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March 8, 2007 / missknowitall

Hope For Engineers Everywhere

Dear Little Miss,
I am totally socially inept. i.e. I am an engineer. Is there any hope I can become socially acceptable?  Please send step-by-step instructions accompanied by schematic diagrams and a detailed time schedule in flow chart format for accomplishing a transition to social acceptability.

Dear Engineer,

There is plenty of hope for you!  I have been raised by two very amazing engineers who have helped me solve so many problems in my life that I hope I can help you in turn.  Engineers are awesome, smart, can make good money, and they always have cool little pieces of light up stuff that they bring home from all the techie trade shows.  I don’t know why you aren’t all being snatched up.  Oh yeah, that whole “social” thing. Right.  Well, you are going to have to make your own pie charts and whatever, because I can barely manage checking my email without blowing up my computer.  I can, however, give you the low down on social functionality and then you can process that info in whatever way makes your brain happy.  Here goes:

1.  Pretend to be interested in what other people are doing in their lives.  Just ask a lot of questions about what they do and say things like, “wow”, or, “that is really interesting”, or “I can see why you like that so much”.  At parties, or other short term engagements, people really like you more for how you make them feel about themselves then about you yourself.

2.  When people ask what you do try to explain it the way Hollywood would.  Don’t tell them about bandwidth, Unix, zeros and ones, or anything else that would require them to have a degree or to have read a book.  Just say stuff like, “I talk to a computer that is the size of this building”, or “I make sure that this city doesn’t self-implode on an hourly basis” and action packed stuff like that.  Make sure you are honest though, because if you do it right they will ask for more info.  Try not to make any of your answers more than 3-4 sentences long.  Make short answers and let the other person ask for more info.  If they don’t ask for more you have probably overloaded their brain and they need to cool off.  And remember, unless they know what you know, do NOT get technical. 

3.  Wear what everyone else is wearing.  Pretend you are on a mission for the secret service and you have to wear heavy camouflage in order to blend in to your surroundings.  Don’t let people know you are an engineer before you even get a chance to talk to them.  People at social functions don’t care what you normally wear.  I don’t wear my daily sweat suit to social functions and you shouldn’t wear your multi-gadget belt either.  OH, and they make special pens that have multiple colors and mediums in them so you can wear just one pen without having an anxiety attack.

4.  Social gatherings are a great place to talk about current events, but they are NOT a good place to express your political stance, opinions, or beliefs.  So keep the talk light, impress them with your knowledge of current events, make light of any new conspiracy theories, and if you think you are going to say something that will upset others in the room then stuff an hor d’ourve in your mouth and walk away.

Follow these rules as faithfully as if they were in the owners manual of your newest hi-tech gadget and let me know if they work.  If all this fails, just remember there will be another Star Trek Convention in just a few months and you can socialize there.

Live long and prosper.

Miss Knowitall   

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