Southern Man

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Questions and Answers

Southern Man has a new addiction. It consumes him night and day, drawing him like a moth to flame. Like all addictions, it can only be satisfied through indulgence; and, like all addictions, the high is only temporary. And the dose required to get a fix becomes larger and larger with each passing trip.

You see, Southern Man foolishly joined Yahoo! Answers. And now he's hooked.

It began innocently enough; a way to relax in front of the 'puter for a few moments before going to bed. And at first it was just for fun. Southern Man enjoyed the mental challenge of answering science and technology questions in a way that hopefully will help the asker learn a bit. So we're talking about a harmless little pasttime. A few minutes here, a half-hour there. Nothing serious. It doesn't mean anything to me. I can quit any time. Really.

Then the first email arrived.

"Yahoo! Answers: Your answer has been chosen as the best answer!"

That was the first hook. Because now Southern Man and his rapidly inflating ego want more "best answers." More and more and more!

And then came the contacts.

"Yahoo! Answers: Some Random User is probably a fan of your answers and has made you his newest contact!"

That was the second hook. Because nothing strokes a forty-something-year-old ego like having a bunch of anonymous middle-school fanboys and fangirls who hang on your every (written) word.

And then Southern Man was busily cranking out answers one night when he noticed that his little avatar icon had a new addition.

"Top Contributor - Physics."

If that isn't a big time ego stroke, Southern Man doesn't know what is.

But why just Physics? Southern Man also answers questions in Mathematics and Engineering and Astronomy and Programming and Homework Help and Pets - Fish (he used to raise tropical fish, sort of), and they're damn fine answers, too, so why not Top Contributor in those categories as well? It's insulting! So he finds himself frantically searching for questions to answer in Mathematics so he can be a top contributor there, too. And in Engineering. And in Astronomy. And in Programming. And in Homework Help. He gave up on Pets - Fish a while back. You can't do it all, you know. He is rapidly becoming a master at finding the most obscure information using Google and Wikipedia. He goes to the extra trouble to use Greek fonts in his science answers. He argues about minutia with the other Top Contributors and votes their answers down when they upset him. He checks his email every half hour and stomps about the office in a red-faced rage when no new "Best Answers" have been noted - then logs in and answers more questions. Hey, you can't get "Best Answer" if you aren't crankin' 'em out! It's not even fun anymore. It's work. But Southern Man has got to have his fix.

Well, Southern Man has been down the addiction road before. Empire, Rogue, and Moria (old mainframe games that cost him an extra year of graduate school). FRAC (a three-dimensional Tetris clone). Star Trek: Armada. Don't even get him started on TIE Fighter, a game so awsome that not once, but twice, Southern Man build PCs dedicated to playing that game and nothing else. They eventually burn out and are reduced to occasional harmless fun. Although Southern Man does have PC ports of Empire and Rogue and Moria that he still plays every now and then. Especially Moria, a game so cool that it has its own USENET group that Southern Man no longer reads every single day. Really. And FRAC is just a click away. And there's an Armada game paused on the other 'puter right now. And he put in a Freecell marathon just a few weekends ago...


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