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The new brain-drain
by John Pederson
2007-05-02 10:04:40
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If you already know what a “nerd pocket” is or simply refer to it by another name - like pect-pocket, chest wallet or the briefcase badge - I have news for you: You’re a nerd like me. If you don’t know what I’m taking about, just take a look at the picture.

As any nerd will tell you, the nerd pocket has numerous advantages over traditional wallet or backpack schema, like quick access for jotting down fleeting thoughts and ideas, ergonomic superiority, and - most importantly - the chicks dig it. But, with so many obvious advantages, why is this functional fashion accessory relegated to marginalized groups of geeks?

It’s a security issue really. First of all, you have to be secure enough with yourself to look like your high school chemistry teacher. And secondly, you have to find some way to protect the contents of your pocket. Like so many global problems, this second issue disproportionately affects those in the developing world. Allow me to explain.

Almost any sudden movement - dashing from oncoming traffic, an enthusiastic gesture, or a sprint to the bathroom - can throw the contents of your nerd pocket into the nearest puddle, sewer or toilet - maybe this is why, with the exception of badminton, you rarely see a bulging nerd pocket on an athletic field or court of any kind. And here in the midst, or downpour rather, of Indonesians rainy season, my entire village is one big puddle - not good news for my pocket-sized electronic dictionary.

Unlike my nerdy brethren back in the U.S., I don’t have to deal with bullies waiting at the corner to steal my lunch money. At a slender six-foot nothing, I still tower over even the roughest looking dudes in my village. And I would certainly much rather brawl with any number of them than face my daily adversary: the gravitational nuances of the “kamar kacil” (which literally means little room, or bathroom, in Indonesian.)

Welcome to the land of squat toilets

The squat toilet, as it is commonly referred to by Westerners, is a bit of a misnomer if you ask me. The “squat” part is accurate enough. But the word “toilet” is misleading - at least from a Western perspective because toilet seems to imply a structure or fixture of some sort. The squat toilet, on the other hand, is usually nothing more than a hole in the ground.

Often this hole is tiled with some sort of ceramic fitting, but essentially it is still just a hole. There is no toilet paper either. And even if there was, the septic systems are not equipped to handle it. So, with pants at your ankles or on a nearby hook - if you had the time and foresight to use it - you have to finish the job with a small pail scooper and a bucket of water. Now, depending on your personal hygiene standards, this involves a lot of splashing, bending, and balance.

Splashing, Bending and Balance are the nerd pocket’s worse enemies. Any one of these activities could spell disaster for any nerd whose AlphaLink EI-321 electronic pocket dictionary/scientific calculator happens to fall from his open shirt pocket down a latrine or is clumsily soaked during the scooper and pail stage of cleanup. Of course one could just empty the contents of the pocket before each squat, but the urgency manifested by exotic spices rarely permits such luxuries.

Of course I have heard of a “pocket protector”, but whatever sort of “protection" they provide, I’m pretty sure I can’t buy one down at the local market. This struggle is not restricted to us nerds in rural Indonesia. Geeks in squatting societies everywhere are losing the battle in these solitary water fights, but it’s the communities and countries in which they squat that are losing the war.

I wonder how many Nobel prizes have been washed away with a careless splash. How many homegrown solutions submerged or squatted down the drain. How many epiphanies and equations wiped from existence.

In order to stand up to face the many obstacles that impede development, individuals must first be able to sit down, or squat, without slipping behind. But it’s often the most practical solutions that elude us - especially us nerds.

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Get it off your chest
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Asa2007-05-02 22:30:08
Welcome back, John!

You even made me laugh.

Thanos2007-05-03 09:17:00
Ovi's lost child!!! :)

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