NOTE: This text has NOT been edited for spelling, punctuation, etc. This is straight from Ken's keyboard. We hope you enjoy it! ls
This is a story about how I found God in a Zeos Pantera computer.
Like all stories, it has a beginning. My beginning started with an ending - after fifteen years, my wife and I separated and divorced. The sum of our relationship was: a wonderful daughter, a large house, a car of the Toyota variety, and a store with bills that were rapidly filling up that Zeos Pantera's disk space. After the separation, I took the store, the debt, and the computer. Karen took the rest.
At first it did not seem like the best of trades - moving from the large house to the back of the store did not seem quite fair. But, there was no other way, looking on the bright side I found myself with a very short commute.
The store was located in a small resort town in the West - so small that there were only two single women in my age group in the entire town and they were booked until 1999. There are no movie theaters. There are a couple of taverns that specialize in customers hooting at the various sporting events on the television.
I remember feeling that I would need something to fill my time and take my mind off the separation. It's funny how your mind lets you sometimes inch into tragedy - at first it, it seemed like camping. Being now single and alone, I decided on a clever course of action: I would drive 150 miles to the town of Eugene and get some computer games to go with my Zeos Pantera. After all, it had a CD-ROM and a 256-color monitor - it made sense to me.
Looking back, this may seem a little pathetic: 47 years old, living in the back of a store. I, with what I thought was good reason, decided that Sim City, Return to Zork, and Leisure Suit Larry would provide me with the companionship I craved for the rest of my life.
I remember that night snuggling up in the sleeping bag, the heady aroma of a Marie Callendar's roast beef dinner hanging in the air, and the Leisure Suit Larry manual in my hand and a smile on my face. Life could be bliss - who needed relationships?
This phase of my life lasted about two days. The Sim City needed more RAM, Zork wouldn't configure to my system, and Leisure Suit Larry never seemed to get the girl. Cable was still a week away, and I was bored, lonely, and out of Marie Callendar's roast beef dinners. bliss had bailed out.
It was time for a little introspective look at my life, this was my second marriage I was beginning to wonder if marriage was such a good idea. A line from the play Our Town kept running through my mind something about going through life two by two. This time it felt more like a 2x 4. If I was going to get into another relationship it had to be special, what I really wanted was someone who would love me for who I was who would delight in me and yet encourage me to be better, someone who was always there for me and knew my every need, but I was old enough to recognize fantasy and just left my self content with finding a few good friends
It was at this time that providence entered my life. While searching for answers to the RAM problem I stumbled across the computer magazine with an AMERICAN ONLINE start up disk in it. AOL had been thrust into my life. Vaguely, I remembered an article I had read about cybersex and with trembling fingers I installed the disk. I was ready for whatever came my way. I had my life back. America Online was just what I needed...
Almost, seems like I needed a modem.
Life is way too complicated. Why can't you just run down to your local grocery store - the same place you buy the Marie Callendar's dinners - and throw a modem into your cart? Instead, you have to go to a place that sells modems.
If you remember the town was very small. Modem outlets were nonexistent. In fact, I suspect we just got outlets last year. Anyway...I stumbled across the information from Zeos that they had sent me with the computer and remembered that I could call them and they could FedEx the modem to me. Life went back to being simple - or so I thought...
CALLNG THE COMPANY
If anyone was to look back at what happened to the American economy from the year 2020, they will no doubt immediately realize that the principal problem with sales in this country was caused by companies who were not really wanting to sell anything to you. While that may seem contradictory, think about it: when was the last time you ever called a major company to buy a product and actually got to talk to a real person who really wanted to sell you something at all?
