Friday, May 12, 2006

In real life

I didn't only sit there before a computer in a dimly lit room with cigarette smoke curling around my head, cat asleep in my lap, as I chatted and moderated away. Nope; we also arranged to meet 'IRL', in real life.

It's difficult to describe the IRL experience to a non-chatter, especially with all those stories doing the rounds about meeting nuts online. Had my share[^] of those!

With just one exception I was never silly enough to meet up with someone for the first time in private; nope, always in public spaces with plenty of witnesses around. I'm not yet willing to talk much about that sole exception; it took place in Dallas a decade ago and I've so managed to suppress it in my memory that I cannot remember even a street name related to the experience despite having been back to Dallas a dozen or so times within the last two years.

Later experiences were much better. Three girlfriends and a wife ain't a bad outcome! :-) For the most part, however, IRL meetings were a group of four or five us living in the same city who decided to go have dinner together at some restaurant in the city and share all the in jokes that only an online community can generate!

Quite an instructive experience. I don't think a single person I met in that way, online first and then in person, ever matched the mental image I'd formed. I'm sure I didn't match their image either!

Occasionally there'd be interstate people and on rarer occasions someone from overseas. One forum I was involved with, Chatgames[^] even staged an annual meetup in Las Vegas.

One of the interstate people was Alice[^], of whom I wrote last night. Freckle faced, painfully thin and 16. A group of us met at Pat O'Briens (sic?) pub at Southgate in Melbourne for dinner and some fun. I reckon I was the oldest by quite a margin; most of em were early 20's.

After dinner we decided to go to Crown Casino[^] and maybe waste 20 bucks on blackjack. Of course Alice posed a problem; at 16 she was too young to be allowed in. But we weren't daunted by a little problem like that; we'd smuggle her in past the bouncers and everything would be allright.

Approached the first entrance. It was a given I'd get in so we tried the idea of Alice holding my arm as we marched in. It didn't work. Ok, regroup and rethink. We moved to a second entrance and tried again. Failed again but we'd worked out why; she made eye contact with the bouncer and smiled. Braces gave her extreme youth away. So we repaired to a third entrance and tried again, this time with admonishments to look either straight ahead or toward the floor. Success!

A year or two later my wife and I started our own online games site, Mindprobes[^] and Alice became one of our 'kids' games hosts. If I was 45 at the time what chance had I of writing a trivia game tuned into 1999 pop or rap? At 18 by then Alice was an ideal choice.

Did I contribute to the corruption of a minor? I doubt it. Alice was glad to have some adults the age of her parents take her seriously and treat her as an equal. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for me with regard to Morgan.

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