“Goodall” Moments in the IT World

Marrying an IT (information technology) man has exposed me to a whole world that, without the vow of marriage, I would never have ventured into. I realized the full potential of the exposure one evening when we were attending a casual dinner party at a friend’s house. The group was comprised of three couples, with the men working together in IT, plus two other single IT men. After dinner, I found myself sitting on the couch with the other two wives as the five men started to discuss the various hardware/software issues one of them was having. Before long it turned into quite a spectacle, with keyboards and mice appearing, laptops whirring, hard drives buzzing and computer code flying by on the large-screen TV in the living room for all to share and marvel in (or be stuck staring at as you sat on the couch with a wall-sized screen in front of you).

At one point the women stopped talking and instead we watched with great amusement the male interactions playing out in front of us. I realized then and there that I was in a “Goodall” moment. Much like Dr. Jane Goodall must have experienced while watching the chimps of Gombe employ grasses as a tool to access the tasty ants, I was in the rare position of outsider being given access to the inner workings of the mysterious, oft-secluded male communication model, part-number: IT-guy.

So I started taking mental notes. It was interesting to see that despite potential testosterone overload, there was no initial obvious Silverback. Depending on the task at hand, an alpha male, presumably based on his skills, would emerge, while the others would circle around him offering questions, comments and advice. As one issue was resolved and another arose, a different alpha male surfaced, and the roles would morph without any altercations. There were never times when voices or fists were raised, teeth or chests bared, nor even hooting or hollering. Their communication styles were in-sync and harmonious, regardless of whether they were agreeing or disagreeing.

I found this curious as undoubtably this cannot be said of those same men in various conversations with their wives or girlfriends, which, based on personal experience and observation, often result in unexplained periods of deafness, language miscomprehension, narcolepsy and grunting. It was quite exciting to find this hidden trove of ability in my husband and I quickly wondered how I could encourage it when not in the company of an IT crew, or discussing anything related to gigabytes, terabytes or possibly pizza bites. I felt it warranted further research.

A few weeks later, one of the friends from the dinner party came by to help my husband with a computer problem. I saw this as a great opportunity to don my Goodall-hat again and continue my research. I was curious whether less than three IT men in a room would still result in a free flow of communication, or could instead lead to unexplained cases of acute deafness. I perched myself in a comfy chair in the corner of the office, feeling a kinship to Dr. Goodall, but definitely appreciative of my chair versus a tree branch.

As my husband and his friend discussed the software/hardware/update thingie, I found my notes filling up with words like “byte” and “ram” and “boot… kernels… gooeys…” and even “grub.” Despite being able to Google these and learn their meaning, I was feeling that studying the language might not be my best route in. This theory was further supported when I noted the following conversation:

Male 1: “There may have been mounting weirdness.”
Male 2: “I think we need to mount the boot.”

At this point, had I been Dr. Goodall, I think I would have immediately submitted this species for the endangered list, as there was obviously very little chance of perpetuating this species. Then it continued:

Male 1: “I saw on NewEgg they had a one terabyte hard drive.”
Male 2: “For $70! Yeah, I saw it too!”

There was obvious excitement about this mutual find demonstrated by pupil dilation and increased animation. I can only imagine the same would be noted of a similar find of a large teeming anthill in Gombe. The men continued to watch with rapt concentration lines of computer code spinning across the monitor, periodically pointing out bits of particular interest or delight as they continued to discuss “MNT” and “two slash boot.”

As a side note, throughout this interaction, I noted that periodically one or the other would physically point to something on the monitor. I couldn’t help myself and broke scientific-protocol and muttered under my breath that, when I, perhaps, point to a monitor I’m often quickly warned, “Don’t touch it!” before I even get close and yet did not hear any similar warnings between the two of them. My husband explained to me quite simply that the world is divided into “screen touchers” and “non screen touchers,” and that it is assumed within IT circles, that most people are the former. Such elitism was a surprising find among this group.

My research continued over the next several months and then just recently my husband was bemoaning how he hadn’t been able to play his video games lately. “I have to get back to killing the Dúnedain!” he exclaimed. “They are preventing me from being the master of Angmar!” It was at this point, when I found myself staring at this enlarged 8-year-old I’d married, that I decided I’d lost any interest in gaining access to the inner workings of the male communication model. That would require just a little too much insight and I felt our marriage might not be better for it.

Although, I will admit I remain baffled by several things, primarily why my husband can remember where he left off in a battle for Middle-Earth from three months ago, but forgets where we keep paper towels, or can talk at length with his friends about gooeys and grubs, but needs a sandwich first in order for me to have a conversation with him. But maybe it's just best to remain baffled and from now on, instead of trying to unlock the male communication model, I’ll just decide what’s really sandwich-worthy, and what’s not, and I’ll leave the gooey grubs to chimps, gorillas and the befuddling IT guy (a.k.a., my husband).