The call went something like this: Ring Ring Ring Ring "Hello. Welcome to Zeos, a division of Meos. In an effort to better help you, we would like you to listen carefully to the following menu, in order to better serve our customers this call may be monitored... "If you are using a touch tone phone, please press *1*. If you are NOT using a touch tone phone, forget it." (I Press *1*) "Welcome to Zeos. For our mail order catalogue, press *1*. For our Customer Service, press *2*. For accounts payable, press *3*. For Mindy, press *4*. For Sales, press *5*." (I Press *5* while wondering who Mindy is.) "Welcome to Zeos sales. If you are an institutional buyer, press *1*. For office computer needs, press *2*. For home sales needs, press *3*." (I Press *3*) "Welcome to Zeos home computer sales. For computers, press *1*. For monitors, press *2*. For software, press *3*. For accessories, press *4*." (I Press *4*) "Hello. You have reached Zeos accessories. If you are calling from the Eastern Time zone, press *1*. From the Midwest, press *2*. From the Rocky Mountain time zone, press *3*. From Pacific Time zone, press *4*." (I Press *4*) "Hello. You have reached Zeos Pacific Time zone accessory salesman Bob Bumble. I'm not at my desk at the moment, but if you care to leave a message no my voice mail, please press *1*...." This goes on for the next week, at least. Bob, I suspect, is also lost in the elevator (Press *2*), and I eventually have to pretend I'm a huge institutional buyer just wanting to sample a modem. FINALLY, it's on its way to me.
NOTE: I think a great business could be founded on just contacting these companies that thought it was good business to get rid of the person we used to call a receptionist who knew everyone - and where everyone was, you know, the person back in the cave days of early American business who could put you in touch with real people who were sincerely interested in talking to you and finding out what you needed and helping you get it. What I would do is this for those companies who have modernized in such a Fashion I would go into a meeting with these people and hand them a cellular phone, pass it to the chairman, or CEO, and say, "OK. You call and order something from your company on your advertised number." Of course, the executives all have a private number that is unavailable to us. My prayer is that when some of these decision-makers lose their jobs to falling sales and loss of revenue, they start their job search by calling the job placement agency and get, "Hello, and welcome to Acme Personnel. If you are using a touch tone phone, please press *1* now...."
OK. Now, the modem is on its way. Life is still good and the local store has restocked Marie Calendar. I bond briefly with the FedEx guy, exchange a few pleasantries, and stare at my new modem.
It needs to be installed.
Now, next to the phone systems I think SAR (some assembly required) is the next worst blight on American industry. I mean, everyone is complaining about not having enough work for his or her employees to do. OK, then, have them assemble the darn things - I'm kinda funny. I like to take things out of a box, plug them in, and see them work IMMEDIATELY.
THE FIRST TIME
One thing can be said about the * first time * online its not quite as terrifying as a first date, but its certainly filled with anxiety.....
The first anxiety of course is: is this going to work? I mean am I really going to be able to have a meaningful discussion with someone all the way across the country in Bangor Maine. Well after two years the verdict is in yes its possible to have an intelligent conversation with someone all the way across the country, although I have yet to have an intelligent conversation with any one in Bangor Maine. I think people who have grown up with computers take them for granted, what a miracle of thought, invention, and ingenuity (that's just the packaging)...I remember the first handheld calculator I ever saw, it belong to one of the (successful) agents in the Life insurance company I worked for. It was black and very expensive it came with its own security guard, the agent had mortgaged his house for it, and I think had sold his son in bondage. No big loss I remembered the son from an office picnic (he was the one with potato salad stuck to his cheek). Little did we realize that calculator was the beachhead of a major technological invasion destined to dent our pocket books, release us from our working bondage (its past 2am here as I write) and give us consumers a new enemy to deal with, the manual writer .
So there I sat in my darkened cavern of a living space, hearing for the first time the sound of a modem being put through its paces.....
So finally alone in my little cave I finally have my modem working and have gone through the paper work necessary to begin AOL. I watch as the screen on the computer changes and whirs and makes lots of interesting noises, and suddenly I am at the AOL welcome screen, and a voice booms out * you have mail* this voice which would soon become my best friend really startled me. My first thought was "Wow this works fast IM already getting attention. It was however a welcome letter from Steve Case the owner of the company and soon to be new Yacht owner all because of me, or so it would appear,
In the early Days of AOL there was a cost attached to AOL and the cost did add up, if you ever noticed people in the early 1990's walking along the roads collecting bottles there was a good chance they were AOL members trying to collect enough money to keep them online, As I understand it AOL would actually in some cases provide you with your very own cart...I still remember what a great deal I got with my first AOL sign up I got 10 free hours..That is a lot like getting a *Free Fishing Trip to Alaska*..Free after Plane fare, licenses and Lodging but you can fish free
I have to stop for a minute and do a little information sharing, AOL allows its members the opportunity to create what are called * Screen Names * these are most often an extension of the * members* personality and can range from the Basic * Tom Smith* to clever well thought out names Like * Mr. Stud* hopefully latter I will talk more about the psychology of screen names ( a relatively new discipline in the Psychology field) but lets just say here a good screen name can make or break you,,,
The problem is unless you get some advanced knowledge about this you often are forced into coming up with a really stupid name right off the bat, AOL has anticipated this and provides Members (members are what AOL calls those people who become addicted to the service) five more screen names , Its a fact that very few members end up using their original name , after they get online they can see what other more clever members are doing and adjust their name accordingly , in my case I went from the banal name of Musiken to resevoirtip in only thirty minutes , ( thinking fast is not always a good case for thinking right ) ...fortunately AOL allows its Members to delete a screen name and I suspect it was Gods plan for me to choose reseviortip so that name could no longer be used by any other person .....Out of all this was created my new my new screen name which would last me for the next six months. Scott4hugs was born that first night. Why Scott and why Hugs will be a mystery to me, my name is Ken and I am perhaps the least tactile person in existence, but there it was, my first real screen name and the will to use it .
