I bit my knuckle in dismay.
How could I meet firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat in real time with my manager sitting in the cafÃ© with me? And yet–how could I deny my longing to be with duckwrangler508?
It had begun innocently enough. I subscribed to the newsgroup for a new inventory system, which my manager had installed on our system, and dutifully skimmed each digest I received. Several times, I saw duckwrangler508 answer the questions of others, and each time he helped them with kindness, consideration and humor. I admired his gentle graces from afar, too shy to introduce myself. Then one day he posed a question no one could answer and by strange chance I had once experienced the exact problem he described–what was more, I knew how to resolve his dilemma.
But here, alas, is the point of my downfall. The solution was not mine. I had spent many hours on the phone with my tech support liaison struggling to resolve the error, though the final solution turned out to be a simple one. The details are not important here, but know that I presented the answer to duckwrangler508 as if it were my own. He responded with effusive thanks both on the group and in private correspondence. If only I had stopped there, but I did not. Emboldened by my success, the next time he posted a quandary, I took it to my tech support liaison and then presented duckwrangler508 with the solution given to me.
It seemed I now faced a beverage of my own making, a cup of instant coffee that threatened to destroy the grounds of our relationship. duckwrangler508 wanted to chat in real time. What was I to do if he asked me a question I could not answer? Should I set aside the mask of netspeak and reveal myself? Would he be repulsed that I was not a computer savant, but merely a barista?
And yet- he had been thinking of me. A flush of pleasure crept through my veins as I realized my last message had been unrelated to computer issues. Was it possible my dear Ducky–as I called him in my most private thoughts–felt towards me as I to him? Before conscious thought could dissuade me from my choice, I pressed the reply button, and let my fingers dance over the keyboard.
â€œduckwrangler508,â€ I wrote, â€œb 🙂 2 meet u anywhere u say. exitrealâ€
With my heart trembling in my chest, I sent my missive spinning through the Web. Had I sounded too eager? Should I have delayed replying so as not to appear as if I waited on him?
I left my laptop connected to the Web and tried to focus upon my work. I had not long to wait. It seemed my Ducky was as anxious as I was, for he replied instantly with an e-mail reading simply, â€œnow? here?â€ and a link.
I glanced at Mr. Purvis, still engrossed in his work. All the customers had left the cafÃ© in the mid-morning slump–surely Mr. Purvis would not begrudge me this small outing–and so, with a small shock at my own audacity, I wrote, â€œyes. c u there.â€
I hit the send button and clicked upon the link Ducky had provided.
A new window opened and I waited through the agonizing second while the chat room loaded. The hourglass upon my screen let fall its sand with maddening slowness; each pixilated grain repeated the same vanishing descent so the pile at the bottom grew no larger while the top grew no smaller. How like the fruitless tasks that filled the hours of my life with meaningless purpose. Is it any wonder I was beguiled by the sense of worth I gained from my beloved Ducky?
The hourglass vanished and the chat room lay before me, empty.
Tune in tomorrow for Part III.