Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 1

I've got a few guilty pleasures in my life with my bike no doubt topping that list. All work and no play makes me no fun to be around. Actually, my bike plays second fiddle to my computer this time of year—another guilty pleasure.

I remember twenty years ago when I first began hearing about the benefits of home computers and how they were going to revolutionize our lives and free up all sorts of time. Yeah, right. I can't think of a larger time-sink. Not that I'd want to live without mine because I wouldn't. There's just too much information available from whatever cozy, wireless spot you happen to find yourself in the comfort of your home to dismiss or ignore this technology. I love it and I don't want to be without it!

I didn't use to feel that way. I used to say that I was going to be the last guy in Lakeville to get online. That was ten years ago. I didn't know a browser from a jpg and I wasn't interested in learning the difference. My older brother Bryan used to talk to me about getting a computer and how we could email each other and stuff. Bryan's days with computers went back to the late '70s or early '80s and his Radio Shack TRS80 computer. The idea of sending emails to each other didn't do much for me but as time went on it was apparent that computers were increasingly infecting our daily lives and I began to wonder if maybe I was being left behind. I was in danger of being labeled a Luddite.

It's not that I didn't appreciate technology because I did. My new (at the time) custom made Serotta being a prime example. I know that a big reason for my hesitation in joining the wired world was that I was worried I'd spend more time than I wanted to with a computer and have little to show for it. A valid concern then and now.

Somewhere along the way, I warmed up to the idea of plugging into this technology that many of the guys at work were already into and my neighbors as well. "Kevin—what's your email address?" "I'm not online, should I be?" Stunned look.

It was December 1998 and although my divorce had only been finalized nine months earlier for all intents and purposes I'd been living life as a single guy for three years. I used to occasionally go see a movie by myself. Pathetic I know but that was my existence. On a night in December of '98, I would go to see You've Got Mail.

That movie changed my life. It really did.

It was a turning point because I watched how a computer could connect me with a whole other world, and I'd be lying if I said that finding love in my life wasn't on my mind. That romantic comedy was all it took. Those sort of movies aren't meant to leave lasting impressions on you, are they?

Within a couple weeks, I'd be placing an AOL disc (the internet on training wheels) into my own new desktop computer and trying to make sense of what was before me. It didn't take long before I found the chat rooms and I was having a blast in them. Going from room to room making connections with people and joking nights away with Snickers curled up by my feet. I wasn't much for the club scene so this was a good way for me to make some connections outside my home. I needed that.

Within a couple months the chat room fascination ran its course and I grew tired of them. I sometimes used to wonder what it would be like to answer a personals ad in the weekly paper but I never tried. I noticed one of the links on AOL's homepage was to a site called "Digital Cities", a site for personals ads just like what I used to occasionally peruse in the paper. I started checking out the ads and answering a few. I never gave much thought about placing my own. I was content to work with whatever was out there.

It didn't take long; I got a response from a woman named Christie in Eagan. We made arrangements to meet that Saturday night to see the Titanic exhibit in St. Paul and then go to dinner at Dakota Bar and Grill. I sent her my photo and awaited hers. It never came. I inquired about it and she said she'd get it to me but it became apparent that this was going to be a blind date in every sense of the word...at least from my end. We spent some time on the phone together over the next few days as well as some time instant messaging each other. She seemed nice enough.

I drove to her townhome to pick her up and when she opened the door I could instantly tell that we weren't a match. She simply wasn't my type. I was a bit let down but probably more disappointed in myself for not being more assertive in getting her photo before our date. Not that looks are everything but they obviously matter.

I did my best to put on a good face and make the most of our date. It would be a practice date and God knows I was out of practice. The night ended in a hug and I loaned her a couple CDs I'd had in my truck which she liked. I don't know why I did that because I knew there was no hope for a second date but there's that 'too nice' side of me which sometimes can't say what needs to be said. I emailed her when I got home to thank her for the date but also to tell her that I didn't feel a connection and didn't want to lead her on. She said she was fine with that and I made arrangements to stop by her home in a few days to retrieve my CDs.

I'd go back to Digital Cities and pick up where I'd left off. This time the results would be entirely different.

To be continued...

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