5 Nerd Hacks That Make You Less of a Jerk
The Internet proves that nerds are capable of the most amazing shit, then losing 100 percent of that shit at the least provocation. Connecting ourselves to a global computer network didn't raise us to the next level of consciousness and teach us all kung fu; it left millions of people acting like monkeys, screaming and flinging shit instead of ninja stars.
"If you don't like my Matrix/Planet of the Apes crossover, you're WORSE THAN ORANGUHITLER!"
There are people who spend longer improving their phones than their own personality, and it shows. I've come up with some temporary fixes for the problem. Please note that I am not a professional mindwrangler, or even a psycherodeo clown, as I'm sure I've just demonstrated by thinking they're called that.
"Those words indicate that you have issues with repressed stupidity."
But I am a textbook-and-then-reading-beyond-the-course nerd, and I spent most of my childhood battling for the remote control instead of emotional control, so now my brain conjures up all manner of idiocies and anxieties. But just like the best '80s heroes (who raised me), I use my bizarrely specific skill to solve my problems. I've MacGyvered mental upgrades out of decades of reclaimed dorkishness.
Remove the Asshole Diode
All humans come with an asshole-detection system, but it's fitted with an asshole diode to prevent it from turning on them. They can recognize even the smallest flaws in everyone around them but see no problem in loudly describing those flaws on their mobile phone on an overnight train.
"And ugh! Everyone on this train is so rude, constantly staring at me and stealing knives from the cafeteria car!"
I once heard a guy on a train explain to his buddy how he'd been speeding, drunk, with broken headlights, after midnight, through a small rural town, and he'd only had an accident because "some asshole" had stopped at a red light. Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see, especially when they can't see because their heads are so far up their own asses that they've spiraled through their own colon twice.
To improve your life, remove that diode. My first response in any crisis situation is now "Would things improve if I stopped being an asshole?" and the answer is always "yes." It doesn't matter if I was originally the asshole: The question is, am I now being an asshole? Too many people take the least provocation as an excuse to throw off their secret identity of Bearable Human, releasing their true power as the Incredible Dickhead.
"YOUR LACK OF LOVE FOR GRAND THEFT AUTO JUSTIFIES MY REVERSION TO THE AGE OF TWO!"
People latch on to these righteous excuses to get angry because rage endorphins are a free drug high. But another angry person on any side of any situation always makes it worse. The asshole diode doesn't check who's to blame, or how wrong they were. The important thing is that you, now, personally stop making things worse. In fact, if everyone else is in screaming mode, cooling off and standing back puts you in the best position. Because the wise person knows that he knows nothing, and the outright brilliant person makes sure he's not being a jerk about it.
Jet Pack Sex
A brain trained by action movies loves to rebuild reality as a hero against the evil hordes, but a shortage of giant-metal-toothed henchmen in the public sector means that most people end up fighting mental battles against co-workers or loved ones instead. The problem is that throwing your shift supervisor through a 40th floor window really doesn't solve anything. It will feel awesome for about a minute. The following 15 to 20 years without parole, not so much.
"Yes, I'm calling about the new opening in your department. Yes, I know he hasn't even hit the ground yet."
We love being the righteously wronged, even if that means retconning reality or conjuring up fights that haven't even happened. Imagining a conversation with someone you don't like can easily veer off into imaginary arguments, and you end up rehearsing righteous rants that will put them in their place once and for all.
The problem with this rehearsal is that we only rehearse things in order to say them later in front of an audience. And that never works. In your mind, the other people listen and are moved by logic, but if either of you lived in such a wonderful world, you wouldn't be fantasizing about screaming at them. Because that's what this is: a fantasy. A terrible, petty fantasy. Which is why I recognize these and immediately shunt my imaginary self into jet pack sex.
They don't market it as a sex toy because they lack imagination.
The infinite potential of the human imagination shouldn't be used for bickering. If you find yourself in an imaginary argument, strap on your psychic boosters and soar into the skies, and also into/onto the beautiful body of your choice. This leaves you much better disposed toward the world and, handily, better equipped to deal with whatever argument you were fearing, usually by preventing it from becoming an argument at all.
I've evolved this fantasy so far that I've replaced the jet packs with the hands and feet of movie-model Iron Man armor, crossing their flight-formation coding with the Kama Sutra. I've gotten as far as imagining the basic unit tests that would prevent them from moving too far apart during high velocity maneuvers and avoided approximately infinity fights, meaning my Mental Mile High Club has actually created more sex for me in the real world.
I AM THE EMPEROR!
I'm not suggesting that you rewire your mind to believe that you're a Roman emperor, striding around the house in underwear and bed sheets while sipping exotic liqueurs and proclaiming yourself undisputed lord of all you survey. I mean, don't get me wrong, I absolutely do that, but that's a normal part of freelancing. Pretty much the point, actually.
