Boo’s Field Guide to Nerds (part 2)

ENVIRONMENTALIST
The Environmentalist Nerd is a polytypic species ranging from Intense all the way to Extreme Smug.

While the preachiness of John Butler could certainly qualify him as an Environmentalist Nerd, his dexterity with such non-nerdy instruments as the guitar, as well as his active support of emerging musicians discounts him as slightly too cool for inclusion. Musician Xavier Rudd however is unquestionably an Environmentalist Nerd, with his adroit handling of the didgeridoo, slide guitar and percussion (all at the same time – one-man bands are nerdy), his irritating, folksy lyrics and his Aboriginal flag t-shirts (he is white).

Environmentalist Nerds are usually employed in charitable organisations, not-for-profits or other non-commercial enterprises. They have worked hard to assist the disabled, the sick, the homeless or the disadvantaged, and thus feel well-equipped to hold forth on a variety of political and social themes. Any attempt to communicate lightheartedly with the Environmental Nerd may lose their respect forever: topics of pop or trash culture will be met with a cold, uncomprehending stare. They are characterised by a serious, professional demeanour – it is often a challenge to get an Environmentalist Nerd to show outward enjoyment such as gay laughter or even a wry smile.

In appearance, the Environmentalist Nerd is a diverse group. They may sport dredlocks and prayer beads, or they may not. They may wear shoes or they may not. They may wear a suit every day or they may carry a hand-woven basket from Oxfam. In the professional sphere, female Environmentalist Nerds are simultaneously flamboyant and conservative. Many will wear coloured Mary Janes and stripy socks, layered asymmetrical tops and wraps and a child-like pinafore over the top – from women in their early-20s up to the late-60s. Regardless of age, the breasts are always well concealed and skirts always cover the knee (a possible throwback to their private school education), which ensures they are always taken seriously – the lifelong purpose of the Environmentalist Nerd.

As this group is such a broad-ranging species, in the interests of space I will cover two Environmentalist Nerds, an intriguing pair not generally seen in conventional circles.

Earnest Aid Worker
The obscure Earnest Aid Worker is a Nerd for whom any moment not spent catching malaria, photographing dark-skinned children or digging soak pits in Burkina Faso is a moment wasted.

Despite their privileged background and scant knowledge of developing countries, the Earnest Aid Worker has always wanted to help – in any country but their own. Charged up on a steady diet of World Vision commercials, these Nerds know that wherever there are people suffering, there they will find their calling. It is not a question of whether the community in question needs help, or has even asked for it; the Earnest Aid Worker will always be on hand to educate people about safe sex, to build water pumps and to initiate vital employment programs for streetkids to crochet mobile phone covers out of plastic bags.

The Earnest Aid Worker is instantly recognisable by their poor taste in clothes, and sport white ankle socks and Tevas, crisp chinos and plaid shirts, often all at the same time. Their attire is garnished with a busy collection of necessities: head torch, multicoloured glasses strap and a well-worn bumbag or ‘fanny pack’ strapped firmly around the middle, which bulges with antibacterial hand wash, sensible hankies, muesli bars and 3-in-1 utensil kits. Male and female Earnest Aid Workers are very similar in appearance – with the females adopting the cropped hairstyle of the male for practicality and comfort.

In appearance they are easily confused with the more common American Student Backpacker, however some subtle differences can be noted: in conversation, the Earnest Aid Worker will ‘accidentally’ slip into the native lingo of the country in which they are working, then apologise for their mistake (it is recommended this ploy be averted by swiftly changing the topic). And while the American Student Backpacker will shy away from street food, the Earnest Aid Worker will make a great show of tucking into the local offerings with gusto, as a sign of their tenacity and grit.

While the American Student Backpacker is best avoided in a travel situation, the Earnest Aid Worker is generally well-meaning and helpful, and if approached in the right way (simply by regaling them cheerful tales of the developed world) will provide the weary traveller with translations, advice and hospital-grade loperamide.

