What better way to procrastinate than to take off on a short work trip with Stark. I wanted to go. Up until the final moment of departure, I wasn’t even entirely sure that I could. Regardless of anything going on in our lives right now, work is overwhelming enough. The to-do list is quite literally endless and I have a hard time not making major leeway on these types of things on a day-to-day basis. But, I trusted that it was just one of those things where stepping back would make it all work out and disregarded the idea of that stepping away from everything else, like moving, might make the following week that much crazier.
When it came down to it, I couldn’t NOT say goodbye to Stark’s team. The people he works with are like family, and really, there would be no better way than to hang out in the end like we initially did, all together, in the beginning.
So I worked nights and extra hours on the weekend so I could squeeze in attending this conference with all of them. I could only vaguely understand most of what was going on as I can’t claim to have been any kind of computer professional for over a decade now, and in that kind of time, a lot of things can change in the world of technology.
Either way, I enjoyed geeking out. I was more exciting to attend each morning than Stark seemed to be. I quite literally was jumping up and down by the second day. I was all about being in the middle of it all – learning geek, speaking geek, eating with geeks of all kind daring enough to have their laptops out as we all gathered around, troubleshooting an intense, multi-level puzzle made by geniuses for geniuses.
Most of the time, I was in the element. The fact that I brought no makeup and hadn’t brushed my hair in days meant nothing to me surrounded by an entirely different breed of people, raised to defend their own oddities by confidently being… different. It was the new norm, and quite honestly, it is a norm I didn’t even know I had been missing. I took in a new energy and tapped into an old version of myself that seemed cool and complete.
Other times, I was more of a fly on the wall, observing as “someone different,” as I couldn’t really group myself in with any of these people, entirely. The fact that I was a girl alone seemed to make me stick out like a sore thumb. Most of the girls there came in three varying packages of – notsureifthatisreallyagirl, misplaced business woman, and some kind of Hacker-esque goth mix.
Most of the time, I could walk through the hallways unnoticed, but it was hard to refrain from an obvious LOL when on several occasions, someone would run into me and just before grunting some level of social awkward apology, they’d instead give me a wide eyed trip take as if it were the first time a female had come into contact with them. Most of the time you could see small groups of two or three walking on the other wide of the hallway catch my eye from just a few feet away and continue starring even after they were long past me. They looked at me as if I were some kind of foreign object or an animal never seen before.
The first few times this happened, I looked down at myself wondering what was wrong. Did I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe? Was there something on my face? But these are the type of people who would understand that kind of common fallacy. Someone would tell me, and I’d wager a bet that they’d even manage to be nice about it if they even noticed at all. Was it my jeans? Were they too fancy? I made a point to fit in. I didn’t wear shorts or come in a swimsuit top like any other woman outside this weird world of lock pickers and code breakers. I wore jeans; just plain old blue jeans and a black Tshirt. So eventually, I just got used to it.
By then, I was one of them again. At least for a brief moment, I felt like I was. I sat scarfing down a stale cheeseburger and drinking an energy drink while I focused on the puzzle before me, completely unaware that the computer-holding-people around me had programmed something and already hacked the numeric code AND the hex that came after. Still, I wanted to do it myself and I did. I did it quickly. I managed to take in the entire concept and find the pieces to the puzzle on only the third try. I felt like I was contributing until it was pointed out to me, in very nerd-like confidence, that I wasn’t quite as robotic in my mental capacity as thought and that I shouldn’t feel bad that I won’t be able to solve the entire game. It was, after all, for geniuses.
Despite my interest and my desire to work with Stark one-on-one in a whole new realm of gamescouplesplay, I gave up and turned to my work for the rest of our weekend there, putting it away late into the evening and packing it up only when we ventured on to Southern Utah to say goodbye to what will forever be known as “Our Place.”
To Be Continued…