But It’s Just For Fun.
[singlepic id=51 w=320 h=240 float=left] A new question is sweeping the nation, a new development in the normal list of inquiries asked while making small talk. Being asked by family, co-workers, employers, and people at parties, I find myself having troubles coming up with an answer. The dasterdly query?
“What do you do for fun?”
With that, I’m immediately sucked back to Elementary school, feeling like I did when my teachers would ask a no-brainer and I’d go blank trying to answer. What color is the little red school house? Uh…
“Fun stuff?” I weakly answer. The quentioner is still looking at me. That must not have been the right response. “Nothing!” I try again. The questioner looks at me once more, though in an entierely new way. That is not what they are looking for either.
The problem is, what I consider fun others consider boring. I usually give that standard answer, “I watch movies and TV,” and we talk about the latest episode of Glee. But the truth is: my favorite pastime in the world is reading books.
And not just any books…encyclopedias.
Encyclopedias! I can’t tell you when this passion began, but it was early on. I blame my mother for giving me an illustrated dictionary when I was four. If it had just been pictures of cows and dishes and aardvarks I’d be fine, but the makers of THIS dictionary opened every alphabetical section with a brief illustrated history of the letter. Looking at the scrawl on the page I’d watch it transform from culture to culture, from runes to Greek, to Latin, to Arabic, to Old English, and finally into recognizable modern English, ending as the letter A. I was fascinated.
“What is she reading?” visitors would ask. “She’s really into it!”
My mother would look over. “B.”
That dictionary opened the floodgates. If the letter A was once a squiggle, what about the people who wrote it that way? What were they like? Tugging the giant blue encyclopedia from the shelf, my father helped me look up the Greeks, and then from there the Trojan War, and then from there the entry on Aesthetics. Soon I was reading it all by myself, jumping from entry to entry as if following links on a web-page (I invented the internet!). As I got older, my need to know didn’t go away but increased; after a hard day, there was nothing more relaxing than sitting down with a glass of milk and the estimated death toll from the first French Revolution.
For some reason my ability to recite every major battle of the Thirty Years War did not make me the most popular girl in school. While my classmates also read the dictionary, it was to look up dirty words.
“Oh my god, it says dam!” they’d shriek, and collapse into giggles.
“You know that’s the one associated with holding water?” I’d say, looking at the entry.
“Look!” someone else would cry. “Butt!”
Soon enough I learned that, though I longed for the complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, most girls longed for the complete set of Cabbage Patch Kids. Or those dolls that you filled with water until they peed themselves. I never understood why you’d want a peeing doll. I feel pretty confidant in saying I think whoever came up with the idea was on a much weirder level than my Webster’s-loving 8-year-old self.
Yeah, I will take the OED over Patty Wets Herself any day, thank you.
But I slowly became accustomed to giving the normal response–“What do I like? I like to watch TV and movies.” I kept my love of random information alive, but unmentioned to those who wouldn’t understand. Which, when you’re a weird kid, is generally everybody.
However, the internet and Wikipedia have opened new doors in my obsessive fact-checking fixations. We live in a joyous age where it’s acceptable to spend hours online, pouring over insignificant material and committing it to memory! No longer will anyone have to endure the stares of incomprehension in this new age of iPhone checking and Googling!
“What do you do for fun?” they ask!
“I look up random entries on Wikipedia and then cross-check them in a encyclopedia!” I proclaim!
They stare at me blankly. “You…that’s what you do for fun? You look up stuff in a hardcover encyclopedia?”
They roll their eyes. “Why don’t you just Google the answer?” they ask. “That’s what we do.”
And then they are off, talking to others about current events, checking and double-checking dates and facts and definitions on their iPhones while I watch from my corner by the bookshelf, containing one very dusty copy of the Britannica, entries A to CH.s