AOL is HUGE you can practically find anything you want in the whole world in the area of information, from complicated instructions for building sled dog warming huts, to government documents, and the latest news and weather, I am equally sure there are at least three people using these functions the rest of us were in the Chat rooms.
Chartrooms are electronic rooms where people gather to insult and proposition each other, they can also be used for uplifting conversation and creating friendships and I suspect there at least three people doing just that also.
I believe at the heart of the success of companies like AOL is the inescapable fact that there is A LOT of lonely people out there. (There being the real world) I know this to be true because I was one of them, and the fervent hope of all these people is to find someone to talk to and encourage them and make them feel wanted.
SO to that end the options are incredible, there are rooms for people to talk about just about any subject you care to think about , from sewing circles to pagan tea houses from leather interests to Gun and Bun Chats ...( usually not together ). For a new person being online its simply overwhelming it can also be hard on your ego . I remember feeling very rejected because the * onlinehost * would not talk to me. And in fact it took me several days to find these other rooms. I kept going into what's called People Connection and ended up in the Lobby I did not realize this was the door to other rooms instead I stayed in the Lobby and was battered with rejection as hundreds of other people came into the room and left, in my mind most likely because they thought I was a wuss. It wasn't until several nights later I actually figured out how the whole thing worked and found myself in a room called *water sports* ( it was not about surfing and I felt compelled to leave after getting an education I didn't suspec
t I ever needed to know about in the first place ...
At last I found a home the room was called * Thirtysomething * and it was filled with bright intelligent conversation with all kinds of people that were of course under thirty and incredibly successful ... The first thing I noted was that based on the profiles of these members if they were a man they were over six foot tall and very Aryan and very successful ( there was once three brain surgeons in the room at the same time ) and if a woman very successful and blonde and former cheerleaders ....About Profiles .
Remember that I said a good screen name could make or break you, well the same can be said of an onscreen profile this is a place where you can tell vital information about your self, (we will look at a few from time to time ) in such a manner as to get the attention of the six foot blonde brain surgeon , or the 5' 8' blonde vogue cover girl ....
Frankly its in reading the Profiles of Members that you begin to see the difference between the Sexes, and in the subtly of the Members, Men tend to be very direct, kinda like · I WANT YOU NOW WOMAN * where as the women tend to be more poetic and romantic....
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January 29, 2001
Today I recieved a copy of my birth certificate via Fed Ex. I needed a copy for my new job and we could not locate our important papers, so Lori called the Vital Records Department in Denver, Colorado, and they sent it out to us.
When I opened the blue and red express envelope there was a very official document authenticating my birth. I entered this world at 4:10 in the morning of October 14, 1947. My mother was 29 at the time and my father was 33.
I was thinking of them when I started to cry, John Herbert Stilger and Emma Lucy Keith. John from Portland, Oregon, and Emma from Muldrow, Oklahoma.
They met in a shipyard in Vallejo, California, about 1943. My mother was a riveter in the shipyards that were cranking out Liberty Ships as fast as Nike pops out tennis shoes. My father worked on the high steel, welding plates together; they met at lunch time. My father said, "She stole a banana from me." They were married in Vallejo. After the war, Dad and Mom moved to Climax, Colorado, where Dad worked in an open pit molybdenum mine.
