Looking the Part

I’m a geek, no denying it. I proudly proclaim it in fact. I make websites, I play video games, I read comics and science fiction. I have a blog.

I can recall pointless minutae from cartoons I watched in the fifth grade but I can’t remember who won the Superbowl just a few months ago. I can’t grasp how the stock market works but I sometimes read server access logs for fun. I live like a geek, think like a geek, and alas, I look like a geek. I’m not ashamed of it, but it’s still mildly irksome to be instantly identified as a geek by strangers.

A few weeks ago I was at Best Buy looking to purchase a new wireless adapter for my laptop. A nearby shopper remarked to his wife “oh this guy will know” and turned to ask me if the model of router he was holding would allow four computers to share a connection or if one of the ports was reserved for the cable modem. I politely explained that, yes, a four-port router would allow four computers to be online simultaneously, and that the modem had a whole separate port of its own to plug into. I even went so far as to define the acronyms WAN and LAN and explain the difference between the two.

I was not wearing a blue shirt. He did not mistake me for an employee. He just saw my beard and pony tail and black-wire-rimmed glasses and knew I was surely the kind of technically-inclined weirdo who would be able to solve his problem. Not a big deal, I was happy to help, and was lucky that I actually did know the answer and didn’t have to embarass either of us. But I have to think, “is it really that obvious?”

This evening when leaving work I shared an elevator with one of my teammates (who also looks a bit geeky, but not as hardcore geeky as me) and some average-looking mid-30s white-guy businessman. The businessman immediately spotted us as geeks and asked if we were software engineers. After a split second of offense, we confirmed that we were in fact web developers, and by then the elevator had reached the lobby and we all went on three separate paths.

So as I was ruminating on the whole “is it really that obvious” question, I ultimately concluded that, well, duh, of course it is. Sometimes you really can tell just by looking at someone.

The unnamed businessman was obviously in sales, he practically oozed it. Crisp white button-down shirt, navy blue comfort-tie, short haircut, clean-shaven jaw, spewing workplace cliches like “another day, another dollar” (he really did say that) followed by the too-loud forced laugh. It’s like all sales guys are grown in the same vat. Without even touching him I know he has a firm handshake. I’m surprised I made it off the elevator without one of his business cards.

So I look like a geek and am treated as such. So be it. It’s not so bad. There are far worse things to look like. A sales guy, for example.


  1. Great! Have you thought maybe about doing something against it? Or is your story just a realization of yourself?… :)
    Have a nice day dude, Best Regards from another (half) geek from PY.

  2. It’s just an anecdotal realization of myself. I look the way I want to look, and have no desire to look how others might want me to. In fact, that’s part of what *makes* me look like a geek. I’m proud of my geekness and happy to share it with the world, but any kind of prejudice from others still stings a bit.

  3. I think it’s an honor to be recognized as a geek! You just look like a person with a brain. Everyone who has a computer has a need for you at some point or another. I can think of much worse thinks to look like.

  4. You inbred halfwit- you ignorant, isolated web wombat: never forget that salespeople produce the revenues that pay your salary, you back-alley sociophobe! Keep on trashing the people who grit through daily rejection & hang-ups and constantly put themselves out for public humiliation. I think you should expand your office-view to recognize that the sales function is most directly responsible for profitability. What the (!*#^ is wrong with you? The guy in the elevator is being himself and making a better living then you, trying to co-exist with your codgy ass. Sack up and quit analyzing your co-workers.

  5. Hi Ben, thanks for visiting. I would urge sales jerks and marketroids to never forget that they make their living selling things produced by skilled, knowledgable, creative people. Underpaid, underappreciated, disrespected men and women who actually DO what they talk about.

    I never remarked on the necessity of sales as a vocation. Of course it’s a vital part of business, that can’t be denied. But it still stands that the way sales are conducted in modern corporate America is inherently sleazy and deceptive, and career salesmen (especially in IT) tend to be smarmy suckup assbags who make their living by tricking people into spending too much money.

    I’m sure the sales guy on the elevator probably meant no offense. He probably even thought he was being friendly, and never even fathomed how insulting his stereotyping was. It’s the equivalent of asking a black man if he plays basketball. I don’t care what he sells or how much money he makes or how much rejection he suffers, he’s still an asshole.

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