A Guide For My Fellow Socially Awkward Pinball Nerds.
I wanted to post this a month or two ago when I read through this post but the topic had been dormant for awhile and I figured it had run its course. I will try to keep this pinball centric because that is why we’re all here but if anyone finds this helpful at all I hope it will be helpful in general.
There are certain situational behaviors (many have been pointed out above) when done at certain times with certain people are welcomed and enjoyed but when done at other times with other people can be irritating or even offensive, e.g.: giving someone a hug, commenting on sweet backglass art, complimenting someone’s appearance, explaining how a pinball machine works and so on. Whenever the topic of sexism arises good meaning people always ask “How am I supposed to know?” I.e. how are we supposed to figure out when something is ok to do and when it is going to offend someone if the same action can have both outcomes? I am here to tell you that I have no idea. And if you figure out how to tell at all times when situational behaviours are OK to do and when they are not please let me know. It is my belief that if you have to ask “How do I know” the answer is that you don’t and, like me, are unlikely to ever figure it out. I guess we are socially awkward pinball nerds for a reason. I have watched people who know, people who can breeze through a room, give hugs and high fives left and right, hey I really like your shoes, hey, have you ever notices this about Elvira...they always know when they can do what and with whom and everyone likes them for it. I have watched but how they do it remains a mystery.
The good news is that we don’t have to keep blundering through the pinball scene randomly offending people. I have a plan. It (mostly) works for me maybe it will for you. It is (nearly) foolproof. And the brilliance of the plan is that it requires us to do nothing at all.
The best way to share the plan is with examples. Let’s say we’re in a matchplay group and we have an appreciation for the backglass art depicting the human form. Should we share our appreciation for art with our fellow players? Since we’ve already determined that we don’t know if saying something will offend someone or not the answer is we should say nothing. There, we’ve done nothing, said nothing and no one was offended. Perfect. The matchplay game goes on unhindered.
Let’s say we’re at a tournament and someone walks into the room and we really like what the person is wearing. Should we pay them a compliment? Since, like above, we don’t know if they will be offended or not the answer is no. We’ve once again said nothing, done nothing and no one was offended.
Now, let’s say we’re in a head to head game and we don’t know if our opponent has ever played the game before. Should we explain the game? This is a tough one and one I most often ignore my own advice on, it is in some of our natures to be helpful, but again we say nothing, do nothing no one is offended the tournament goes on.
Because it is so simple I imagine the gist of the plan is now clear. Say nothing, do nothing, no one gets offended.
We are not perfect. The plan is not perfect and taking advice from someone who has no qualifications to give it [me] is far from perfect. We will eventually be on the wrong side of wanted/unwanted situational behavior and irk, irritate or offend someone. When someone points out our mess-up it is our natural and involuntary reaction to be defensive. Because of this the first thing out of our mouths should be nothing to allow for a moment of quiet contemplation. This is very difficult to do. But if we can pull it off it often works wonders. And if the next thing out of our mouths after nothing can’t be something along to lines of “I’m sorry, thank you for pointing it out, I will do better. Let’s move on with our match if we could.” then we should try to move on with whatever we’re in the middle of without saying anything.
The plan does have unintentional beneficial side effects however. Once we are not inadvertently and randomly bothering people we become much more approachable to our fellow pinball players. People will become comfortable asking us for our game knowledge. People will share their appreciation for sweet backglass art with us. People will sit down and share why they decided to get the Paragon backglass as a full back tattoo. People will ask us what we think of the shirt they are wearing they picked up at the last tournament. People will give us a friendly hug when they see us. In essence we get to do all the things we wanted to do, perhaps not when we wanted to do them, but at least with only the people who wanted to do them with us.