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Putting the Savant in Idiot Savant...or not. [Mar. 27th, 2008|08:11 am]
So, in an earlier post, when I talked about how my big brain is no proof against big helpings of stupid. (Maybe it IS proof, but I also have an uncanny ability to roll critical...which is an obscure D&D reference, for you normal people. I wanted to establish that I am millimeters away from the dork chasm, so that while I'm about to make huge crashing fun of Mensans, I myself belong to several communities -- D&D/Mythus players; Rennies; Animal Rescue -- that contain a whole hell of a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to snarking -- oh, yes!

However, when you hold a convention...O, do not Cons tend to attract a high percentage of...ummmm, those who need to get a life? In ANY genre?

Well, just as the ultra-geeky, poorly hygiened, socially impaired tend to outnumber the normals at HorrorCons, SciFiCons, Trek...no, wait, normals are like an endangered species there...So does the annual Mensa Convention tend to gather the more "interesting".

After all, if you're that smart, do you really need to travel to a large hotel and attend workshops and social events in order to stimulate your intellect? You can probably find all the intellectual stimulation you need when and where you want it -- without having to carry around a welcome packet and a name badge that brands you "Genius".

So, one year my annual personal chef convention was held at the same hotel as the annual Mensa Convention. I had no idea at first. In the airplane on the way down, I thought I had just had the misfortune to be seated next to one of those insufferable people who insists on TELLING you how freaking smart they are. (I know, having blogged about it, doesn't that make ME wear the insufferable balloon? It's my blog. I can go naked if I want. I didn't MAKE you read it.) And I fought the childish impulse I always have, which is to do an IQ throwdown - beside we were on a plane and those pulldown trays make things cramped. So I resorted to my standard response to well, almost everything that happens on a plane, which is to mumble something noncommittal and ultimately non-encouraging, sigh, roll my eyes and go back to my book.

Not that that stopped him. Then he had to throw out that he was on his way to a Mensa Convention and I thought "oh, god, what a joyfest THAT must be. And I think that three days with a bunch of chefs is trying!" and launched defensive plane tactic #2, which is to close my eyes and pretend that I was napping, hoping that he would open his book of Mind Puzzles for the Incredibly Brilliant who really should be Applying their Brain Power to doing something Useful for the Earth, rather than Wasting Time with Stupid Puzzles.

It worked and the fake nap turned into a real one and I landed in New Orleans, with a crease on the side of my face and a drool spot on my lapel.

Only to find Mr. Genius again, wandering around outside looking for shuttle buses. Only this time he was with a group of other people, all of them standing under the "Rental Car Shuttle" sign. And, hearing several of them wonder if this was the right place to pick up the Hotel Shuttle, I finally sighed, walked over and said "Um, you guys looking for the Hotel Shuttle? That would be over THERE." An argument then ensued, with several people knowing better than others, but eventually, the "Hotel Shuttle Pickup" sign I was standing under was more compelling than Mr. Genius's "I've been to this airport before" argument.

So, I wind up sandwiched in a shuttle van amongst them, praying that my hotel would be the first stop, trying to ignore any and all conversation. Until I hear, as we are on one of the elevated highways leading into the city, with the Sports Arena on the left and one of the cemeteries on the right, "Wow, this city reminds me so much of Hartford."

What? I happen to know Hartford -- and I wildly look around for signs of Hartford and I think oh, I'm going to regret this, but...."Um, why Hartford?"

"Oh, all of the tall buildings and the highway ramps."

See, I don't even have to comment here -- because you're already thinking "Wait a minute, this came out of the mouth of a genius?" Oh, yes, my friend, it did. (If you've never been to Hartford...well, it's gotten better, but really, other than a kickass stage company, some nice theatres and a worldclass museum...insurance companies is all that's going on. No cemeteries, no sports arenas, a small block or two of highrises. Des Moines might remind me of Hartford, but not New Orleans.)

Thankfully I got into the hotel, embroiled in my own Convention -- I was presenting two sessions and am usually put to work helping with set-up and wrangling -- and for a brief shining moment managed to forget all about them.

Until that evening, when we're sitting around the bar and one of my colleagues says "Hey, you notice the little stickers they have on their name badges?" Apparently the stickers had meaning, only two of which stuck in my mind, one being "I like to be hugged" and the other being "I don't like to be touched" which truthfully is a fine idea. I would have killed to put my hands on a "don't talk to me" and a "wanna go have a drink" sticker, preferable one layered over the other, Post-It Note-like.

