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Part of my work as Queen of the Libraries is to select databases for Wilhelmsplatz. In some ways this is the hardest part of my job, because it means I have to talk to salespeople.

If I am remembering Dante’s Inferno correctly, and I am sure that I am, there is a special level of hell reserved for salespeople. One of the nastier levels, something more gruesome than your garden-variety wailing and teeth gnashing.

My own father is a salesperson. I am a terrible daughter.

A few days ago I met with the rep for our Reference USA database. I went into the meeting reluctantly, worried that she would try to sell me something, worried that she would shed her exoskeleton to reveal the alien/locust hybrid beneath.

Turned out she was a really nice lady who didn’t want to sell me anything. She just wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the database. Her costume was flawless; I have no idea where she was hiding the telecommunications gizmos that connect her to the mothership. I hate to make quick judgments* but I suspect she’ll spend her afterlife in one of the cozier levels of hell, the one with the exotic dancers and the beer and the dartboards.

*this is not actually true

We were messing around on the database. It can be really helpful in finding information about businesses (though not, alas, in finding info about Dad’s business.) The nice alien sales rep was amazed at my use of keyboard shortcuts—another point in her favor, since I am inordinately fond of people who are impressed by me.

“How’d you learn all that?” she cooed.

“Aw, I just picked it up here and there,” I said. I am a pillar of modesty. “All in a day’s work, ma’am.”

Actually, that’s about the truth. I am a keyboard shortcut fiend, but not because anyone taught me the tricks. My fluency on the keyboard is a result of too much time spent on the computer as a teen. (And as a 25-year-old, if you must know.)

When I was in the seventh grade, my parents grappled with a financial decision: Should they put their money into a new computer, or should they try to move our trailer out of the trailer park?

I desperately wanted to leave the trailer park, but we wound up with the computer. It was shiny and new. It had the latest OS, Microsoft Windows 95, and it connected to the internet via a dialup service called Pipeline.

So when I was 13, 14 years old, I spent all my free time (i.e., time not spent doing homework or practicing the tuba) in online chat rooms, which—believe it or not—which were really popular back then. Honest.

This was before Instant Messaging. Such a time did exist, though historical records are spotty.

Being the world’s biggest dweeb, I hung out in the Canadian Brass chatroom. I met lots of folks there, and to be able to keep up with the pace of the chats, I learned real quick how to type like a speed demon.

It was there that I met Stryder (that’d be his online name), a fellow tuba player about my age who lived in New York. (I think. Details are fuzzy after a decade.) We got to be friends, and we even talked on the phone a few times.

This was before cell phones, when long distance calls were a big deal. Life back then was nasty, brutish, and short.

It will not surprise anyone that I developed a crush on this guy. We spent hours chatting each afternoon. We eventually wandered onto different paths in the Forest of Tuba Playing, but at the time my friendship with him was as real as anything I had in real life.

You may be wondering what kind of loser has a crush on someone she’s never met. Was I too unpopular, too ugly, too awkward to meet real people? Yes, but that’s beside the point. Was I just crazy?

No. A new study, complete with statistics, shows that I was not abnormal, and we all know that statistics never lie.

The BBC reports that virtual friendships are really, really important to people. (I could have told you that 12 years ago, but you didn’t ask me.) Among other findings:

  • 40% of net-users were using the web to stay in contact with people
  • 37.7% believed the internet was enabling them to communicate more with friends and family
  • 7.4% of those surveyed kept a blog, double the figure in 2003
  • the number of people posting pictures online grew from 11% to 23.6%.

Based on these results, I am forced to conclude that there is more to the internet than just porn. Remarkable! I had no idea! This may very well revolutionize the way I use my laptop!

So my first e-crush was over ten years ago, and online things do still occasionally develop. I am no longer too unpopular, too ugly, or too awkward to meet people in real life…

HEY. I heard that. Shut up. At least concede that I’m not too ugly, mmmkay?

…as I was saying, I am no longer too unpopular, too ugly, or too awkward to meet people in real life. Any circumstantial evidence to the contrary has been fabricated by enemies of the Kennedy-Rockefeller cause.

But though potential suitors have been clamoring at the door to the Kennedy-Rockefeller estate, causing the beleaguered Kennedy-Rockefeller butler to buttle overtime, Ms. K-R has not neglected her distant admirers.

Most recently was an ill-advised liaison with this guy I met on fiction-l. Fiction-l is a listserv for librarians, and it can be a right pain in the ass. The problem is that a few of the members are idiots. It makes me scared to ever visit another library, on the off chance that one of these people might try to help me find something good to read. “I’m looking for someone like Dostoevsky, like Gogol,” I would explain. “Ah! I know the perfect thing!” would be the response from one of the idiots. “What you need is Karen Kingsbury!”

Most of the fiction-l people are smart and knowledgeable, but there are enough bozos to skew the results.

The nice part, though, is that when people post something really top notch, there’s often a flurry of off-list email. I’ve contacted a fair number of people off-list to privately praise their posts, and once in a while, people will email me to say something nice about what I’ve written. (Recall that I am a sucker for people who like what I say.)

So that’s how I met this one particular fiction-l’er, and for a while it was lovely: We got to talk about libraries and reading and cataloging. It was really fun, and we talked on the phone a lot, even though we were separated by half a country.

Alas, he turned out to be too saccharine for me. Case in point: I had relayed a pun about fiction-l, one created by Nebucheddnezzar (and this before I had even met N. I hadn’t started working at Wilhelmsplatz yet, and only knew of this pun because of a presentation I saw him give at a library conference.)

“Is it fiction heaven or fiction-hell?” I asked this guy, cackling.

“Meeting you makes me think it’s fiction heaven,” said the guy, in all seriousness.

Immediately after he said that, my Sap Sensors started to flash lights and blare sirens. At that point I realized I could not, in good faith, keep calling this guy.

…I mean really, what would you have done?

Fortunately not all of my e-friendships end in maudlin tragedy… though, to be fair, most of my online communication (though not all) is with people I know in real life who, unfortunately, live at a distance. (Hi, Marian! Hi, Queen of Claremont!)

Or not at a distance. I’ve had some lovely email conversations with people I work with. It can be difficult to socialize while on the job (for reasons unfathomable
, we’re supposed to work while we’re at work. Really, they’re so uptight around here) but after hours there is a lively trade amongst coworkers in email swapping, MySpace page visiting, and blog commenting.

It makes a great distraction from internet porn.


One response »

  1. I’m not sure I believe that the internet is ALL about porn, although I will say I have almost forgotten how to meet people in an old fashioned, face to face way… I owe my last 3 significant relationships (and maybe more than a little tawdry hook-ups) to the internet…


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