[APAK logo] Issue #72, January 3rd, 1997

The Trickle-Down Theory of Dr. Fandom
by Ted White

When I walked up to Steve Stiles, he was holding a tagger gun in one hand and a tee-shirt in the other.

"How's it going, Steve?" I asked.

"I'm just an ordinary guy, working in an ordinary shop," he said. "Actually, it's going pretty well," he added.

That was a few days into Steve's new job, here at Logotel.

Yes, Steve Stiles is working in the Logotel warehouse, tagging and packing tee-shirts.

He needed a job.

"I need a job, Ted," is about the way he put it. So I told him who to contact at Logotel, and he started working in the warehouse the day before Thanksgiving.

Steve had already answered an ad placed by our art department, and was in line for free-lance work, but he needed something with a regular paycheck. After he'd started here I took him over and introduced him to Tony Ritter, the guy in charge of the art department. Tony is an interesting guy -- used to play guitar and sing professionally -- and we get into long conversations very easily when we have the time. He loves Steve's work, and hopes to use him in developing our latest license, which is none other than R. Crumb. (Yes, it is a small world.) And a week or two later I introduced Steve to another of his fans, the latest addition to the art department, Rich Woodall. Rich is 21, and an aspiring comic artist, who wanted to show his samples to Steve and get Steve's opinion. After that meeting Steve remarked to me, "Wow, that was a real boost for my ego!"

It's still a bit weird to me to encounter Steve when I stroll through the warehouse -- our offices bracket the warehouse and when I need to go to the front office, the route is the length of the warehouse -- I've known Steve for nearly forty years now and the last place I'd have expected to see him is working in a warehouse. But it's also kinda neat to see him almost daily.

The only constant here at Logotel is change. We've grown enormously as a company, and are now in the process of splitting into three companies (under the same ownership), which changes and adds to procedures all the time.

We've also outgrown our building. When I started here, two years ago, we occupied one-third of our building. Six months later we took over the middle third, and by the end of my first year we had the whole building. It was originally a big warehouse with a small section set aside for offices. After we had the whole building we added a number of offices, one of which I used during the summer, and a yet another of which I'm in now.

Now we're negotiating a lease on the building next door. We toured it this week. It's all offices, and has lots of space. It was last used by a bank, has a vault, and in one area twelve cubicles -- dubbed "Dilbertville" -- but my department will get a room twice the size of our present one. Unfortunately, it has no windows. But we'll be next door to the art department, and they have a window . . . .

So we're going to move most of our offices next door in a month or so, using our present building mostly as a warehouse. And we'll be opening up an outlet store in some of our new space (it will have a separate entrance). That means in the months to come I'll run into Steve less often unless he follows my advice and applies for an office job when one opens up (which they do, frequently).

"With your typing and computer skills, Steve, you'd have no trouble at all," I told him.

"Well, actually, Ted, I kinda like what I'm doing now," Steve said.

"Just wait," I said. "It can get cold out here in the warehouse during the winter." Last winter I had a "desk" in Dock C of the warehouse while I was Inventory Control Manager. I kept my heavy coat on all the time. "And in the summer it's not air-conditioned. It gets pretty hot."

But I could see Steve was having no part of my warnings. He was taking pride in his Honest Toil, in working up a Decent Sweat.

Just an ordinary guy in an ordinary shop.

Reactions to my column on "aggressive driving" were many and varied, and probably greater in volume than responses to anything else I've written for a fanzine in a number of years. Obviously the topic struck a nerve with many of you. In addition to the responses published here, I received a long and interesting e-mail from Roxanne Graham-Smith, whose basic point was one others among you have made: the visceral, gut-feeling, instincts I rely upon as a driver are not gender-specific. She has them too, and, consequently, loves to drive. I wonder now if these instincts are what lie behind the joy of driving -- if you don't have them, you won't enjoy driving the way Roxanne and I do. I find this fascinating, precisely because this is a little-discussed topic among most people.

What I did not do in that column was to go into greater detail about my driving habits. I did not mention -- but maybe should have, to forestall criticism -- that I seriously practice the Golden Rule of driving: I treat other drivers the way I wish to be treated. I try never to cut another car off; I get out of the way of those behind me who want to go faster than I'm going (what the hell: let them go first, flush out the speed traps, and get the tickets!); I signal turns and lane changes automatically; etc., etc. And I follow the "Two Second Rule": I stay at least 2 seconds behind the vehicle I'm following, when practical (not in stop-and-go rush hour traffic, but on the open road).

Ten or more years ago a man named John Nestor made a name, of sorts, for himself by boasting in the letter-column of the Washington Post that he liked to drive in the left lane of local freeways at exactly 55 mph, blocking faster traffic. It gave him a sanctimonious delight not only to indulge in this practice, but to brag about it. The letters in the Post buzzed for months about this "Nestoring," as this practice came to be known. Nestor had few defenders -- mostly those afraid of speeds over 55, and those who felt this irrational speed limit was The Law, and thus required blind obedience. Many attacked his actions, including the local police and traffic experts, pointing out that he was encouraging accidents to occur, and impeding the smooth flow of traffic. He remained unrepentant, but has not been heard from in recent years -- despite the occasional continuing reference to "Nestoring" -- leading me to wonder if one day an 18-wheeler simply drove right over him.

Gender Blender: I referred above to something being (or not being) "gender-specific."

More than once in recent years language purists have pointed out to me that I was misusing the word "gender" by using it in such applications. "Gender," these snobs have insisted, is itself a linguistic term, and refers only to the "gender" of a Word, most commonly in Latin-derived languages in which nouns have male and female forms (a relative rarity in English), or gender. To refer to a Person having a "gender," I have been lectured, is incorrect. A person has a "sex," not a "gender."

To which I have responded in every instance, "Crap!"

Language evolves. Meanings and usages evolve. In our modern, Politically Correct, society (in which "person" has replaced "man" for many usages), "gender" is a far safer, emotionally neutral word than "sex," which has entirely too many un-PC connotations, quite aside from the sniggering reaction it provokes in the Beavises among us. The word "gender" no longer applies purely to Words, and hasn't, in common usage, since at least the 1970s.

Now, stop it, naughty boy, you're loosening all the cherries on my hat.

[APAK logo] Issue #72, January 3rd, 1997

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