Archive for February, 2012

The turtleneck experiment

Not too long ago, I started wearing turtlenecks on a daily basis. Why? Because I love the way they feel, the fact that they’re warm but light enough for almost any kind of weather (with the possible exception of Nevada’s summers) and the fact that I won’t have to agonize over choosing a work-appropriate T-shirt in the morning. (Why yes, my mind is a strange place.)

Like many other things I do, my love affair with turtlenecks serves multiple purposes. One of them is an open-ended sociological experiment to see people’s reaction to an average guy wearing an unusual item of clothing. Sometimes I do the same thing with my suit: I do my best business casual impression, dress sharp and just spend the day walking around town or running errands: eating out, mailing a letter at the post office, etc. Sometimes I do the same thing, but dressed in my best 1990s attire: a canary-yellow sweatshirt, baggy jeans and a giant peace sign around my neck.

It’s quite amazing to see just how differently people react to the same person when he wears a different outfit. Preconceived notions and stereotypes kick in and take over their rational thinking, forming their first impression for them based on a split-second analysis of what they see – or what they think they see. As a social scientist of sorts, I love this phenomenon: it’s a great way to hack people’s minds or, at the very least, get them out of their routine and shake up their world, if only a little. Don’t believe me? Try putting on your most professional outfit and walking into McDonald’s. Or get a bunch of presidential dollar coins from the bank and use them to pay for small purchases. The expressions on people’s faces when you do that (or something equally out-of-the-box original) are priceless.

Anyway, on to the turtleneck experiment. For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, turtlenecks either never really caught on, or had a brief period of popularity, after which they were banished to thrift stores and dusty attics. I can’t think of the last time I saw a fellow turtleneck enthusiast in real life. I’m pretty sure most people would say the same thing. That might be why their faces get that unique “what’s going on?!” look when they see me walking around in a turtleneck. Over the past week, I’ve experienced a number of averted gazes from men, double-takes from women, stunned and awkward silence from Subway sandwich makers, and frozen smiles from buffet hostesses. (Then again, I’m pretty sure the latter have seen far stranger things in their line of work.) Some of the coworkers modified their behavior by either avoiding eye contact or staring in silence, as if trying to figure out what’s going on. Not a single person thus far actually asked me why I started wearing turtlenecks.

It’s quite funny if you think about it: people wouldn’t act any differently if I wore a regular sweater, but a turtleneck – the same sweater but with a longer neck – confuses them and changes the way they perceive me. Such a small change makes such a huge difference. If I were just a tad more evil, I’d figure out a way to hack people’s subconscious first impressions and use them to my advantage, but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Not for now, in any case.

Sometimes, when the weather outside isn’t up to my high standards (i.e., it’s colder than 75 degrees) and there isn’t a whole lot of excitement going on in my life, I like to take fast-forward through time by indulging in highly addictive, risk-free and very cheap activities. For the most part, I’m talking about old TV shows, video games and long books. Some would call it geeky, nerdy, anti-social, etc., but hey – they’re the ones who might crash their car on their way back home after a night at the bar. To each their own.

I remember when Fallout-3 came out in 2008 – I played it for 40 hours straight once I bought it, followed by about a month of nearly 24/7 gaming before I finally squeezed out every ounce of content. At the time, I was a freelancer decompressing from a particularly difficult (though very fun) gig and I could afford to hide from the world for an entire month. These days, I’m mostly looking for ways to occupy my 3-day weekends while it’s freezing outside. I think I finally got enough supplies to help me fast-forward through February – with any luck, there’ll be something worthwhile in March.

My current fast-forwarding arsenal:

  • Dan Simmons’ Hyperion trilogy 
  • The complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy anthology (which I haven’t read in at least seven years)
  • ~20 liters of coke
  • Final Fantasy XIII that I got almost for free at a Blockbuster liquidation sale
  • Dead Rising-2 (ditto)

That should last me at least a few weeks… And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of doing all that indoor stuff just a few months after I moved to Vegas. In my defense, it’s pretty cold out here, which makes hanging out and people-watching on the Strip pretty difficult. Maybe in another month or two…