The fact that they met in Vallejo was one of those "cosmic accidents" that happen every day: woman from the Ozarks, leaves home, travels by bus 2000 miles away, finds herself in the middle of a labor shortage, and is immediately put to work building cargo ships - most of which were bigger than the town she called home. Man from Oregon, takes a train out of Portland and spends most of the trip hanging onto the rods under the boxcar, works on the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam - then when War with Japan breaks out, he is drafted not into the military, but into the hazardous occupation of working suspended several floors above the ground strapped to metal girders wrapped with asbestos. After several months salvaging what can be salvaged of a ravaged navel fleet, he is shipped back to Mare Island Navy Yard where he catches this young beauty from the hills of Oklahoma slipping a banana out of his lunch.
I wonder what it must have been like that early morning in October. Was the morning about to give way to a day warmed by the last of the heat-drenched winds of the Colorado plains, or had the winter that would soon come, filled the streets of Denver with an icy breath ? What hopes and dreams lay in my mother's heart as she cradled me close to her and smiled at my face as I nursed? Was my father able to spend some time with her and me, or was he called back to labor drawing the important alloy from the earth?
4:10 a.m., and there they were. Two of millions; young, full of life and hopes and dreams, living in land that had tasted the bittersweet taste of victory. The darkhaired part Native American girl and the well tanned curly haired man, confronted with this new and precious child that would in time bring them joy and grief, purpose and confusion. 4:10 a.m.: the world outside was barely stirring, perhaps a few lights were snapping on as fathers woke to insistant alarms and mothers heeded the infants' cries that nudged them from sleep. Later that day in a desert to the west, Chuck Yeager would climb into a jet aircraft and punch a hole in the sky and be the first ever man to break the sound barrier. 4:10 a.m.: the earth spinning, turning into the miracle that is the star we call the sun - but at that time there is no hint of the light to come, only the promise and reassurance of several thousands of such rotatations. Stars and planets kept the Denver landscape company.
Later as I grew, I would stare at these same stars and planets; I would catch the vapor trail of a speeding jet illuminated by the moon, and can remember the occasional sonic boom as some airborn jocky would follow Mr Yeager through that hole in the sky.
My parents grew older with me. My father found work in Oregon, so the Colorado winters gave way to the temperate Northwest. He worked as a lineman for Portland General Electric, and my mother cared for both my younger brother and I, becoming an expert with cupcake baking and flashcards. And we all grew older together - only I never noticed them aging only me as I grew from toddler to brat to teenager. Those years seem squandered now: a few memories - my father showing me how to catch a ground ball, my mother slicing potatoes into slabs. And I remember popcorn and movies with my mother, and a Lincoln log set I got for Christmas one year.
Soon family weekends and vacations gave way to spending all my time at my girlfriend's house. A new war came, and I stayed home and got married - and then one day I helped my brother, family and friends say goodbye to my father.
I remember the last time I saw him. He had come home from the hospital to die. We had the bed in the living room and his youngest brother had made the trip from Dallas, Texas, to say goodbye. Dad could not swallow; the cancer had taken his strenghth, his breath, and his wonderful curly black hair. He begged for a piece of cheese and cracker, then choked on it; Mom cleared his throat. I lived in a trailer home in the Portland suburbs. That night, I sat outside on the swing for a few minutes and watched the stars. It was late, with only stars and planets and a feeble moon to keep me company. The phone rang and it was all over: he had gone away.
My mother never remarried; she lived with her memories of that handsome young man for 25 years. The last time I saw her, I watched the moon slip past Mt. Spokane - and now she is gone. They were 29 and 33 when they held me freshly-birthed in the morning hours. Now it's my turn to hold them: glimpses and memories, a few photos, a letter here and a cigarette lighter from his championship little league team he coached so graciously.
Emma Lucy Keith, John Herbert Stilger. This earth is merciless in its turning; this spinning planet devours time and lives. We grow old as Eternity lies clouded and veiled from our understanding, and the stars and planets rush up each dusk to wink at us with promise.
4:10 a.m. October 14, 1947. The day is soon to begin; there are sound barriers to break and wars to weep over. And love looks from father's face to mother's face, and into the newborn eyes ready to open to planets and stars, baseball mits and frosted cupcakes.
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