Saturday, January 10, 2015

Being Something You're Not

Lateral thinking is sometimes weird.  Let me try to capture a line of thinking I had while doing chores this morning.

I began thinking this morning that it was hard to write blog posts right now because I'm not really /playing/ the game of EVE.  I'm logging in and checking things every night, but my undocked time has been pretty limited so far in 2015.  I could write about that, I guess, but it's not a very compelling story (real life, weather, work, blah blah blah).

But my train of thought this morning was this:  it's a little weird for me to continue to post as if I'm an active, normal player when at the moment I'm in a lull.  It's not exactly lying, but it does portray an image that's not quite true.

And that train of thought (Lateral Thinking Jump #1) reminded me of a charity bicycle ride we did in the fall.  It was a casual tour (not a timed event/race), and a borderline rolling party.  Great event and tons of fun.  It's also one of the area's biggest at something like 3,000 riders.

Getting ready that morning, I grabbed my favorite bike jersey.  Now, bicycling attire is a colorful affair, full of funny/silly bright colors.  When the first step of getting dressed is to pull up a pair of spandex shorts that show off your manpackage, you kind of get numb to the idea of wearing something entirely stupid on your upper torso.  Said another way: there are a ton of gaudy bike jersies to choose from, and very few that are subdued, refined, or otherwise my normal style.

But still, I try to pick out a look that's not too horrible.  The jersey I reached for that morning was this one:

The name of the jersey is "The Brew Pub" from a company called Twin Six.  The words on the Jersey read:  "Alpe d'Huez, King of the Mountains, Big Ring Brew Pub."

In my head, I had focused on the Brew Pub aspect of it (I am a fan of fine craft beer).  There are plenty of beer-related jersies on the market, but most are far less subtle and most are effectively a spandex billboard.  I knew (sort of) that Alpe d'Huez was a famous climb in Europe.  I liked the colors, the bright stripes ("hey auto driver, don't hit me!") and the pseudo-German crest/shield (my family comes from that part of the world, we have a crest but it isn't that cool).

In fact, I liked the design so much that I bought not only the 2014 version, but also tracked down the white-red 2013 version as well, plus a t-shirt with the crest on it.

Not being someone who follows the Tour de France, I didn't realize that climbing the Alpe d'Huez was a rite of passage for many, and historically a segment on the Tour.

On that particular charity ride, I would be educated.

Trouble started at the first rest stop - an older guy asked me when I'd done the climb.  "What climb?" I asked.  He was baffled, I was baffled, and then very quickly I added "Oh! I just liked the colors."  He complimented me on it, and rode away smiling.  I did a Spock eyebrow, shrugged, and we rode on.

A few miles later, a young couple passed me, and the husband/boyfriend said to his wife/gf, "Wow, check that out, he's done the d'Huez." to which the wife/gf replied "Wow, that's cool."  I groaned quietly.

At rest stops, I was self conscious.  Not because I was strutting around in skintight spandex (oh, the irony), but because I felt like I was portraying something I wasn't.  People would smile at the Gatorade cooler, and instead of staying to chat I'd nod and quickly get the heck out of there.

The most awkward thing happened at the 50-mile mark.  The bike route goes through the town square, and there's a large bbq going on with bands playing.  Bikers sit in the grass of the town square and chow down.  Most will stop at 50 miles.  I was heading further that day with a coworker, and tried to weave my way through the crowd to the cooler to refill my water bottles and get a snack.  On my way back, I heard someone say "Hey, Mr. Alps!"  I tried to ignore him and go past.

"Hey!  Alpe d'Huez! Hey!"  He stood up, waving his arms, and managed to get in front of me a few feet from where he and his buddies were sitting.  I gave him a watery smile, inside screaming "DAMMIT I JUST LIKED THE COLORS!"

He was grinning from ear to ear and said, "Hey! Didn't think I'd see another one. So when did you earn that?"

"Earn what?" I said, playing dumb.

He pointed at his own chest, and I finally saw it - he had a yellow and black jersey with a different design.  Alpe d'Huez.  A legit one.  "I got mine this year.  When did you go over?"

I was outed.  A complete poseur. A charlatan.  "I uhhh... this one is for a fake brew pub.  I just liked the design. ... and uh...  my family is from there."  The rest of the conversation was short, awkward, and thankfully very much a blur.  I do recall his buddies snickering.  Dickheads.

Thankfully, the crowd at 50+ miles was much less crowded and we riders were more spread out.  I had no further comments or unearned congratulations.  I will still wear the shirt on evening rides and perhaps even smaller local events where I know the participants and can explain, but never EVER again at an event that big.

(Lateral Thinking Jump #2)

From there, I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my brother this week.  I remarked that I'd bought 3/ea 5-gallon buckets with airtight lids for bulk food storage via Amazon.  He retorted that I was shooting for my "prepper level 2 merit badge."  (For those across the pond, a 'prepper' is slang [and somewhat derogatory] term in the U.S. for a Doomsday Prepper, i.e. someone who stockpiles food, water, and ammo in preparation for the end of the world.)  Now there are various grades of preppers (just google it), from complete nutjobs in tinfoil hats to folks who simply keep a few cans of beans as a hurricane/storm emergency kit.

I shot back to my brother that we live in the country, winters have tended to be worse the past year or two, and if the winter storms last year had cycled just a little more frequently, we would have been snowed in for a week or more.  This time last year, I was literally running out of places to put snow, and with the accumulation and drifting I was plowing 3 times per storm and the parts that was too deep to plow required shoveling by hand.

"In our grandpa's day, having a pantry was just how people lived,"  I added.  "Today, if McDonald's decides to close early, some people go hungry that night.  We've forgotten how to cook, and apparently can't think more than a day ahead."

Brother quickly backpedaled, and admitted that he too had a small stockpile of long-storage food in his basement.  Winter had scared him last year too.

After comparing notes, we both said that in talking around our offices, it's funny how people are reluctant to admit that they also have an oh-shit supply pile.  "Prepper" has become somewhat a dirty word associated with the fringes of society.  But if you're brave enough to admit to someone that you  have a well stocked pantry, and the details start coming out.  It's suddenly safe for them to confess what they've got and begin to brag about how long they could go if the grid went down.

So what's all that got to do with EVE?

(Lateral Thinking Jump #3)

After revisiting my biking embarrassment, and thinking about how reluctant people can be to share details that may result in ridicule, I had the thought that there's probably a fair amount of false chest thumping in EVE too.

How much of this sounds familiar?

Real players love null and hate highsec.
Real players hate mining.
Real players loathe missions.
Real players pvp.
Real pvp'ers don't run off grid link ships.
Real players enjoy ganking haulers and miners.
Incursion runners aren't real players.

Somehow these social rules have permeated our game.  And really, I'm okay with that.  It's a sandbox, after all.

But in case it's never been clear as I've written here, I break almost all of these rules.

I don't like null and I don't have a good reason to hang out in low.
I actually like mining. I haven't done it in awhile.  But, a good glass of cognac, some fine cheese, and an active chat channel is the right way to it.
I like running missions and hope CCP adds some more mission content.
I don't mind pvp'ers, and have enjoyed it in short bursts, but it's not my focus long term.
I run an off grid link ship.  I know, I'm such a cheater.
I don't like ganking of haulers and miners, but I accept that it's part of the game.
I'd run more incursions if I had the time.

Like preppers, I assume that plenty of people run PVE content and enjoy it, but just don't advertise it.  Maybe if more of us talked, maybe PVE wouldn't be such a dirty word.

Wrapping around back to the start (all that to say this):  When I'm in a lull, I'll probably slow posting down rather than be a poseur.

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