The 2009 Annual Gathering of American Mensa is in the books. Over 1800 people attended, many people worked really hard, and just about everybody had fun. All that, and Dr. Demento, too.
My adolescence (at least the good part of it) flashed before my eyes when the Doctor gave his presentation on his 50 years in radio. His multimedia presentation was loaded with favorites from his show, such as “Fish Heads,” “Dead Puppies,” and several tracks from Weird Al Yankovic. I revisited a musical world that I once thought was known only to me, but as I looked around the room, I saw that I wasn’t alone after all.
I was given the honor of driving Dr. D from and to the airport. The Doctor is quite reserved off the mike, a contrast to his manic radio personality. He’s still an encyclopedia of musical knowledge off the air, but my conversations with him went all over the place—his hometown of Minneapolis, a collegiate trip across the country on a Vespa scooter, his stints as a roadie for Canned Heat and Spirit, and what Barnes and Barnes are doing now.
I also caught up with many of the people who have been a big part of the story of my life over the past decade. While I haven’t had the chance to attend as many Mensa gatherings over the past two years, Mensa has been, and continues to be, the crux of my social life. I met my wife through Mensa, and we were married at a Mensa function.
I’ve often asked myself, “Why Mensa?” The easy answer is that I get along better with Mensans than I do with the general population, but that just leads to another “Why?”
Is it because I have common interests with them? To some degree, yes. Like many Mensans, I know the words (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!) to many (He’s just pining for the fjords!) Monty (Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!) Python routines. But I can get lost in their conversations on many other topics, just as easily as I can in a non-Mensan conversation. And not all of my interests are especially Mensan (I’m still waiting to meet another Mensan with more than a passing interest in horse racing).
Is it because Mensans are inherently kinder or more tolerant than non-Mensans? Anybody who has been involved in Mensa politics knows that’s not true. Mensans can be downright cruel at times. These are, after all, people who hooted when Dr. Demento mentioned a radio station “right here in Philadelphia.”
The other morning, I had one of what my wife calls “epiphanettes,” one of those little insights that tend to hit me when I’m not looking.
I think I found the reason why Mensa gatherings are the only place where I don’t feel like the rear end of a pantomime horse. (Enough with the Python already, Bob!)
Mensa is the only place where I don’t have to hide my intelligence.
It sounds a bit silly on the surface. Why hide your intelligence? The better question is, why show it? Sometimes I wonder why they call people of Mensan-level intelligence “gifted.” Unless that gift happens to be of a specific type that an employer is willing to pay a large sum of money for, it’s a gift as appealing as an ugly tie. The only solution for many of us is not to wear that tie.
Many people are so insecure about their intelligence that they resent the gifted. We are taught from an early age to avoid one-upping classmates, teachers, family, co-workers, and bosses in order to get along in life. Mensa is the one place where we’re able to let the geek flag fly.
One unfamiliar with Mensans might be surprised at the occupations they hold. To trot out a cliché, they do come from all walks of life. Yes, computer geeks are common. There are also lawyers, teachers, doctors, writers, scientists, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, and, yes, a now-retired adult film star. There’s one occupation that I’ve always found under-represented—college professors. (And please don’t bombard my inbox with the names of Mensan professors. I’m going by my own experience here.) My theory? They don’t need Mensa because they don’t have to hide their gifts in the real world.
So to the 1800-plus who attended the 2009 AG, I hope you had a great time. I’ll see you down the road when I have the means to come out of hiding again.
Cheerio, when the moon sails along
In your heart, sing a bright little song
Someday I’ll kiss away your troubles and woe
Cheerio, cherry lips, cheerio
And don’t forget to stay demented!