View Full Version : One Geek to Another - Stuff and Things

10-12-2009, 11:30 AM
508We geeks like our stuff. Whether it's collector's edition action figures, handmade costume pieces, directors' cut DVDs, bootleg audio recordings, game-tweaked computers or super-lucky dice, we've all got something that we treasure.

And, at least to fellow geeks, it's all pretty cool stuff. I remember the first time I saw a first-edition graphic novel at a friend's house with the author's signature scrawled across the front. My first instinct was to pick it up and admire the autograph, maybe flip through it to check out the story. My friend's gasp when I reached for it made me realized that what was to me, a cool trinket, was one of her prized possessions - an irreplaceable artifact of her geek-ness.

I kicked myself. I should have known better. My years in the Society for Creative Anachronism taught me an important rule about "stuff". "If it ain't yours, don't touch it without asking." Whether at a merchant's booth, as a part of someone's encampment, or in their home - it's always better, safer and more polite to ask before handling someone else's things.

While this is a rule we all should have learned in kindergarten, it was really confirmed for me when I started playing in the SCA. Since the Society (and many other theater or re-enactment groups) put a high emphasis on hand-crafting and creative arts, any item you pick up at an encampment could well be something the owner (or someone else) has invested countless hours of work (or large chunks of money) into. Just because you don't recognize the value immediately, doesn't mean that it's not there.

Also, in the Society, there were some very practical reasons for asking before you touch. First of all, that dagger that you just picked up could be a lot sharper than it looks - and the only thing worse than damaging something irreplaceable is damaging something irreplaceable and bleeding all over it in the mean time. And, secondly, any sort of item could have sentimental or spiritual significance that aren't immediately apparent to the casual observer. What you might perceive as a piece of costume jewelry might well be a token representing an important award - or a religious icon. It's always better to just ask.

Somehow though, I hadn't taken that message from the Society (or from kindergarten) to the rest of my geek world, at least not yet. But my friend's reaction was a quick lesson in geek etiquette that I've kept in mind ever since. When it comes to other people's "toys" - be they computers, books, costumes or games - ask first. And after you receive permission, treat their valued items with the care and respect that you'd want them to show your favorite things. Take good care of them while they're in your possession, and if you're loaned them, return them in a timely manner and in as good of condition as they were when they entered your care.

Don't dog-ear book pages, or lay an open book face down so that the spine becomes broken. Don't touch CD surfaces or bladed weapons with your bare skin - the oils from your fingerprints can do irrevocable harm to the surfaces. Don't "play" with action figures or Lego sets by taking them apart, removing accessories or bending them into awkward positions. Don't put on clothing or jewelry without specifically asking if you can try it on. Never leave borrowed items where they can be exposed to extreme heat (like in a car) or moisture, or where they're likely to get stolen.
In general, if you're entrusted with something of value, treat it better than you would if it was your own item. It's not just the item you're being loaned, it's your friends' trust as well. And that, once broken, is hard to replace.

As for my friend and I? Fortunately, I was able to recover from my faux pas, apologize for touching without asking, and she was kind enough to let me read through her treasure... after I washed my hands, of course.

Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Send us an email (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/sendmessage.php?do=mailmember&u=9844) and your question may get answered in one of our future "One Geek to Another" columns!

For more information about your One Geek to Another hostess, check out Jess' website at: www.JessHartley.com (http://www.jesshartley.com/)

Richard Littles
10-12-2009, 01:30 PM
This is a very important lesson people should know when it comes to other people's property. Sadly, not a lot of people know this even outside of the gaming world. I remember when we had the auction for my dad's estate and my rare Harley was sitting in the garage the auction was held at. Since my dad was a biker a lot of his biker friends showed up. They would look at my bike and other items but never touch it. The rest of the people at the auction were sitting on my bike and touching it. This set the bikers on edge and looked at me if I wanted these folks to be taught a lesson. Not wanting to cause a scene I told them no, but they would go up to people that were messing with my bike and told them to not touch it.

10-12-2009, 02:08 PM
Jess, thanks for the reminder. All too forgotten and ignored advice.

10-16-2009, 10:52 AM
Manners are manners, regardless of the setting or the situation. They should be learned in Kindergarten and should stay with you.

Being smart is no excuse for being rude.

Frankly, I am disappointed in the culture at large that such a essay should even be required. Anyone red in the face over this, should be.

10-16-2009, 12:04 PM
Agreed Tesral. Unfortunately, those people that I know who are, more often than not, guilty of the above, aren't going to take the time to read this.