunch," I got the abject apology phone call at around 7:30 in the evening. He got busy and didn't realize until then that he'd never let me know he wouldn't make it. I never really know how to handle calls like that because the instinct is to do a reassuring "it's okay," but it's really not okay. On the other hand, being mean about it does no good because it wasn't like I wanted him to drop everything at that moment and come over here, and I know that the other thing he was working on was for the father of a neighbor who had his bedroom ceiling collapse when his air conditioner leaked. That's more urgent than my doorknob. Still, time management is one of my hot buttons. I'm a big fan of under promise, over deliver. I pad all time estimates and then if I'm early, I look like a superhero. I've found, though, that there are a lot of people who are afraid to give realistic (or padded) time estimates up front. It's like they think they're making people happy by saying something will be done soon, without realizing that people will then be really irritated if they don't come through. If he'd told me he couldn't finish with the doorknob until later in the week, I'd have been okay with it and I wouldn't have spent an afternoon held hostage in my house while waiting for him to show up. Although this particular contractor does good work, I don't think I'd hire him for anything on my own because the time thing would drive me insane.

I coined the term "stealth geek" a long time ago, and it's something I've felt describes me pretty well, since I am rather geeky ("fantasy novelist" is probably about the geekiest non-technical profession around) but I don't fit the stereotypical image of a geek. This week, though, I found that I'm merely at amateur level in those, both in stealthiness and in geekiness. We have a couple of new pastors at my church, and in order for them to get to know people, they put together a number of small-group dessert gatherings at the homes of various church members. I signed up for one hosted by a friend from the choir since I figured if I at least knew the host it might minimize the potential social awkwardness. This person reads my books, but I figured she was being polite and supportive, not that she was necessarily normally into that sort of thing. She doesn't have any of the usual geek signs. Then I got to her house, and the first thing visible is the shelf in the entryway full of various Enterprise models and a life-size phaser model. Her DVD collection looked a lot like mine, but with stuff even I don't have. Later in the evening, she invited me to join her Sunday school class for a game night. I was thinking something like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, but it turned out to be some kind of adventure card game. When I said that I'm not really wired for games in general and mentioned that I'm probably the only fantasy novelist who never even tried D&D, she said her D&D group already had ten people in it. Apparently this Sunday school class is essentially a science fiction convention with bonus Bible study. I might give them a try, although they're all married, mostly with kids (and most of the kids have been in or will soon be in my choir) and mostly significantly younger than I am. So it turns out that she's both stealthier and geekier than I am.

But that wasn't the biggest surprise. Two of the other people at this gathering were a slightly older couple (they have a ten-year-old grandchild) who are involved in a lot of music things. She plays the harp and he plays the hammered dulcimer, and they demonstrate the instruments for my choir kids. He sings in the choir, and they're both really sweet about coming up to compliment me whenever I sing in a duet or quartet. Absolutely nothing about them pings my geekdar. But then they were admiring the host's DVD collection and started talking about all the Stargate conventions they've gone to. That's some Ninja Level stealth geeking. In retrospect, the harp and the hammered dulcimer might have been a clue, as they're instruments found at Renaissance festivals, but I don't get a Rennie vibe from these people.

Then there was the person I didn't know who approached me to ask if there will be more books in my series, and there was the Firefly discussion on the way out (one of the other guests complimented the hosts on "a mighty fine shindig"), and I was left rather confused. Had I been to a church event or a convention? I had no idea my church was this geeky.

On another note, if you want to make a good first impression on the new pastors, it might not be such a great idea to be holding a baby while introducing yourself as one of the few never-married single adults in the church. I'd taken her off her parents' hands so they could eat, and she was happily burrowing into my hair when it came my turn to introduce myself. I quickly clarified that I was doing early recruiting for children's choir and would be returning her to her parents as soon as we managed to extricate her from my hair (it took three people).

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