Explanations

Posted on Thu 07 October 2004 in Dispatches • 2 min read

Sometimes, it is better to leave things a mystery. Most people think they are dull.

I just spent an hour trying to explain this project I am working on at my job. I am writing trip-planning software for our transit agency. Basically this means that a member of the public logs on to our website, chooses a start point, an end point, a date and a time and the software figures out which bus(es) they need to ride at what times, when to transfer, fun stuff like that. So, this kid that I am “chaperoning” while I housesit asks me how it works behind the interface, and being totally excited about, I tried to explain it. I diagrammed out my database tables and some of my data structures until I suddenly looked up and saw the glazed over expression of the terminally bored on my companion’s face.

I know this look, it is the same look my boss gets when I try to answer his questions about how part of the personnel software looks. I finally reached the point where I go, “Brian, you don’t really want me to describe all of that stuff. I can tell you how to make it do what you need it to do, though. And if it doesn’t do that, I’ll write something new.”

I on the other hand, am fascinated with explanations. I love learning how anything works. Political systems, computers, chemistry, physics, psychology, biology, religions: all that stuff. But then again, I am a geek as my friends and coworkers never fail to remind me.

I guess the mark of geeks is that they LOVE explanations, both giving them and hearing them. This is counter to the mythical Average American. A lengthy explanation seems to cause a biological reaction in an AA resulting immediate boredom, irritation, short-term memory loss or a combination of the three.

Ah well, I should get to bed. There is work to do tomorrow, which unfortunately involves firing a kid. This is the worst part of my job. Wish me luck.