As You Like It: NerdvanaBy Joan Florek Schottenfeld
A while ago I confessed that though I love Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Chekhov, at the end of a long, stressful day all I want is a television show that helps me escape. I want to be entertained, taken completely out of my world, and if you can make me laugh, that’s a bonus. So I watch soap operas like Downton Abbey, science fiction like Dr. Who, beloved reruns from the 1980s, and the occasional new show. Sometimes Lisa recommends programs that she loves, but usually I come upon a show as I’m hopefully switching channels.
This year I’m hooked on The Big Bang Theory. Maybe the theme song sung by the Bare Naked Ladies caught me, or maybe it was a snatch of scientific give and take between the characters. Whatever it was, I’m now a groupie. The show is about a group of young scientific guy-geeks who interact with the “normal” girl next door, who has more common sense than all of them put together.
The characters have grown interesting. Originally the four guys had no clue how to interact with anyone of the opposite sex. (In fact, Sheldon had no idea how to interact with anything that had a pulse.) Now they are at the point where one of them is engaged and two are in serious relationships. It’s also a kick that one of the actresses, Mayam Bialik, who plays a neurological scientist, is one in real life. Unfortunately, I’ve learned more about science watching this show than from my days spent in high school science class.
When Mariel came home last month for a couple of weeks, we continued a ritual that we had begun when she was last here — watching my new favorite show together. Last summer I had mentioned to her fiancé, Dan, that I enjoyed the program. It turned out that he liked it as well, so he began regaling Mariel about the funnier aspects. So she decided to join me to see what the fuss was all about.
So there we were: me, Mariel and Snoopy perched in front of the TV, watching the trials and tribulations of Leonard, Howard, Rajesh, Sheldon and Penny. When some arcane bit of scientific information was included in a joke I would ask Mariel for clarification and then the show would become even funnier. But then suddenly Mariel started to laugh for no reason that I could understand.
“What’s so funny?” I asked her.
“I suddenly realized,” she said, “that the reason we like this show so much is because both Dan and Daddy are also science geeks!”
I thought for a moment and knew she was right. Both were engineers who preferred to spend their time figuring out a problem with a piece of machinery or a computer over socializing with humans. Dan illustrated that the day that I asked him to download the Indiana Jones ringtone for me. My problem was that I couldn’t find it in the online iCrap store and so had no idea how to get it onto my phone. I figured Dan could do it in five minutes.
When I asked, he gladly agreed. However, an hour later he still had no success. For some reason he had to update my phone, my computer, my entire life before Indiana Jones could be persuaded to play his theme song on my phone.
“Apple always makes easy things difficult!” he told me. I told him that he was wasting his time, to stop trying because it just wasn’t worth it.
“Are you kidding?” he answered. “It’s the principle of the thing now. There’s no way Apple is going to win!”
So he spent the entire afternoon wrestling with that piece of bitten off fruit until finally he got it. Only a true nerd would do that. We liberal arts majors don’t have that kind of insane focus. I once saw Dan spend an entire day staring into his computer doing a homework assignment, barely moving until he finished. Very impressive and very scary!
And Steve? When he was in high school he was nerd captain, or as it was otherwise known, captain of the computer squad. Before that, in elementary school, he had been on the AV (audio-visual) squad, another geek-infested group. Later we found out that Dan had been on that as well. They claimed that it was a great way to get out of class, but Mariel and I knew better. It involved endlessly tinkering with machines, and that was the very air they breathed.
Steve even had a white plastic pocket protector filled with pens, along with the white socks and black-framed glasses to go with it. He was the height of geek fashion. In fact, thinking back, I guess you could say that he was a pioneer nerd, playing around with a computer the size of a classroom, solving equations with relish, and playing the earliest computer adventure game with only a printer to guide his way. He got me caught up in that idiocy as well. We spent months trying to find the keys to various doors and swords to dispatch a never-ending stream of dragons, snakes and trolls.
So Mariel is probably right. We enjoy The Bing Bang Theory because those guys are basically our sweethearts — awkwardly navigating the social aspects of life, but still the sweetest, truest guys around. May they live long and prosper!
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