The other morning on the ride in from Hollywood to downtown L.A. (on the Red Line), having failed to get a seat, I positioned myself in the middle open area of the car (on the subway, the cars are long enough to have three sets of doors), in the back corner of the square standing zone. The person seated nearest to where I stood looked rather bedraggled, long dirty blonde hair tousled, wrinkled and sinewy fingers (one with a large ring on it), scuffed pumps, faded jeans, with a distant facial expression that implied not being on pure air. The way I stood left this person somewhat behind me, over my right shoulder, so I didn’t really see unless I craned my head around.
A few stops after where I got on a group of young men in their early-to-mid 20’s entered through the door nearest me. They glanced up and down the length of the car (with the lack of subtlety indicative of ones who don’t regularly take the train) then congregated in the standing area next to me. There were enough of them that a few stood in the aisle in front of the bedraggled one (who continued to stare vacantly at nothing in particular). I could tell they were on their way to the E3 expo at the convention center, not merely because of the badges hanging around their necks, but also from the geekitude emanating from their clothes, haircuts, and general demeanor. (One doesn’t work in a comic book store for many years without being able to spot them. Please allay your thoughts of it-takes-one-to-know-one; were I a geek I would make a much better salary, undoubtedly. Thus, I am not criticizing them; I am identifying what they were.)
I am content to allow you to fill in the picture with your own ideas of what geeks are like (and I am using the term in the contemporary sense, as has been co-opted by the computer support offered by Best Buy, not to indicate they were circus freaks—although that certainly would make for an interesting ride).
The way they surrounded me made it a bit tricky to not stare at them. I had to glance over their heads at the top of the door, or down toward the end of the car. Complying with the tacit rule about not making eye contact is certainly easier with a bit of empty space around one’s self, so their proximity forced me to constantly move my gaze to and fro. The best part of getting a seat is not alleviating having to stand; the best part is getting to read, or write, or gaze out the window without having to make any effort to not look at others.
Several stops later, the bedraggled one started to rouse and to gather belongings and then start toward the door, forcing the geek squad to make way. I noticed one of the geeks at my far right try to get the attention of one to my far left, without speaking, waving and pointing at his own throat. The other one didn’t seem to understand, so he kept at it, and because our soon-to-exit friend faced the other way, the geek mouthed the words “Adam’s apple” to make clearer what the pointing at the throat meant.
It wasn’t so much that the geeks reacted as they did. Sure, they could be more sensitive, given they’re not exactly the top of the coolness food chain themselves; it's hardly a revelation to me to find further evidence of how we seek some means, no matter how pathetic, to feel superior to at least someone. Their behavior was not as harsh as the stereotypical treatment jocks give to geeks in high school but still displayed some of the same homophobic machismo (albeit in a timid way).
What disappointed me most was not how this group of ostensibly intelligent individuals took so long to realize “she” was transgendered. I figured it out within seconds of getting on the train. (Yes, I was feeling a bit superior to the geeks in that regard—and only in that very specific regard.)
The biggest disappointment was that they considered this to be at all noteworthy. It’s Hollywood, for crying out loud; have they not been paying attention?
I guess the electronic entertainment world keeps one fairly well insulated from the outside world.