Monday, May 30, 2011

A little fiction for a change - WEB NOIR

The Internet Abuse Recovery Course is an eight step program, designed to get you off the wireless I.V. cold turkey. It is run by Reverend Julius K Tanly, a former social worker and Best Buy computer repair technician. It was a muggy evening in August and the meeting was being held in the basement of the 127th street Community Center. I was there to satisfy a court order in connection with a chat room etiquette infraction. As I waited for the meeting to get started I surveyed the other social defects around me. I’ve seen all these types before.

Sure, there were the hackers and the scam artists (those are just common criminals) but there were also the real deviants - the cretins whose pictures you see in the center square of the Wal-Mart Bingo, websites.

Hovering next to the doughnuts, was a guy who can’t stop posting LOL cat photos. I spotted him first, because he had maine coon hair stuck to his 5 o’clock shadow and his clothes smelled heavily of urine. Like all the people of his ilk, his forearms and face was covered in small scratches from him trying to wrestle some poor tabby into a reindeer outfit. That alone wasn’t enough to land him here, but the missing eye told me he was not only a threat to cats but to himself as well.


Over to the left was another sick bastard. One look at the bulge in his pants, and you could tell he was a fanboy; or else he just really liked being here. The attendants don’t pat you down when you come to these meetings. If they had, they would have found this guy was packing a light saber in his pocket - the plastic cone retracted to help conceal his dirty fetish.

There was the self absorbed Emo by the door, a black crayon scribble of a human being, obsessed with suicide, but too apathetic to do anything about it. In the back was a Jonas brother fan. You can’t do anything but have pity for those poor bastards.

No electronic devices of any kind were allowed at these meetings. That made it easy for me to tag the user next to me. She stared down at her lap, holding her two hands together, her thumps feverishly swiping at empty air…”Twitters twitch” they call it, classic stage 2 withdrawal. The next stage is nausea and then vomiting.

In the other corner, like a balled up McDonalds wrapper, was a member of 4chan. Guys like that have a supernatural ability to manipulate GIF files but hate everything and everyone, except of course Sparta. Call them what you want, Nihilists, Anarchists, Terrorists - you have to admit they’re funny. It’s usually impossible to get one of these guys to step outside their bedrooms. They have an aversion to sunlight, not like vampires - more like mold. Then again, who am I to judge? Every person here has the same problem, myself included. We survive only at night, in the dark humid corners of the world. None of us can go outside without turning white and drying up. The 4chan guy wouldn’t last 30 minutes at this meeting

I panned the room for some more challenging culprits to decipher, then my eyes stopped on her. Looking at her, framed in the doorway, it was like a new window had just popped up on my monitor screen. She was better looking than any woman on those free porn sites. She was tall with 8” heels and a neck like a swan, decorated with a gold ribbon. Yeah, you definitely have to fork over your credit card number to see something that good.

The meeting was about to start, so she stretched, looking around the room for any unoccupied chair. Spotting the empty seat next to me, she headed straight for it. She had the stride of a runway model. She gave me a polite nod as she sat down. ‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘maybe this isn’t going to be such a bad night after all.’

Then Rev. Tanly, approached the podium. Dressed in black slacks, a skinny tie, and a white, short sleeve shirt, an outfit identical to the one he wore during his days on the Geek Squad, he began to speak.

“Masturbators and fornicators all of you. Invitors of viruses onto your computer and Satan into your homes.” The 4 chan guy immediately got up and walked out the door. This was going to be a long night.

So I turned my attention to the bird next to me. I tried not to look over at her, but, instead attempted to size her up from the brief glimpse at the doorway. Why was she here? There are very few women at these meetings. That’s probably because women are smarter than us. Once in a while you’ll see a sad one, the groupon hunter, the Justin Beaver fan, but that’s rare. And they’re mostly harmless.

This one wasn’t one of those types. Nor was she a fashion addict. Her dress was nice but you could tell it wasn’t too expensive. Her makeup certainly wasn’t up to Mary Key standards. And the modest purse she was carring wasn’t made of wood or made out of an old an old lunchbox, nor was it a small dog.

For a minute I thought maybe she could be one of those types that get their kicks dressing up in Japanese anime outfits. I was hooked up with a Cosplay chick for a little while. But when she insisted I wear a Pikachu costume whenever we have sex, I got the hell out of there. No, this wasn’t one of those. You can spot them easily, even when they are in civilian clothing. They’re usually covered with glitter and have raw skin on the back of their neck and temples from where they have to rip off the wig tape.

“I promise you, you are all going to die unless you defrag your life, untangle yourself from the wireless wickedness of the world wide web.” It was a hot night and the Reverend was working up a sweat.

“How long does this usually last?” The swan was asking me a question.

“What?” I said momentarily caught off guard.

“These sermons, how long do we have to listen to this?” she asked.

“About an hour and a half, unless he starts talking about online gaming, then were in it for the long haul,” I answered, whispering so as not to be heard from the bully pulpit. It wouldn’t have mattered. The preacher/IT guy was on a roll now. He had a Skype line to heaven.

