Sit down in the dingy lab chair, and login

type the two commands



and there is everyone. The glowing green and black screen that gives me access to scores of people I know and don’t know, but who all want to talk to me.

With a keyboard I can talk to each of them. My own sadie hawkins dance, even more than one at a time.

The terrified teenage college coed stumbled upon the beginnings of the internet.

My state only, but there were rumors of more. A greater reach around the world if I wanted it.

Except I could barely keep up with everyone on this system. I knew what all those 5 letter userids meant. I knew which ones were boring and which witty.

There were other girls online–three I think. I chatted them to sniff out the  competition. This was my playground. My world. My ascii-art landscape of sociability that I could not hope to  navigate in real life.

I never wanted to leave.

But the semester ended. And the world ended.

I had heard rumors of a device that would let me re-enter from home. We had an old radio shack computer, but that modem was past the horizon of possibility. Hopeless.

After Christmas, lonely and driven to see what treasures my inbox was hiding, I tried to get back into the lab, sure I could sneak in and just see. Mat-Su College was dark and snow-dank, echoing empty hallways and the lab. I tried the door. It was locked.

I tried the other door.

The nodie poked his head out.

This was not the cool long-haired nodie-lab assistant- who flirted with me and told me he wore dresses sometimes.   It was the helmet-haircut grumpy nodie who listened to 50s music. I once heard his portable radio playing “Oh why must I be a teenager in love?” How strange, I thought. He is not a teenager, but I am. I wonder if I am in love?

Day after Christmas, not yet eighteen, hand on the locked lab doorknob, I looked back at the nodie. Ashamed of my need, yet still hopeful, I looked in the eyes of the gatekeeper.

“Lab’s closed.” and he turned his back, muttering about vaxheads.

Twenty, no, more than twenty years past and I hear people complain about how they are addicted to their smart phones.

Addicted to twitter. Can’t stop playing on facebook.

Like they invented it. Fresh frantic monkey on their back.

The monkey on my back went grey-haired a long time ago.