From Alpha to Beta

The Internet is all-atwitter about Google’s upgrade of various services, including Gmail, from “beta” mode.  What has tech pundits tweeting, blogging and otherwise filing digital observations is that Google took five years to do so. I, of course, take exception to the snark seeing as I’ve personally been in “beta” for nearly 37 years. Yes, I freely admit I’m not ready for primetime, I’m not an “official release,” I’m merely “as is.”

I learned this as many children do, while sifting my parent’s sock drawer for spare change. Thereupon, I discovered a manila envelope, the brass clasp for which proved too tantalizing not to pinch and inside, brittle and yellowed by the decades, was my birth certificate.  My infant footprints framed my name like laurel leaves as well as the bracketed tell-tale term “Beta,” which followed it. (Why I was pilfering change from my parents’ sock drawer at age 37 is a personal matter having to do with parking meters and my failure to feed them, resulting what I’ve learned is an exponential fees schedule).

Anyway, I’ve long suspected I was different. My parents, lovely people that they are, had clearly tried to obscure this fact from me, but its specter lurked in the hushed tones and furtive glances that limned my youth despite their attempts to convince me that I was not merely among them, but also of them. How could this ever be, the differences were so apparent? Both have graduate degrees, both enjoyed exemplary success in their respective fields and neither are nary a nanometer over five-foot-eight inches tall. In contrast, I’m a high school dropout who managed to slither in and out of state college through loopholes that could scarcely fit an earthworm, my field has been devoured by ones and zeroes and my ungainly frame dwarfs my parents with enough significance to suggest a pituitary disorder.

Knowing one is beta, however, has its advantages. Seeing as one is perceived as perpetually imperfect, the world asks for less and as such, it’s much easier to exceed its expectations. Consider this notion, “I’m functionally illiterate.” Now, aren’t you impressed at how well I can write? I know I am.

Also, as it turns out, in one’s social life the relationship of “beta” and “alpha” is reversed. This accounts for the so-called “alpha-male” who (allegedly) leads the pack. As a BetaMan, I need only follow AlphaMan blindly while making snide remarks about him (can’t wait to meet one!). Moreover, I’m no longer compelled to dominate conversations, exude excessive charm or display any real prowess associated with the desirability of my genes. I’m both the wingman and test-pilot – it’s all blue skies for me (lest I get to close to the sun, of course). In fact, I could be leader of the Betas, if I weren’t so damn good at being Beta, which keeps me happily at the back of the class cracking jokes with OmegaMan about how the Betas will someday avenge themselves for “that ancient upset wrought by VHS.”

Another privilege known to only those in permanent Beta is the looming prospect of no longer being Beta, of someday overcoming one’s Beta-ness and becoming, say, Gamma or perhaps even Epsilon (not to mention Omikron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, which strikes me as a wonderful name for one’s inner super-villain). To aspire is to grow. And I don’t mind growing until my “official release,” to the next Beta-life.