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The Problem with Someday My Geek Will Come


Image: Pascal via Flickr

 I opened the Lego Wedo program and stared at the blank white screen.

“This isn’t what it’s supposed to look like,” I explained to the principal. I was in her office, planning Hour of Code for December. We were planning to use the Lego Wedo set with the kindergarten and first graders. They’d build Lego robots and then program them to talk and move.

I tried closing and opening the program again, the equivalent of the Fonzie jukebox punch, but the screen remained white. Much to my relief, the principal suggested that we pull the Wolvog out of class to fix it for us. I would have never suggested it myself, but I had secretly been hoping that someone would come along and solve this problem for me.

He popped into the office, took a look at the laptop, and informed me that either Flash was interfering with the program, or more likely, I had outdated software since I had only upgraded it on the Mac. Then he took his chipper little self back to third grade reading.

At home, I left the number for tech support up on my computer for days. Okay, weeks. I knew I had to call tech support in order to get the software upgrade sent to me, but it seemed like an overwhelming task in comparison to simple-for-me activities such as cooking or writing. It would mean uninstalling a program and reinstalling the new one.  Fine, not a big task in the grand scheme of things, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

As I was brushing my teeth one morning, I realized what I was doing. I was waiting — like Snow White and her prince — for my geek to come.

My subconscious game plan was to leave this task until last minute and then ask Josh to take care of it. It’s a strategy that has worked well for me in the past. I often hand over pieces of technology to Josh and say, “please fix this” even though he technically has less technological knowledge than I do. What he lacks in capabilities he makes up for with confidence and a willingness to try things out until he figures out what works.

Once I realized that’s what I was doing, I sucked it up and dialed Lego’s tech support number. Within fifteen minutes, we had uninstalled and reinstalled the new software. Easy peasy with the guy’s instructions over the phone; not really something I should have dragged my heels on for weeks.

There are plenty of other places in life that have higher stakes where I’m willing to jump in feet first and take a chance. Parenting comes to mind. I rarely question my parenting choices or drag my heels despite not having any special child development knowledge. I don’t think twice before playing with recipes despite having no culinary training. There are too many places in life where I don’t wait for someone else to come along and do things for me including home repair. I am more comfortable charging ahead with redoing our bathroom on my own than I am calling Lego Wedo support. What about technology makes me so nervous?

Is it because until recent years, girls weren’t encouraged to engage in the STEM fields so we got the message that we should look but not touch (and certainly not do anything as hands-on as actually taking care of our own computers)? Or is it that technology is actually more difficult than raising human beings or creating a new recipe from scratch? Uh… no.

But now that I’ve identified the problem, there is no way in hell that I’m going to let the ChickieNob grow up waiting for her geek to come. I’ve taken out the snap circuits and we’re starting there; teaching ourselves tiny projects from the booklet. It’s right on par with our lack of technological knowledge, and it’s a good starting place to build from; getting comfortable with sticking our hands amongst wires and switches. When we realize that we haven’t electrocuted ourselves (can one electrocute themselves with snap circuits? I’m not entirely sure), we’ll move on to more difficult things until the day when we’re soldering our own motherboards.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Were you taught to wait for your geek to come, or were you encouraged to explore the STEM fields?

cross-posted with GeekDad


1 Tracie { 11.10.13 at 8:36 am }

I grew up with a dad who sold and fixed computers for a living. He was into fixing, but not at all into teaching. So while it was nice to have all that free tech support around at a moment’s notice, I grew up not knowing how to actually do a single thing to fix a computer by myself. On top of that he instilled in me a great fear of hiring someone to fix my computer with all of the horror stories of having to fix things that were made worse after already being “fixed” by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

I think I need to look for some snap circuits so I can learn to be my own geek. I should probably start by looking up what exactly a snap circuit is.

2 Natalie { 11.10.13 at 8:52 am }

I was the oldest, so the first to really use our new computer when we got it way back in the 90’s, figuring it out for the whole family. I also had some small computer games, one of which allowed me to create simple programs in BASIC. In school I really loved CAD (designing architecture on the computer, though I loved it on paper too) and excelled in my computer classes. I was encouraged to continue pursuing it. I ended up going to college and getting a degree in computer programming – I was one of about 4 girls in the entire program and the only one who majored in programming rather than networking.

Of course I don’t use it now and I really don’t want to spend my life sitting at the computer programming, but needless to say I am typically the one in the house who fixes computers, installed our home network, and maintains everything. 😉 My hubby is no slouch, he builds his own computers and can maintain his own stuff, but when shit goes haywire it’s me who has the background and patience to dig through it.

I’m actually now wanting to get a degree in biology so I can pursue reproductive endocrinology, maybe even combine my knowledge of computers with biology to do some cool stuff in research and labs and who knows.

I’m so excited to do snap circuits and stuff like that with my girls. Our house is exceedingly science-friendly.

3 Tracie { 11.10.13 at 8:59 am }

Follow-up comment:
I have been having issues with my wireless router for a couple of days now, and getting my tablet to connect to it (it suddenly stopped working). After reading this, I went on a search for possible answers, tried several, found one that worked, and am now the happy owner of a fixed router, and a tablet that is connected to the internet again. Thank you for inspiring me to be my own geek this morning!!