But see, because I'm cruel and heartless (with an empty empathy pouch) the "I don't like to be touched" sticker was like a freaking Open Season sign for me and my small group of like-minded chefs. We'd get into the elevator and see a "Don't like to be touched sticker" and just gradually edge closer and closer to the person until they were cornered and fled at the next available stop.

Which was mean. But you have to understand, we had already been pushed to the limits of our endurance by these people. For starters, they were always so busy having stimulating conversations, that they would't get the hell out of the way and would block up the hallway. For seconds, is there anything more obnoxious than three days of listening to the nasal renderings of the genius children of geniuses? Look, I was one of those kids. I know -- overweight, spotty face, greasy stringy hair, rattling off all of the things I know...ugh. To be reminded was painful. To be surrounded by 100 of the little bastards...brought out the worst.

And clearly a lot of these people had never traveled or used an elevator before, because really, by the end of Day One, I was already tired of explaining that the door would not close until their backpacks were ALSO inside the elevator. And we had all thought that the kids were pranking -- getting into the elevator and pressing all of the buttons and then getting back out. But, my room being on the 22nd floor, I had a lot of time to observe behavior and found out that there an alarming number of them who would get into an elevator, turn to the side, and then back up against and lean on the buttons! Which led to me, after a long cocktail hour, entering an elevator full of Mensans who were discussing the next day's sessions, noticing that there was someone standing there with his back pressed up against the buttons, having pressed every even-floor button...I said, rather loudly "Why don't you guys have a session on how to ride an elevator, so you can stop leaning up against the stupid buttons and making me stop at every goddamn floor?" Which scared the piss out of them. And we spent the next 16 floors (stopping at every other one) with them gathered at one corner of the elevator, waiting for the pissed off lion to get off.

And don't even get me started about the evening I had to judge the cooking contest, which required me and the other four chefs to pass back and forth through a hallway going from the kitchen to the set up room -- right past a Mensa Workshop on "Effective Dating Techniques". Oh, my friends, talk about a snarkfest! Although my inner dork had to give them credit for wanting to improve themselves. Until the session got out and several members decided they were going to practice their new techniques on us. Dude, I just saw you taking a workshop on this --- go to the bar and try it out on someone who doesn't KNOW that an hour ago you were not only desperate, but unskilled.

In their favor, this came in handy for me later, as we were finally finished with the judging, the rest of the judges off to bed and I was still raring to head out and catch up with my friends who were hopping around the French Quarter. I'm brave and often stupidbrave, but even I am now old and wise enough to know that I shouldn't be heading into the French Quarter at 11pm all by myself. But lo and behold, there they all were - the Mensans from the workshop, all standing around the bar in the hotel lobby, looking uncomfortable, but really wanting to give their newfound skills a try. And of course, being dorks, still wearing their nametags. Which made it easy for me to spot a decent, friendly looking one and ask him if he wanted to head into the Quarter for a drink.

And I will say, he was a sweet guy and proof that there are nice normal Mensans who are eclipsed by the rest. Although the vampire bar and dungeon club damn near unglued him.

[User Picture]From: mistressfetch
2008-03-27 01:40 pm (UTC)
"with them gathered at one corner of the elevator, waiting for the pissed off lion to get off."

I have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

Also, why does Mensan sound like Martian? Coincidence? I think not! :-)
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-03-27 02:41 pm (UTC)
Mensan Martian Tomato Tomato


Just reminds me of one of my favourite Stephen King quotes about going to 'slay some martians'.

Give me a few too many chocolate ones and you'll hear that phrase repeatedly ;)
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[User Picture]From: pyllgrum
2008-03-27 02:32 pm (UTC)
I love it when you get rolling on a narrative.

And thanks for the tip on Hartford.
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-03-27 02:40 pm (UTC)
Ahhhhh I like being in the slow group.

That makes me funny and when I'm oblivious it's not that alarming.

I'm surprised you guys didn't do the 'pokepokepoke' at the 'do not touch' persons -- that's priceless.

