One of my favorite things, and sadly a thing that doesn’t happen nearly often enough, is encountering Nerdfighters out of context.
What I mean when I say “out of context” is this: anywhere I would not expect to run into someone. Any surprise meeting, anything outside of a place or an event where I know, without a doubt, I will run into Nerdfighters. I once ran into a Nerdfighter at a Pride event. Not surprising, but I wasn’t expecting it. So that, for me, was out of context.
I’m so used to running into Nerdfighters in context —at Nerdfighter events or YouTube gatherings— that meeting them anywhere else catches me by surprise like I’m being hit by a semi-truck that just popped out of a magical vortex fifty miles from any road.
This happened recently —twice, in fact— while I was on my Vidcon vacation. Obviously, I expected to meet Nerdfighters at the con itself. That was inevitable. I was expecting it, and there were no surprises. I was not, however, expecting the run-ins I had after the con was over.
The first occurred on Disney Day; now, I was certainly expecting to run into a few at Disneyland, but I was expecting it in an entirely different manner. In my head, any Nerdfighters I ran into would likely be wearing Vidcon shirts, or at least be standing in a line with me, waiting to get onto Space Mountain or Star Tours or some other attraction with exceedingly long queues. I was expecting that. It would have been no surprise if that had happened.
What I got instead, while departing the last run of the Haunted Mansion at the very end of the day, was a cast member in a fancy dress walking by my group with a parting, “DFTBA, my friends!” She remained fully in character, though when I looked back at her in what I imagine was a ridiculously cartoony double-take, she flashed the Nerdfighter gang sign. It absolutely made my day.
The second unexpected run-in happened on the road trip home. We were on the final leg of the journey, weary from driving through 102 degree weather in a car with a broken air conditioner. We decided to take a break in Grants Pass, Oregon to escape both the heat and the thick, fog-like mass of smoke caused by the wildfires plaguing Southern Oregon and Northern California. We stopped at Subway to eat dinner and enjoy the luxury of their functional air conditioning.
Somehow, Vidcon came up. “You went to Vidcon?” asked the employee in front of me. “How was it?”
Until now, I had always, without fail, had to explain Vidcon to any new person I mentioned it to. I asked, “You know what Vidcon is?”
“Of course I know what Vidcon is,” she replied. “I haven’t been living under a rock!”
I would soon discover that she was a Nerdfighter, and handed her my card in case she wanted to see my Vidcon coverage or just make a new friend. It was my little sister, however, who exchanged the Nerdfighter sign with her as we left to finish our trip home.
I never known quite how to react to encountering Nerdfighters out of context, so I no doubt come across a bit awkwardly in these situations. It’s very similar to the times I’ve unexpectedly run into friends and acquaintances far from the geographical locations I associate them with (the number of times I’ve run into people in the wrong state entirely is rising rapidly). My universe is turned upside-down, and I become the deer staring into the paralyzing headlights of universal chance (while, at the same time, “It’s A Small World After All” starts a perpetual, annoying loop inside my head).
But no matter how shocked or awkward I become, unexpectedly running into Nerdfighters always lights up my day. The Nerdfighter community has had a huge positive impact on me, over the years, and it is directly responsible for a great many wonderful things that have happened in my life.
In or out of context, meeting other Nerdfighters is always a delight.