Birdwatchers
Despite all his best efforts to spend his children’s inheritance on expensive birdwatching tours, optics and airfares, the Birdwatcher, or ‘Twitcher’ is at heart a Greenie. When twitching outdoors for a number of years, he notes that local birdlife is declining in some areas, an observation that detracts from enjoyment of his hobby. He becomes more involved in matters of conservation, and before he realises it is using phrases like ‘habitat decline’ and ‘sustainable development’.

While not as overtly nerdy as say, the IT Professional, Birdwatchers only reveal their true colours in conversation. The Birdwatcher is capable of spending hours, sometimes days, on the topic of a bird he ‘almost’ saw. Far from this behaviour creating the social vacuum it would in mainstream society, the topic is hailed with delight by other Birdwatchers. They will cluster around him and contribute their own experiences, eagerly discussing plumage, breeding patterns and the third tertial on the lower wing. This conversation may become quite heated, and will only break up when the skill of one of the Birdwatchers is belittled in a jocular fashion.

It is hard for the layperson to accurately gauge how the Birdwatcher gains satisfaction from his all-consuming hobby. Studies reveal that maps are consulted, and long discussions are held before departure. Once out in the field the Birdwatcher approaches his quarry very cautiously, and the binoculars are clapped to the eyes. Facts about the bird are muttered in a low undertone, and twitches of the past are mentioned. The Birdwatcher may pish, or summon the bird to him with an assortment of nerdy calls and clicks. One of the highest compliments a Birdwatcher can make about a bird is that it is ‘cute’. It is unclear whether this appeal is scientific, visual or even erotic.

If the Birdwatcher is not equipped to take a photograph, he will simply write the species and number of birds down on his jotter. This is referred to reverentially as the ‘List’, which is the virtual benchmark by which all Birdwatchers compare themselves. A common challenge from one Birdwatcher to the other involves this record – whereas intoxicated youths in Commodores make eye contact at intersections, all a Birdwatcher need ask of another is: “how many are on your list?” A verbal punch-on will ensue. As there are 800+ bird species in Australia, a Birdwatcher approaching this number is regarded well by his peers. The List may be kept as a personal keepsake of the day, or uploaded to the online community where it is keenly dissected by other Nerds.

Birdwatchers are well aware that their lifestyle choice is as mocked and shunned as the trainspotter of Great Britain or the electron tube collector of North America. Despite this, Birdwatchers fly grimly in the face of conformity, a trait that marks them as one of the purest Nerds on the planet.

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8 thoughts on “Boo’s Field Guide to Nerds (part 2)

  1. Hahahahhahahaha! Brilliant!! Just brilliant!! Cannot wait for the rest!("It is unclear whether this appeal is scientific, visual or even erotic." This makes me look at bird costumes in a completely different light and causes me to laugh uncontrollably. (Because i am a child.))

  2. Boo, could I recommend a nerd piece on stamp collectors? Let me give you a start: adorned in tight-fitting polo shirts with yellow and purple horizontal stripes with a navy collar. Pale shorts and long socks, black business shoes

  3. spot on and very funny… and also disquieting. I am trying to switch industries and feel that I might find a place in the not for profiot sector but i am seriously disheartened at the idea of working alongside the humourless nerds that you mentioned in the first half of your blog? what to do?

  4. VV – look up MORRIS DANCERS online and you will see some treasures re bird costumesU – Stamp collectors? The only one I've met is Mr. Bolshoi Ballet/iceskating champ of the 80s the other night! But the garb you describe sounds spectacular!!Meredith – luckily not all humourless, you must search hard, but just ask around for the drinkers. That will point you in the direction of the functional ones!

  5. OH MY GOD A HEAD-TORCH! That's exactly what I need when adjusting the wires of my v complex stereo system, which is now inside a cupboard, with the wires poking out tiny holes at the back, making it harder than ever.

  6. PS Ace photo. Mum got out the book with all my school photos in the other day, I don't remember seeing that one (it also noted in grade one my career ambition was to be an Admiral and in grade two I wanted to be a town planner… go figure).

  7. Bek – I think I heard some Nerds talking recently about that very requirement when fixing their wires, hard drives etc.Pic is circa Year 9 – a glorious year for me, obvs.

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