Sunday, April 01, 2012

careful where you flash that nerd card

Apparently, starting a sentence among coworkers with the words, "You know, I read an article..." has the same effect on a lively conversation as the sudden, untraceable stench of really bad gas: uncomfortable silence.

The other day I was in a meeting with a bunch of people we didn't know very well with whom we will be working closely and whose close cooperation we really need over the next 18-24 months. We were waiting for the meeting to start, so naturally the conversation turned to the children's television program, Blue's Clues.

As one of the few people in the room that hasn't actually had a child, of course it was me who informed the group that striped-shirt Steve was no longer on the show, that he "had gone away to college." I don't know where I pick up all this random information, but trust me, I have a lot of it. It was an innocuous conversation, and everyone was participating pretty enthusiastically.

But then I said, "You know, I read somewhere (not somewhere, it was Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point, but I didn't want to go all-out nerd with an attribution) that there was a lot of research and testing that went into the format of Blues Clues and that its particular format really helps kids that age learn, and it's pretty ground-breaking television for little kids."

Silence. Choked the life right out of that conversation.

A few days ago my team and I were having lunch together and shooting the breeze about how we were so sick of studying. I brought up how The Hunger Games made more than $150 million on its opening weekend.  No one had heard of the series. So I started describing the premise. They seemed kind of interested until I said, "I read an article that the author used to work in television and the whole series is structured in some ways like a play or show, into threes, and so in some ways a natural translation to screen, but despite that, some people are saying they really didn't do a good job translating it to film..."

The sound of crickets was deafening.

I didn't hear myself in those situations, but just seeing my own words here is starting to bore me. I'd better keep my reading to myself.


Shalini said...

You should come visit Seattle. I have the opposite problem where people think I'm kind of dumb because I only have a master's degree and don't know any programming languages and never took differential equations. Sigh. You can't win, right?

(And I totally read both The Tipping Point AND that Suzanne Collins worked in television (Clifford!), so you at least have bloggy company.)

cadiz12 said...

seattle is so totally on my list, i will definitely be showing up there sooner or later. i hope you'll be available for coffee.

but dang, i only have a bachelor's degree and the last programming i tried (miserably at the request of a particularly sadistic journalism professor) was Perl. plus i chose my major based on the fewest number of math requirements...

Syar said...

I have watched Blues Clues, read The Tipping Point, and also recently read a review on The Awl (in the form of dialogue between two of my favourite - but polarizing - female writers about The Hunger Games.

I would have been much less polite in that I would be all "Uh, this is quality stuff right here and y'all are the nerds for not being interested!!" But yeah, talking about TV and pop culture and pop psychology and "things you read on the Internet" (100% my go to) is always a bit of a gamble. Gotta read the crowd.

Librarian Girl said...

I see Shalini's Seattle and raise you a set of Seattle librarians. You'd fit right in! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other comments, get NEW conversation partners!!!!!! people that READ and have opinions! that's the one thing i dont miss about chicago suburbs
btw: you should see "Battle Royale" a japanese movie of which Hunger Games has totally been ripped of from!!!!! Battle Royale is real messed up sh-t!

Anonymous said...

Most conversations I have with people I work with start with "I read this article about..." but I work at. University. I would have kept the conversation going.