Last weekend I accompanied my 12-year-old son as he competed in an all day Rubik’s Cube competition. It was exhausting. Not for him but for me. After just an hour my voice was already hoarse from shouting, ‘Nerd. Nerd. Nerd. You and you and you. Nerds.’ But the nerds were everywhere. My sons keep telling me ‘Nerd culture is cool. It’s now cool to be a nerd.’ And I keep asking them, ‘But if you guys are nerds, why don’t you get better grades?’
During registration I noticed my son was also the only contestant not wearing glasses. I thought it would be funny to ask the bespectacled judges, ‘Is it okay that he doesn’t have glasses? Can he still compete without the full uniform?’ And they said, ‘Sure. It’s fine,’ without the slightest hint of irony. Nobody laughed. This was not my crowd.
My son succeeded where I had failed in understanding the comedy that would appeal to this kind of crowd. He was talking to his friends about how Rubik’s Cube world record holders memorize hundreds of algorithms, and how he personally has only memorized 30. He joked, ‘Some day someone will set a new record of 0.5 seconds, and he’ll be on the news and say, “How did I do it? It was easy. I just memorized 43 quintillion algorithms.”’ And everybody laughed. But nothing for my glasses joke?
Here’s another joke nobody found funny. There were two-dozen stations on this stage, and each contestant sits at a station next to a judge—all of whom were teenage girls. And I said, ‘They can’t make you sit next to a girl. That’s your Kryptonite.’ Again, nobody laughed.
I just have to accept my sons have different values that aren’t based on sports. A few years ago I got to interview my childhood hero, American football legend Joe Montana, and I wasn’t half as nervous as my son was around a teenage Rubik’s Cube ‘legend’ who was ‘famous’ for completing a cube in 5.81 seconds. He and his friend rock-paper-scissored to decide who would ask for his autograph. They were both so nervous. I told them, ‘Yeah, you probably don’t want to bother him. He must get so tired of people interrupting him to ask for his autograph. His hand probably gets cramped and it affects his cubing.’ They both sighed in unison, ‘Yeah.’
If you look forward to the time nerds get their comeuppance you might enjoy wasting your time reading about time-wasting robots built by nerds that are now competing with nerds at Rubik’s Cubes. Pretty soon robots will be stealing all the best Rubik’s Cube-solving jobs.
On an unrelated note, my oldest son and I met Daniel Radcliffe. He kept insisting he wasn’t Daniel Radcliffe, but that’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect Daniel Radcliffe to say. He also didn’t have an English accent, but Daniel Radcliffe is a pretty good actor and I’m not surprised he can pull off a convincing American accent. His driver’s license also didn’t say ‘Daniel Radcliffe,’ but Daniel kept demanding I give his wallet back or he’d call the police, which is exactly the kind of thing you’d expect Daniel Radcliffe to do.