The Secret Language of the Geek

Nothing is impossible, if you miss
enough sleep. #geekhumor circa 1990s.
I’ve always been fond of the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not taken.  I guess because I’ve taken many roads against my better judgement that have led to magical places and people.  A few dark places, yes, but that’s part of taking the road less traveled.

Back when email was the secret language of nerds and geeks because it required keystrokes and thus was scorned by management, I ran across a path which I almost didn’t take because I was certain it would lead to disappointment.

Without going into gory details, I had just gone through a divorce and, to feed myself and my children, had to take whatever work came my way, generally in stifling offices where I was the incompetent stranger. Then one day the offer came to work for a financial services company in downtown Berkeley.


The Temp

The Temp from Another Planet

I pictured endless hours of filing financial documents for a quiet, uptight, close-knit group of white-shirted, myopic, every hair in place, serious CPAs to whom I would just be “the temp.”  A disposable commodity easily replaced if I didn’t quite fit the bill, which I knew would happen because I am one of those people whose math brain is as soft as cottage cheese.  Once they figured out my secret, I would be out of there.  Maybe I’d make twenty-five dollars for half a day; five of which would be used for parking.  I’d have to report to the temp agency, another failure.

Geeks and Nerds

Nerds, Geeks and Les circa 1990

But, after being directed to the third floor of a run-down building in an area of Berkeley where homeless folk slept in the doorways and kids chased each other with knives, my soon-to-be boss greeted me with a big, bear hug and then introduced me to a smiling, barefoot swimmer/programmer whose wet towel always hung over the door to his office.  Before I’d even had a chance to remove my coat I was told one of my first duties would be to arrange the monthly blowout on the roof garden: beer, wine  and moussaka from the local Greek restaurant.  The secretary who’d been relieved of the task by my arrival warned: “No matter what you order, someone will complain.  There’s never enough wine, or it’s the wrong type of wine, and don’t get me started on the vegetarians.  Oh, and there’s one guy who who will swell up like beached whale if there’s even a smidgen of peanut oil in anything he touches.  You’ll have to give him  an immediate shot to the abdomen and a rush him to the emergency room.”  After telling me her hobby was raising silk worms, she warned with gothic sincerity that restaurants and bakeries in the area all lied about the real ingredients in their dishes.  Thus, success was not an option.  I’d found the perfect place for me.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the secret


Nothing is impossible if you miss enough sleep!

language of the geek.  Well, the department to which I was assigned,  R&D, was run by the company’s rain-maker, resident genius and madman.  He had two very special talents.  First was his mastery of the word “fuck.”  He used it as adverb, noun and adjective, winding such phrases  that it would take an exorcism to remove the resulting images from your brain.  Second, he mixed metaphors with relish, inspiring his gang of ranting social reformers, word loving nerds and arm-chair philosophers to follow his lead via email, the tool then too complicated for management to figure out.

Here are a few of my favorites:
  • th-1Don’t count your chickens before they come home to roast.
  • The whole enchilada is in a different ballpark altogether. 
  • …we sat down and computed that fucking number ‘till hell won’t come home.
  • We’ll just have to burn that bridge when we come to it. 

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