“Crap,” she said pulling a cigarette out of her purse and quickly lighting it.

“Got to get home to check your Facebook account?” Social Networking addiction was the number one reason women come to these things. This is the last stop whenever the cops respond to a woman who has broken into an ex-boyfriend’s place. It seems they always find the woman in the middle of the trashed apartment having shaved off all her hair, crouching in the middle of a giant nest that she has constructed out of the ex’s clothing.

“Facebook is a waste of time?” She took a drag. She was starting to really interest me.

“Yeah, so then why are you here?”

“Why are you here?” She shot back

“I can’t keep my opinions to myself.” The real story was that I got in an argument over the internet with some 18 year old twit. We were in a chat room together exchanging opinions about female vocalist. Instead of continuing to argue with the moron I decided to do something different. I decided I’d try and enlighten the kid. I went down to the McDonalds where he worked. I had every intention of being nice. I offered the kid a mixed CD that I had made with Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin on it. He said he had never heard of them and besides he only listens to Miley Cyrus. So I hit him - dropped him in one punch. The judge said that unless I wanted to find out the true meaning of the term troll bait I had better check myself into one of these programs

“I guess you could say, I’ve got the same problem. I’m too open.” She thought that was funny.

Despite the risk of being heard by Rev. Tanly, I decided to try to pursue a conversation with the bird.

“There are a lot of Hoarders here tonight.”

Hoarders?” she asked, half interested.

“Traders, guys who hang out on E-bay all day, filling their apartments with antiques small enough to mail. See the character over there, standing near the snack table. Keep watching.” The guy’s eyes were darting around the room. A moment later he picked a pilgrim shaped salt shaker off the snack table and casually slipped it into his pocket.

“Wow, you saw that coming.” She was easily impressed.

“He’ll get a couple bucks for it on Amazon, not much, but enough to turn around and buy a Royal Dalton gravy boat or a Bakelite letter opener. That will give him a fix for a few days at least.”

“Bunch of Star Wars traders here also. That one over there, he thinks he’s a Stormtrooper. Decided he wanted his armor to actually repel bullets. You know, to be different. So he made it out of metal. He got his little brother to wear the outfit while he tried it out. He shot at the little kid with a real gun.”

“What happened?”

“What do you think, he’s a Stormtrooper. He missed…hit two bystanders instead.”

“The rest of them are into Twilight, Potter or Firefly. But you won’t see Trekkies at any of these meetings.”

“How come?” She was completely pulled into the conversation.

“Star Trek fans never commit crimes. They have a flawless moral compass. That and they are all morbidly obese and can’t leave their apartments.”

“See that one? Fail blog douchebag. Those types will loosen the legs of chairs in hopes of getting a good video that they can post of someone falling on their ass. They would just as soon use their pickup truck to drag a friend in a row boat down a dirt road as push their grandmother down a flight of stairs so they could film it in slow motion. Add Keyboard Cat to the end and it’s like rubbing salt in the wounds. It’s like the internet is powered by cats.”

“It takes all kinds.” It was now her turn to shock me. “My neighbor had an online recipe trading dependency AND a LOL cat fetish, so she decided to combine them. The cops got involved when she started posting the results on a Cooking website, with the caption I am cheezeburger.”

The reverend was yelling now. “Did you see the homeless man in the ally as you all came in tonight? Did you bother to see what was in the man’s hands? It was an empty pack of cigarettes...but not to him, it wasn’t. Did you see what he was doing with it? He was fingering an empty cigarette pack like it was an iPhone, trying to make it scroll, tring to make the window expand. Do you want to end up like him? Trying to get the internet on an empty packet of cigarettes? Because you will end up just like him! I guarantee you will…”

I gave up on the lecture and focused all my attention on the swan. We traded quips and observations the entire night. She was easy to chat with - like listening to Pandora. We had a lot in common, but the entire night I couldn’t stop from trying to figure out her angle. Why was she here?

We talked about stoner dog, disaster girl, and our mutual hatred of David after the dentist then the reverend glanced down at his watch, and the meeting came to a abrupt end. I just ran out of time. Everyone stood and started making their way to the door. I still had no idea why she was here. I had to ask one last time. “You never did tell me why you’re here?”

“Does it matter? We’re a lot more alike than you think. Let’s leave it at that.” Then she had a thought, “Do you want to share a cab?”

She was giving out all the right signals. It turned out, despite every attempt by the preacher; the evening wasn’t so bad after all. I was surprised by my own thoughts. Maybe a little human contact wasn’t such an awful thing. Maybe it would be nice to talk to someone face to face once in a while, to have human connections.

It certainly was tempting - but then it hit me, right between the eyes, like a Wii control wand with a broken strap. I finally figured out why she was there. It all made sense, the walk, the voice, the neck band. Man, what a sucker I was. I had seen it all on the net and still I was roped in. I almost fell for it to. I put on my hat and stepped out the door without a glance back. “No thanks Sister, I’ll walk. The fresh air will do me good.” With all my problems, that right there is one problem I don’t need. I don’t need to get mixed up with someone who is part of the oldest meme on the web …Chicks with Dicks.

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