4 A.M.S. { 11.10.13 at 9:37 am }

Hmmm. I was one of those kids who used to love to take her toys apart just to see if she could put them back together again. Even now, my burning desire to “just see what’s in there” constantly wars with my more mature awareness that poking a hole in the gel-filled wrist rest so I can see what it feels like will ruin it permanently. One of my favorite toys at around age 8-12 was one of those 50-in-1 electronic experiment boxes. It let you do things like run wires to connect a battery to a lightbulb, or to create a telegraph and had capacitors and resistors and all sorts of cool bits and bobs. I learned two things from these early experiments with a set of jewelers screwdrivers and my various toys – never be afraid to just dive in and always be prepared for the loss (with the subset of: if the value of the object is greater than the value of the entertainment of taking it apart then RESIST! I would NEVER attempt to see the innards of my iPhone! ). Take notes and/or photographs along the way. Look online for schematics or instructions. And have fun!

Now that I think back, I have vague memories of being found sitting in my room, surrounded by the parts of some toy and my mother demanding to know what in the world I was doing. Since that time, I’ve fixed countless washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, weed eaters, sewing machines, vintage cameras and battery operated toys. I do live with a computer geek, so I’ve never really needed to get into the physical guts of a computer and I’m more of a screwdriver and wrench girl than a soldering iron girl but I will dive in to the very heart of the operating system without a second thought.

5 Deb { 11.10.13 at 11:03 am }

Yes, I have gotten lazy in some respects with computer and phone issues because DH is an IT manager so it is just easier to have him deal with it. It also doesn’t help that earlier this year I tried to save us some funds by clearing out a drain clog on the washing machine only to ruin the kitchen floor. Needless to say, right now I’m a bit gun shy on fixing things myself ;/

6 Another Dreamer { 11.10.13 at 12:10 pm }

Other than using software on my computer… I don’t know how anything works. It actually gives me migraines staring at the screen trying to figure things out. My husband is the computer guy, a software developer, and I let him handle everything. I whine that I can’t get something to work and I have him fix it.

I don’t think it has anything to do with society telling me I can’t, or growing up thinking I couldn’t. Honestly I grew up without computers, we didn’t own one until the late 90’s, and that was at my dad’s house so I only used it while on visitation (every other weekend). I took computer classes in school mainly for Power Point, and did awful learning the keyboard with Mavis Beacon. In high school it got easier to use, and I worked with editing software for typography and print… but there it is, I was only learning how to use specific software in school… Word, Photoshop, Excel, Pagemaker, Power Point… not about computers themselves or how the software works.

7 Heather { 11.10.13 at 1:11 pm }

You make a good point. My husband actually works with computers for a living so it is easy for me to just ask him for help. But if I think of everything I have achieved by myself on the computer I have to give myself credit. A website, a blog… lots of work and learning. And so much can be discovered and self taught by using Google!

8 LC { 11.10.13 at 2:05 pm }

Computer-wise, well, I have a PhD in CS. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I can do all related to computing, but I get really annoyed when the voice on the other end of the help line asks me to reboot something (again, ’cause I did it for the metallic voice before the real voice and as the first check when whatever it was broke in the first place). I was definitely encouraged into STEM when I had an elective open in high school (Dad suggested it). I was also encouraged into my current career path by a friend in college.

Now we’ve got a huge box of Duplos and both versions of GoldieBlox for our 2YO DD. And with two CS professors for parents, she’ll definitely be encouraged in STEM or music or whatever she wants to do.

The thing I need to remember to encourage her with is with around the house repairs and car stuff. I definitely came from a house where if something broke, you called the appropriate person (plumber, electrician, etc.) to repair or replace. My husband always surprises me when he suggests that we just do it ourselves. Seriously, I had no idea how easy it was to replace a garbage disposal until he did it a few years ago. I could probably change a tire if I needed to, but my first thought would be to call AAA.

9 Mali { 11.10.13 at 5:54 pm }

Wow, I’m far too old to have been brought up a geek! I had very poor primary schooling in the maths and science field , and so never developed a love for it (despite being very good at them in secondary school, and loving them now). To me that’s the best thing you can do – develop a love of science and maths as early as possible. (And yes, our language differences show through with the math/maths divide.)

My husband is an electrical engineer and was into computers relatively early (we got our first one back in the 80s), so he did a lot of our early stuff that was complicated, built some of our earlier PCs, etc. But I’ve found being self-employed has made me much more self-sufficient. I don’t code (other than basic html) and I’m thinking of doing some codecademy courses, but I’m good at finding solutions on the internet, downloading software etc etc. But I always feel secure knowing that the Geeks on Wheels are only a phone call away.

10 Battynurse { 11.10.13 at 9:21 pm }

Totally taught to wait for my geek, prince or whatever to come. Taught that my life would be maybe some menial part time job while I devoted my life to God, husband and children. I’m getting better at doing for myself although I guess I still have a ways to go.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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