• Didier Bahuaud

Time to chat

Updated: Feb 26

Let's take a few minutes from our daily workout to turn our attention to a much more fulfilling activity: chatting on the Internet. At least there, Richard Simmons is nowhere to be seen.

Before you go online, you need to pick a nickname that reflects your character; if you don't have any character, try a name that sounds cool anyway. Guys, think He-Man, Mega-Volt or Fabio. Avoid Beany Babies and Mosquito Bites. Women, think Angel Whisper, Ravenhair, or... Actually, scratch that idea. You could call yourself simply "woman," and you'd still be able to get someone to talk to you within a microsecond of entering a chat room.


Indeed, much of your time online is spent pleading for someone to pay attention to you. If you're a woman, though, or claim to be one, your problem will be weeding out the people you don't want to talk to. A group of male users could be having an intense conversation about beer, and it would stop instantly as soon as someone with a name even remotely feminine enters the room. They all converge toward the potentially female user and line up like puppies waiting for a treat.


To chat, of course, comes from the Latin "chattore," which means "to get someone to talk about sex with you without being obvious about it." No matter how innocently the conversation starts, it always ends up in the gutter. But it takes skill to steer the conversation away from the mundane. Here is an example of what not to do:


ANGEL WHISPER: Hello. Is there a sensitive person in here I could talk to about life, the universe and everything?


MEGA-VOLTED FABIO: Sure. What side of the bed do you sleep on?


Despite his creative combination of names, Mega-Volted Fabio doesn't cut it. More experienced users, on the other hand, will build the suspense with a series of innuendos. I would love to share them with you, but the French Embassy has explicitly forbidden me from sharing any trade secrets. Sorry.


So, where do you go to chat with total strangers, anyway? Well, there's always America On Line. Its interface is the simplest to use and participants have access to hundreds of educational rooms with ominous names such as The Romance Connection, Sleepless in Wherever, and Bored Housewives.


Unfortunately, such cultural revolution is tough to reach because AOL has had troubles providing connections to the millions of customers who have received its free software. AOL is the Elvis of advertising strategy. It's bloated and you hear about it everywhere. You can't buy a burger without finding an AOL disk between the cheese and the E-coli contaminated slice of beef. Personally, I'm thankful for the dozen CDs I've received. They make a nice collection of coasters.


Beware, however, that if AOL doesn't have a local branch, you're probably dialing long-distance. Even if you're using AOL's 800-number, you still will be charged per hour for the call. So, read the fine print on the software package as you're setting up, and watch those phone bills.


Internet users are in luck because there are many places where they can go chat for free or for pretty cheap. A co-worker who has more chatting experience than the average human being pointed out a free site called Chat House. No special software is needed. You'll just need a cool nickname and your wits.


Now, if you'll excuse me, Ravenhair has entered the room.


— Published in "The Sedalia Democrat," Oct. 19, 1997

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