Revenge of the Nerds?

by Matthew Arnold Stern

This speech won at the Area F-4 Humorous Contest on 30 September, 2006.

I am a nerd. (The bottle-bottom glasses should be a dead giveaway.) More than that, I’m a professional nerd. I’ve worked in the computer industry since 1983. My nerd credentials are well in order.

It has become very difficult to be a nerd in America today. Why? It’s because all of you are turning into us. There are three things that used to distinguish us nerds from the rest of American society. Those things don’t distinguish us anymore.

First, we nerds are supposed to be ones who have all the technology. If you’ve seen enough Saturday morning cartoons, you would assume that we all have a science lab in the basement somewhere. For a time, though, we really were the masters of high tech. Remember when personal computers first came out in the early 1980s? Who were the first ones in your neighborhood or dorm who had their own computer? Of course, it was us nerds. And when having one computer wasn’t nerdy enough. We would go out and get two.

We heard the things you used to say about us: “Oh, my gosh Andrea! He has an Amiga and a Commodore 64? Gag! What a nerd!”

Today, everyone has technology! Everyone has a computer. Everyone has e-mail. Everyone has Web access. Everyone has a cell phone that does everyone except not ring in the middle of a movie. Everyone has a TiVO. Everyone has an iPod. I don’t even know how half the stuff works anymore!

In fact, you’re considered a freak if you don’t have technology. Here’s a tip: If you need to write a complaint letter to a business, don’t send an e-mail or write a nicely formatted business letter printed on your laser printer. Instead, go to your local antique store and buy a manual typewriter. Get one of those really old ones where you have to use a lowercase “l” to type the number “1”. I guarantee that you’ll get your money back in full.

Second, we nerds are supposed to be the unathletic ones. We couldn’t run. We couldn’t catch. We couldn’t climb that stupid rope in PE class! Today, hardly anyone is athletic anymore. Most people would rather sit on their ever-widening behinds watching TV. It’s rare to see trim, athletic people anymore. Why? Because gyms are expensive, and Cheetos are so tasty.

I watch my son hang out with his Little League buddies because they’re among the few people in school who can run for 30 feet without getting winded. They would say, “Hey, Ben! You wanna play some football? I have Madden 07 on my XBox 360!”

Third, we nerds are supposed to be the socially inept ones. I don’t know why. Is it because we’re shy? Is it because we let our mothers dress us in high school? For whatever reason, we don’t have a firm grasp of the social graces, especially when there is something hard and crusty in our nose.

Today, everybody’s rude! How many times have you seen someone on a cell phone while they’re using the bathroom! If you work in an office, no doubt you’ve heard the snip, snip, snip of someone clipping their fingernails in the next cubicle. And “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” What happened to those words? There’s no doubt that they are in the antique store next to the manual typewriters.

You may think we nerds would be happy with this change in events. At least we won’t have to eat at the lunch tables by ourselves. We’re not. We nerds look to you cool people to raise the bar for the rest of us. If it weren’t for the jocks who gave us wedgies and the cheerleaders who rejected our fumbling requests for a date, we would have nothing to shoot for.

We nerds also know that it takes all types of people to make a country great. America…is like Scooby Doo. We need Scooby and Shaggy to run away from the ghosts, Freddy to drive the van, and Daphne to get tied up so that nerdy Velma can solve the crime.

So, America, we nerds implore you! Do something that even the nerdiest of us know to do: Turn off the technology, go outside, and be with real people!

Leave Java programming and the Star Trek conventions to us.

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