The few, the proud: Life among the very smart


September 06, 1992|By Elizabeth Coady | Elizabeth Coady,Cox News Service

ATLANTA -- When Bob Blazak rises before a group of geniuses today, he'll take on a topic that taxes the most awe-inspiring minds among us.

You're thinking cold fusion? The riddance of world hunger? Eliminating the federal budget deficit?

Think again.

Rather, Mr. Blazak will give lessons in "Car Buying 101" to an estimated 120 Mensans expected at the "regional gathering" being held here this weekend.

"It's a primer on how to buy a car," says Mr. Blazak, an automobile-buying consultant who teaches classes on the subject at Kennesaw State College.

A non-Mensan himself, this is Mr. Blazak's third appearance before the high-IQ crowd, whose members test intellectually in the top 2 percent of the population.

(Mensans score 132 or higher on IQ tests; Average Joes score at or around 100.)

Before his first visit, Mr. Blazak fretted that his audience would show him up. "As it turned out," he says, "they needed the same basic information that the average person needs. They have an unjustified stigma about them."

Pity the poor Mensans. For that matter, members of any of the half-dozen or so high-intelligence groups.

Blessed (or perhaps cursed) with sometimes dazzling IQs, these select few have to grapple with "nerdy" stereotypes, stave off "elitist" tags and contend with society's high expectations.

"My wife, she gave me a hard time because I even took the test, and I get the same sense from other people," says IBM computer expert Tom Moore, 49, of Marietta, Ga. "It's like you're being uppity."

Mensan John Westenhaven of Norcross, Ga., says he's experienced negative reactions.

"But this is no different from the occasional reactions of people when they learn I know the computer system better than anyone else in the office," says Mr. Westenhaven, a data-processing technician. "It's the reaction people have when they meet up with excellence."

By this, he's referring to the "you make me sick" comments of acquaintances who don't take up tasks so easily. Still, these extreme reactions are rare.

More common are the suspicious eyes aimed at Jeff Ward, a former Mensan who is president of the Mega Society -- the creme de la creme of the know-it-all sects, with a mere 30 members worldwide.

The group says its membership is open to only one in a million people, but other IQ clubs dispute whether tests can discern such intelligence levels.

"There seems to be an intimidation factor," says Mr. Ward, 40, a San Diego resident. He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records three times as the Mega test's top scorer, until being bested by Parade magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant.

"People are a little bit wary around somebody they think is super-intelligent -- like, 'What sort of secrets of mine have I exposed to this person?' " he says.

Small wonder, then, that these brainiacs want to commiserate, kick back a few beers, ponder life's imponderables, listen to a few lectures, and play a few games.

Thus, this weekend's meeting, one of several held each year around the nation, offering such diverse activities as interactive mystery theater and lectures on "weird science" by physicist Gary Lewis and on prostitution by Dolores French. Potential sexy subject: How to French Kiss for Profit.

"It's as if a bunch of people said, 'Hey! Let's get together and have a party,' " says Bambi Mitchell, 38, of Brookhaven, Ga., the national development officer for American Mensa Ltd. "It's too big to hold in anybody's house."

"Who wants to sit around in deep thoughts every day?" asks Ms. Mitchell, an unemployed public relations agent. "I want to share a joke and have a drink and watch a movie and things like that from time to time."

Founded in Britain after World War II, Mensa was intended as a forum to attract society's best minds to help solve world problems, says Lisa Roschewsk, spokeswoman for American Mensa. Sadly, consensus on just how to do that was difficult to reach, and members gradually grew more interested in socializing than saving the world.

Roger Simon is on vacation. His column will be resumed Sept. 9.

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