Amidst the Geeks

Photo © 2012 Markus Spiering
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A hundred geeks with cameras. Yup, and I was buried smack-dab in the middle of ’em. Didn’t want to be there. Didn’t mean to be there.

I remember in a high-school science class, we saw a film of an amoeba eating a paramecium. The amoeba’s body flowed around its prey, and after it had the poor bug surrounded, it just, kinda… digested it, right there, just like that. The paramecium squiggled and squirmed, tried valiantly to escape, but too little, too late. And then—poof!—it shimmered and was absorbed into the predator. It was gone.

That was me, that poor, little paramecium. My goofy boyfriend pulled me in before I knew what was going on. And by the time I realized what was going on, I was surrounded, and being digested by an amoeba, and unable to escape.

Chet had begged me to come along. He said I’d enjoy it. For the record, I didn’t. But I was glad he was finally enjoying something. He’s been so bent out of shape since he lost his job last April. Laid off on April the first, if you can get that joke.

We scaled back on our standard of living. That didn’t bug me so much. But what really surprised me was how much it got him down. He stopped doing anything constructive, spent all day watching TV, wasn’t looking for work, said we’d do fine on his unemployment check.

We’ve been surviving on peanut butter and ramen noodles and pasta and frozen burritos. I don’t remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal.

I started by bugging him about his lack of work. He said he wanted a little vacation. I gave him a little vacation, then asked again. He said he was trying, but that nothing was available. I didn’t believe him, not that much. I asked him what job ads he had responded to each day. Most days, he just ignored me. Some days, yelled at me. I told him we could no longer afford cable TV. He convinced his parents to pay the bill.

I thought of getting ahold of a sledgehammer and having an “accident” with the TV set, but then I thought twice: we might need to sell it someday.

He was partially right, of course. There were no jobs in his field. But what bugged me most was that he was letting it get to him. His mind began wasting away to nothing, nothing at all, all day everyday. And as each day continued, he sank lower into the couch, and further into pity party.

I didn’t know how to snap him out of it. But his birthday gift did. One of his old office buddies sent him a digital camera, along with a really cool-looking book about how to take fun pictures about anything at all.

So when he threw himself into the hobby, and the hobby became an obsession, and a obsession became an endeavor, and when he began studying photography and framing and composition and lighting, and posted photo after photo to Flickr, and when he began hanging out with other camera-heads, and started talking about pursuing it professionally… I wanted to object. But not for the reason you might think. I wanted to object, because I was beginning to feel ignored.

But at least he was smiling again, and I had missed his smile. And the TV remained powered-off, except for the weekly exhibitions of his latest photos, which he would force me to watch, no matter how many hours I had worked that day.

Then, when he begged me to come to this big gathering of camera-heads, I gave in. I didn’t want to at first, but he pushed me and pressed me, and then he cuddled up next to me and told me about how much fun it was going to be to get away and that we hadn’t had a vacation in forever and that I needed a break—which was true. And he kissed me, and I melted and said yes. Sigh.

I hated it, didn’t enjoy it at all. There were no other camera-head-significant-others there. The food was okay, but the guest speaker spoke only camera-ese, and told only stupid camera jokes and camera stories. Then those assembled talked all afternoon about gadgets and techniques and awards, and showed each other the contents of their camera cases. Chet even got some business advice, which may or may not have been good advice, but he was enjoying himself, even though I had no idea what anyone was talking about.

“This is my girlfriend, Katy.”

And I smiled and faded into the background, maybe fondled a drink and tried to look interested in what they were saying while pondering the intricacies of the room’s potted flora. Too much, too far, too long. I was out of it. I so wanted to go home.

We started toward the door, walked out into the afternoon sun. I made a move toward the car, but Chet grabbed my hand and pulled me in the opposite direction. I looked up and saw that we were surrounded by a growing crowd, which was closing in around us on all sides. I was trapped, and one of the geeks with a camera was pointing it right at me. The other targets pointed their cameras back at him, but I was defenseless, hair akimbo, probably with a piece of spinach stuck between my teeth… not that it mattered, as no one could see my teeth.

The geek said, “Alright! Ready everybody?! Cheeeezzze!

And everyone said, “Cheeeezzze!

“Hold on!” He interrupted them, futzing with his camera. “Okay…”

“Quick!” said Chet. “Somebody fire before he reloads!” And raised his camera and took aim.

And that’s when the geek pulled the trigger.

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