How a Phone Case, a Halloween Costume, and a Coat Gave Me Geek “Cred”

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Miscellany | 0 comments

It all started with a purple Jack Skellington phone case. For those of you not familiar with Jack, he’s the main character in a Disney movie called Nightmare Before Christmas. I became fond of Jack because my father loved the character. After my father passed over, I would look at Jack and think of him, so putting the case on my phone was just a nice way to remember my Daddy. Plus, I happen to love purple.

EB_VaderBut a strange thing happened. An artist whose favorite color is black and who was lead singer for a band called Das Gift (“The Poison” in German), loved the case. After all, Jack’s face is a skull, so it was pretty Goth in a way. More than that, however, he loved the fact that I had the case. In his eyes, I was cooler for it.

That case finally broke, and I couldn’t find another Jack Skellington case I liked, so purchased a phone cover from an Anime called Soul Eater. It’s a wonderful red color, with a picture of Death the Kid and his two weapons, Liz and Patty. I got that case primarily to please my 10-year old daughter, who had
recently taken up drawing Manga. (Truth be told, I have only ever seen one episode of Soul Eater, the one called “The Perfect Boy,” which tells the story of Death the Kid, the son of Death, and his—quite neurotic—quest for perfect balance.) I liked the character, so when my daughter asked me to get an Anime case, it seemed a good fit.

The case had unexpected legs. I went to a meeting with a potential new client, and I set my phone face-down on the table, as I am wont to do. The client—a late 20-something start-up entrepreneur—took one look at the case, and his face lit up.

“Oh, my God, what a cool case,” he gushed. “Do you like Soul Eater?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But really I like Death the Kid.”

I could feel the shift in the conversation. Suddenly, I was simpatico—and cool. I don’t know that it was just the phone case, but he did end up hiring our company. I noticed a similar phenomenon with others—the clerk at the video game store, the waitress who took my order at Del Frisco’s, and—most significant for my purposes—the techies who work at my Internet company. Those guys would comment on the cool case and stop me in the halls to talk about anime, D&D, and YouTubers. The case had given me something in common with them, making me less of a “boss” and somehow more relatable.  However, the most remarkable thing was that they would slip up in conversation and say things like, “you know, people our age,” as if I wasn’t at least 20 years older. After all, while I may actually be the same age as some of their mothers, their mothers didn’t watch anime, so in their minds I became a peer.

I further cemented my “cred” by going to Halloween as Sailor Moon. Again, this was my daughter’s plan, but the folks in my tech-y circle could not have been more excited. After my daughter was done trick-or-treating, I went to a party and got much the same reaction—including people who wanted their picture taken with me as if I were the real Sailor Moon. I still hear about the cool factor of that costume to this day.

I began to realize the power of exposing my geek (nerd?) side—not that I kept it hidden, exactly, but subtle touches like a phone case or a choice of Halloween costume—went a long way to demonstrating commonalities that the techies in my company could relate to. Enter the coat.

Last winter, I purchased a corduroy coat from Hot Topic. I discovered the store because of my daughter’s desire for Sailor Moon t-shirts, Slytherin stuff, and Pop characters. Truly, Hot Topic is a fandom store, and I had never set foot in it until last year. Since that first fateful day, however, I have spent ridiculous money buying the aforesaid items for my daughter, but I hadn’t purchased much for myself. I mean, if it isn’t Star Wars, I’m not so into the fandom scene. That said, this coat was neat. Sort of steampunk with a Van Gough Starry Night stylized lining. It also happened to be a Tardis Dr. Who coat. (Kudos to you if you know what I am referring to.) Now, I would love to pretend that I just bought the coat for its cool styling—and I certainly wouldn’t have purchased it had it not been coolly styled—but the truth is I probably could have found a coat of a similar style that wasn’t Dr. Who. But what would be the fun in that? My phone case had taught me that little connections can make a big difference, so I bought the coat as a bit of a social experiment.

First off, it actually is a fantastic coat—tailored, with an awesome lining that even people who don’t know Dr. Who like. When I wore it, I knew exactly what type of person I was dealing with. Some—mostly women my age—would comment on the style or the color and, although somewhat puzzled by the “Public Call” written on the back and the gear wheels on the collar, would complement me on my “beautiful” coat. Some liked the Van Gough lining, although they didn’t know that this is what made the coat Tardis. However, others—developers, tech entrepreneurs, and geeks like me—recognized it instantly for what it was and would say something to the effect of “Tardis! How cool! Who is your favorite doctor?” (I usually said, “The one with the long scarf,” because I can never remember what number he was.)

The above experiences told me that there is a huge benefit to being relatable—and a morale boost in having the President of the company walking around in a Tardis coat and playing D&D in the break room—but it only works because it’s authentic. The fact is I’m a nerd from way back. Or a geek. (I’m never sure which.) Either way, one would never guess just to look at me. I’m sure most of the folks at my old law firm would be surprised to know that I played D&D with the boys all through high school, or that I am a Star Wars freak (I saw Episode IV on my 10th birthday and never looked back), but it’s true.

It’s not that big of a stretch for me to fly my geek flag in subtle ways, and now I make a conscious effort to do so. The upside in relatability is well worth the strange looks I get from my non-techie friends at my choice in coats and phone cases.

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