Hello again from the Big Blue!
The year is 1987.
My boyfriend, Stud, and I have just finished another round of sucking face and groping, and now we’re bored – as teenagers perpetually are when not groping or face sucking. “Let’s go over to Geeky B’s and hang out,” Stud suggests.
“It’s after eleven o’clock, he’s probably asleep,” I say, readjusting my bra and re-spiking my hair, (which may have been blue at that time).
“Are you kidding? He probably only woke up an hour ago.”
We hop in my car – well, my parent’s car, a massive, white and red Malibu Classic, Damn the environment, full speed ahead – and go. Sure enough, Geeky B’s house is dark but for one light in his bedroom. After a rap on his window, he lets us in. Stud was right, Geeky B is at his computer and his night has just begun.
Geeky B and I go back to the days of our 5-pin bowling team. (Yes, I bowled. I also collected comics, and kept my Star Wars collector cards in a photo album, in sequential order. Got a problem with that?!) He was at the forefront of the Computer Geek movement, with his pasty white skin, out of date clothes, and too-large glasses. He dropped out of school in Grade Eleven to spend more time on the computer. I worried about him, and the irony of that, in this age of technology, must be obvious.
“You guys gotta check this out!” Geeky B says, motioning to a large contraption sitting on his desk, beside his computer. The contraption is a metal box straight out of an eighties sci-fi movie. It is about twelve inches across and eight inches high, with all manner of cords, wires, and bits of…um…stuff poking out of it.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Watch.” Geeky B smiles, takes the handset of his phone from the cradle and places it into a form-fitting receptacle on top of the contraption. Then there is a flurry of keystrokes and incantations (and I think he may have brandished a magic wand). The contraption lights up and starts making all kinds of weird noises. As Geeky B types, we watch a glowing green sentence appear on his computer screen:
Hey, Gates, what’s up?
That’s when the magic happens. Words start to appear beneath Geeky B’s sentence, except he isn’t typing them.
Not much, Geeky B. Got to Level Ten on Frogger today.
Far out. Still working on that stupid micro-whatever program?
Yeah, but my mom’s being a total cow, she says me and Steve gotta mow the lawn and rake the leaves once a week or she’s not gonna pay for our Doritos and Coke any more.
As the “conversation” continues, Geeky B turns to look at our puzzled expressions with a crafty smile. “Do you know where that’s coming from?” He asks. Of course, we don’t. “Texas!” (What? You thought I was going to say Seattle?)
“How?” Stud and I ask, in awe.
He points to the contraption, “Through that. It’s called a Modem.” (Cue the Steven Spielberg-esque music).
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the internet.
The year is 2008.
On a wee patch of volcanic land, somewhere in the South Pacific, from the comfort of my bed, (yes, I write in bed), I am “speaking” to you over the very same internet I witnessed the birth of way back in Geeky B’s bedroom.
Twenty years, less really, that’s all it took to get from there to here. Twenty years ago, I would have had to rely on letters to communicate with the outside world. Today, I can communicate with Beckster back in Nelson, in real time, via Instant Messaging, while she speaks to the Ripster via satellite phone, as he stands on the summit of Mt. Everest. How crazy is that?
I owe much to the internet. I live in a place with no bookstore and no library – heck, you can’t even buy a watch here – but I can research anything, down to the smallest detail with just my trusty laptop, (or “Lappy” as he’s affectionately known) and a few cords.
But there is a dark side to all this technology. Sometimes, I think they should have called it the Crack-net, to better express the internet’s addictive qualities. Be honest, how much time do you spend on Facebook? The other danger of the internet is the anonymity factor. Predators and bullies, who, in real life, are confined to back alleys or their parent’s basements, find a world, rich in victims, they can move through freely, all with the click of a mouse. And of course, as easily as I can find information on a 5th Century BC trade vessel, so others can also, just as easily, find information on how to make a bomb with the items you keep under your kitchen sink. Scary.
While I manage to avoid – I hope – most of the predators and terrorists, and my limited bandwidth/speed keeps me from wasting too much reality time online, I have run into my share of bullies. If you’ve spent any time at all on a discussion board, you know exactly what I’m talking about because there’s always one, often more than one, of these real-life losers who live to taunt and ridicule unsuspecting newcomers to their little internet kingdom.
Discussion boards, or forums as they are also known, are essentially networking platforms for folks to meet online and discuss subjects they are interested in or passionate about. For me, as a writer, they are gold. For the manuscript I’m currently working on, I have a shipwreck forum populated by maritime archaeologists, salvage operators, and shipwreck enthusiasts, from all over the world, who supply me with leads and information I would otherwise spend months, maybe years, trying to track down. I am constantly overwhelmed with gratitude for the assistance these strangers so willingly provide. (If any of you are reading this – thanks again!)
I’ve been working on a short story I hope to enter in a competition this summer and I needed some technical information on life rafts. I emailed the Fergs and the Flying Powers (my blow-boater friends) for some info but I also found a good sailing website with a bustling forum, which I posted on. I’m always honest about my intentions when I post on forums, and so I explained that I was a writer, working on a short story, and looking for answers to a few technical questions.
So, what kind of responses did I get?
Most, as usual, were excellent, positive, comprehensive, and friendly. (If any of you are reading this – thanks again!) But, as usual, the bullies had to rear their ugly cyber-heads. Two fellows, in particular, seem to…well, how about I just let you read some of their comments:
“Look…I could be like everyone else here and tell you to get a real job….but I don’t…”
“Professionally I wrote already over 180 reports…all over 50 pages they also have charts, tables, recommendations, fancy calculations and each is sold very expensively…. etc…
So I guess I am a writer too…just like you….PFFFFFFFFFFFFFF”
“He passes away a sucker, much like those that read this post… she is gone now, adrift in words that almost could be called plagiarism – a egoistic parasite that when given the chance dances for only the five minutes but if no quarters remain in the jukebox – gone – for ever more…”
There’s more, but you get the idea.
The best thing to do with these sorts of sad people is ignore them. Their rants are the same on every forum, on every subject. They are no different than the school yard bullies who, undoubtedly, used to beat up my friend Geeky B because he had the audacity to be different.
The year is 1998.
I’m all gussied up for the final X-Files wrap party at the Planetarium. From behind me, in the elevator, a deep voice says, “Princess?” When I turn around, a tall, dark-haired, strikingly handsome man, in an expensive suit and tie, is smiling at me.
“I’m sorry,” I say, apologetically, “do I…”
“It’s me, Geeky B!” he says.
And so it is. We hug. He tells me about the big software company he is part owner of. I tell him about my job as a stunt performer. Neither of us is surprised by our career choices but we are ecstatic at our mutual success.
Is there a moral to this story?
QUESTION: Is there a moral to this story?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!