Wassup, Stick Man?

December 01, 1997

Wassup, Stick Man?

Sending messages via computer, or "e-mail," as we highly technologicized computer wizards call it, is one of the simplest things in the world to do, which is precisely why it is so deathly treacherous.

I get lots of e-mail from people who stumble across my address and wish - out of the goodness of their hearts and without any thought of credit or compensation - to pass along helpful commentary and suggestions, such as "Why don't you write a column on why you are the world's biggest ree-tard."

Hence, it's not unusual for me to receive missives from people to whom I've never been introduced. So there was nothing unusual a couple weeks back about an e-mail from someone whose computer, or "screen" name was BmaxGirl who penned the simple message "wassup?"


For you people living in the stone age (who, for example, still list phone numbers in a $4.29 "Rolodex" where they can be found instantaneously instead of entering them in a $957 computer software program where they can be found in a mere 10 minutes (not counting the 20 minutes you need to allow for the computer to boot up and the program to launch), we computer types talk in a special code known only to us.

For example, "wassup" is computer code for "what is up?" just as "probly" is computer for "probably" and "u" is code for "you." You can only understand this language after months of intense study or if you are age 19 or younger or if, like myself, a naturally pathetic speller.

Anyway, wassup was only the beginning. I got a note from a drummer in Daytona Beach. Again, since my column is on the Web there's nothing really odd about hearing from people in other parts of the country. But the notes kept coming in far greater quantity than normal.

Still, being the egotistical maniac that I am, I couldn't imagine they weren't all intended for me - until I got one that started out "You are soooo cute..." Instantly red flags went up. Either this woman was terribly delusional or terribly sightless, or I was getting someone else's mail.

I conferred with BmaxGirl and she figured it out. Seems a chap named Tim in Yonkers, N.Y., notified all of his estimated 4 million friends that he was changing his screen name from Stick Man to Mistertim. He had, however, failed to check first to see whether the name was already in use - which it was, by me.

My luck, Stick Man is easily the most popular person on the East Coast and for the past two weeks, I've been getting all his mail. Just what I needed: a nice little electronic window into what interesting and exciting lives other people are leading.

Every night I'd get home and excitedly open my mailbox to find a dozen or so messages. I would open each one and grow more and more bitter as I discovered they were all for HIM. The only ones for me were ads for check writing software and the latest quadruple X porn site.

I endured this for a while, then decided to wreak some vengeance.

I'd reply to his friends: "I'm sorry, Tim can't come to the computer right now; he is lying bound and gagged on the living room floor while I check his apartment for jewelry and other valuables." After a while I grew weary of all that typing and settled for the simpler and somehow more satisfying "Tim is dead."

But through my shenanigans did he or any of his friends become annoyed? No. I've gotten to sort of know Tim (we call each other Tim I and Tim II) and some of his cohorts and they have been the model of politeness and friendliness.

And they're all 21 and under - this after I'd been promised all young computer fanatics were caustic, snippy know-it-alls. I am depressed. I want to tell them that idealistic, smart and nice is no way to go through life, but what's the use.

Just remember, it's one more reason why you can't trust computers.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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