Next time you hit a vampire bar let me know - my midwest sensibilities are in need of fine tuning and nothing better than an 'out there' experience to drive them back into hiding ;)
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[User Picture]From: 3fingeredsalute
2008-03-27 02:47 pm (UTC)
At the risk of an overused phrase -- this post was BRILLIANT! Thank you for making my smile so broad as to be painful while reading this.
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-03-27 03:00 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I'm that impressed with your manifold brain if you really think a weedy dweeb with a nametag was protecting you in the French Quarter. You were probably the one keeping him from getting mugged.

Story idea: diabolical Martians invent Mensa conventions as a way to gather all human superior brains in one place and then exterminate them. After observation, they decide it is better to leave this hopeless lot in the gene pool. Perhaps it was, in fact, a Martian facilitating the dating session.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-03-27 04:40 pm (UTC)
Actually, he was pretty buff -- and tall. But really, a decoy. Muggers would think he'd be their biggest threat and would concentrate their efforts on him, leaving me to wimpiest mugger. Heh-heh....
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-03-27 04:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, so you used him as the friend in that old bear joke. I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you....
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[User Picture]From: pyratelady
2008-03-27 03:17 pm (UTC)
Great story!

More proof that Big Brain does not equal Smrat. (not that you needed it)

In college I dated a guy who, in the getting-to-know-you stage, told me that he had a Genius IQ.

I have a fairly Big Brain myself, and yet I kept dating him. And I never told him that he was an insufferable, arrogant ass, even though he was.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-03-27 04:41 pm (UTC)
"yet I kept dating him." See, more proof that Big Brains can be absolutely f-ing useless when you really need them.
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[User Picture]From: ferlonda
2008-03-27 05:37 pm (UTC)
It's not the size of the brain, it's what you DO with the brain that's important. I'm thinking volley ball, tennis (for the littler ones), soccer, you get the idea. And at a Mensa convention you'd have lots to use as replacements as of course brains wouldn't stand up to volley ball, tennis, etc. for very long.

Thanks for the laugh- I needed it! I especially liked the elevator stuff and I can just see all those smartypants backed up against the wall in a nerdy herd like a bunch of particularly unappealing deer while the lioness sneers at them.

I've never liked groups. Not even the ones I've started.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-03-27 05:50 pm (UTC)
Actually, if you soak the brains in a brine solution for a few days, then hang them to air dry, they work about amazingly well as sporting objects.

Um. Not that I would know. That's just what I've HEARD.
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[User Picture]From: ferlonda
2008-03-27 06:32 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: skivee
2008-03-27 06:29 pm (UTC)
So let me see if I understand you. I should take my nametag off before using the elevator? Dating skills can be learned at a genius convention? Elevators have "Stupid" buttons?
I'm still confused.
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-03-28 04:28 am (UTC)
I should take my nametag off before using the elevator? Dating skills can be learned at a genius convention? Elevators have "Stupid" buttons?


There is a special room for extra-special geniuses at the convention. You gain entry to the room by taking your pants off before you use the elevator. When you get to the door, paste your nametag to your ass and approach the door backwards. This maneuver also works when attracting girls in a bar.
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[User Picture]From: skivee
2008-03-28 04:33 am (UTC)
"...taking your pants off before you use the elevator."
I'm confused by what you mean when you tell me to use the elevator.
It sounds kinda unhealthy.
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-03-28 10:59 am (UTC)
Marvelous! Made my morning.

You still there? Go to Irene's for dinner, in the quarter. They don't do reservations.
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-03-28 11:01 am (UTC)
Of course, now I'm wondering how the Mensa crowd handles the riddling panhandlers in the quarter: "I'll bet you $5 I know where you got your shoes..."
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-03-28 12:15 pm (UTC)
Nah, nah, this was several years ago. As a matter of fact, Christine had just swept through right before we got there -- leading to some interesting challenges for a lot of our food sessions, since a lot of the grocery stores had lost power, so getting exactly what we needed was impossible. And the convention ended right before Dennis dropped in for a visit. Luckily, one of our speakers was the chef who served on NOLA's homeland security team so we got up to the minute updates on Dennis' progress.

I know, you're thinking...chef...homeland security? Well, someone's got to organize getting volunteers, workes and refugees fed. Of course, by the time Katrina arrived...
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-03-28 12:25 pm (UTC)
...homeland security served up a great big Brownie.
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