Half of my subjects are sleepy, and the other half have known problems with authority.
Nor am I claiming the title from Warhammer 40,000, the Holy Emperor, a being whose mind uses machinery to range across all creation while his shattered body must remain connected to a series of tubes. Again, that's just a basic truth of online freelancing. Especially after drinking.
I've had hangovers like this, but with a porcelain throne.
The point here is the slaves who'd keep triumphant Roman emperors moored to reality. "You too are mortal," the slave would whisper at the very highest moments of the emperor's glory. I totally have that. Millions of us have that: a nagging knot of neurons whose only function is to sift through your history and heave the most humiliating memories right into your mind's eye. The most embarrassing events, the worst mistakes ... they wait until you're striding along in the sun and then whisper in your ear, "Remember how you're an idiot who did terrible things?"
"Oh God, I'm right!"
Instead of cringing at past mistakes (a route to craziness) or wondering why bits of your own brain seem to hate you (a fast track to absolute psychotic breakdown), interpret it as the emperor's adviser. Every time a past mistake is offered up, I decide that my brain is trying to teach me something, extract the lesson, make a resolution, and move on. "Oh, that was when I was too greedy. I should make sure other people have some before finishing things." "That was when I was too shy. When you want to talk to someone, say hello!" "That was when I was a colossal horny tit with absolutely no redeeming features, aka a teenager. So just be grateful I'm older now."
"Whatever, Grandpa, I'm a teenager and I already know everything. Now excuse me while I wonder
how to walk up to a girl and talk to her for four years."
It's an excellent error-checking system. Of course, since I rerouted the auto-rue system to make me feel better, it's almost completely stopped working. I think the neurons are in there trying to burst a blood vessel directly, thinking "Let's see you feel good about THIS."
"He's on to us! Abandon skull!"
Sometimes poor planning, impulsive mistakes, or the random bastardry of other people in general and the entire universe in particular conspire to cost you money -- replacing this, emergency that, or just paying somebody else to do something you couldn't do (or fix something you shouldn't have). This sort of mistake can cripple you with rage because it's costing you time and money, both of which you'll continue to waste as long as you're pissed off.
"My wallet's too small for these 50s!"
Luckily, poor planning, impulsive mistakes, and other people are all also involved in a brilliant night out drinking. If I'd spent $100 on a bottle of fine whiskey instead, I would have felt much better. So I pretend I've done that instead. If I'd known what was coming, I'd have avoided the mistake and rewarded myself with the money I'd "saved." So I act like that's what happened -- the result is functionally identical, I feel better, and it's only like two points on a 10-point "Are you becoming a psychopath?" scale.
While actually wasting an entire bottle of Glenmorangie 18 in one night would be a 7. And putting that ice in it is 11.
I call it virtual whiskey, as in virtual particles (the quantum mechanical process whereby particles and antiparticles are constantly appearing and annihilating all the time, everywhere, always). Things have progressed as if that whiskey had been called into existence and then immediately destroyed by its interaction with me, and that's a far better operating principle than stewing on the mistake. And also what would have happened to real whiskey anyway. In fact, I'm even better now, because I don't have a hangover. Plus, pretending to have spent all my money on whiskey when I really haven't is the exact opposite of alcoholism! In your face, Irish national stereotypes!
I Am Not the Flash
Not pictured: me.
This should be obvious, but every day millions of people forget that they're not wearing bright red Lycra as avatars of the Speed Force. The slightest delay and they're revealed as Commander Rage, Most Important Person in the Universe, in a personal universe so crappy that the most important thing in it is shouting at a barista.
"Keep screaming, buddy, I could keep this dead-eyed grin going if the sun exploded."
If you were the Flash, that would make sense. You could have used those five seconds to save the world twice and catch up on Game of Thrones. But unless you're carrying a donor heart, your time is not that precious. And I'm just as bad. A 10-second delay is long enough for me to construct a psychic jet rack, a medieval torture table with rocket boosters on the back so that it can excruciate the offending party while accelerating them out of my sight. And what would I have done with those 10 seconds? Refreshed Twitter twice and scratched myself. If I can spend two hours unlocking every nitrous accelerator in Need for Speed, I can take a minute to not be a boiling dickhead to every human I meet.
So the next time you feel like screaming at someone for not playing the ATM keypad like a piano, silently count how many times you checked Twitter and Facebook recently. By the time you finish, either they'll be done or you'll have realized that they're not why you feel so bad about wasted time.
Luke tries not to be a jerk on his website, Tumblr, and Twitter.
Make further improvements to your mind by understanding Why Misogyny Is Unmanly, or nerd it up with Thunder Gods Who Could Kick Thor's Ass.
There's a whole self-help course in 5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole, and knowing is half the battle with 6 Things That Secretly Make You Act Like a Jerk.