Geek to me

How I learned to stop fretting and love a computer nerd

by EVE KRAKOW

I HAD BEEN GOING OUT WITH HIM for about four days. It was summer, and we were lying on a blanket in the park, shaded by the whispering leaves of a tall maple. I was trying to remember the age of a mutual friend.

Without saying a word, he sat up and pulled out a tiny zip-lock bag from his backpack. From it, he extracted a square of paper and unfolded it until it turned into an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet containing—in 6-point print—the addresses, phone numbers and birth dates of all his friends and acquaintances.

What kind of alien life-form was I dealing with? He had thick eyeglasses and mad-scientist hair. He wore T-shirts commemorating computer conferences. He used CD-ROMs as coffee-table coasters, and his china cabinet housed electronic gear.

I knew he was a computer programmer, a self-proclaimed “geek.” But I had counted on there being some self-mocking irony in his proclamation.

Instead, he was the kind of guy who opens the door for you and offers to carry your bag. He was attentive, ready to take you home as soon as you showed signs of tiring. And he could write e-mails with a humorous edge. Plus, behind those thick lenses he had large blue eyes.

When he asked me out—for coffee, then for dinner, then for dancing—I could not quite say no.

I came to understand that he didn’t mean to be socially inept; he was just on a perpetual quest for efficiency. He wrote his grocery list on the back of debit-card slips. He named items in the shortest possible form. Sometimes it was “tom,” for tomatoes. Once I stood looking at the list on his refrigerator, trying to figure out what “zalm” was.

“Oh, that’s ‘salmon’ in Dutch,” he explained.

He had a huge music collection, which he had meticulously converted into MP3s and sorted into categories on his computer. But I couldn’t figure out how to access his music because, of course, he didn’t use Windows; he used Linux.

When my birthday rolled around, he secretly e-mailed my friends and relatives to ask if they wanted to chip in to buy me an LCD screen for my office computer. He suggested a PayPal account. (My parents preferred to drive over and hand him a check.)

At some point—I can’t say when—I began to use double digits to program the microwave (33 seconds, 99 seconds—so much faster!). I organized my storage closet, adopting his system of labeling each box with a letter and keeping a list on the computer of what each contained. I even found myself perusing one of his favorite Web sites, the one with the motto, “News for Nerds.”

Soon I concluded that resistance was futile. I moved in with him that fall, only to discover that living together meant…sharing all his toys. I could borrow his laptop and sit in the backyard, writing e-mail via our wireless connection. We could sit in bed and watch DVDs on his laptop’s deluxe 16.1-inch screen. Once, we went to a cheap motel and cozied up with old episodes of “Fawlty Towers.”

There were practical advantages too. He offered personalized tech support, 24/7. He provided free Web service, thanks to the server in the living room. And he could combine all the leftovers in the fridge into a scrumptious meal. Most of the time.

He was always open to trying things, whether it was a camping trip, a new restaurant or a classical music concert. And he always seemed to be able to put what I was feeling into just a few concise, efficient words.

Six months after our first date, we were sitting at a Spanish restaurant. He took my hand, shyly, and blurted out, “I made a New Year’s resolution that I would ask you to marry me, and I see no reason to wait any longer.” It was January 4.

I agreed that we would send out the invitations by e-mail. He agreed to wear clean socks for the occasion. The following September, we wed.

And now, every morning I get up and face one fact: I married a geek. I made my choice, and I’ve never been happier. Now if only I could find some teacups to go with those CD-ROM coasters.


 EVE KRAKOW is a freelance writer who lives in Montreal. She is still trying to learn the Linux operating system.

 

Originally published in Smithsonian Magazine, September 2005

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