I hate to admit it, but I really miss the days of America Online’s chat rooms. When I got my first computer, I joined and belonged to a number of chat rooms – one for lovers of “golden oldies” music, one for romance-novel enthusiasts, another for fans of John Coulter (a very hunky male model), and another called “Authors’ Lounge,” for writers.
Now all of them are gone forever, and my computer feels empty without them, especially when I'm suffering from insomnia and could use a good late-night chat.
When I first was deciding which chat rooms to join, I, being a writer, thought Authors’ Lounge sounded the most intriguing, so I checked out the summary.
It was described as a gathering place for authors (both beginners and professionals), publishers, editors, literary agents, journalists, poets, and writing instructors to share their ideas. Encouraged, I entered the “room.”
Entering a chat room for the first time sort of felt like being in one of those old western movies, where you’re the stranger in town, walking into the local saloon and everyone stops what they’re doing to stare at you. But on a computer, at least I had the benefit of being somewhat anonymous, mainly because I, like everyone else, used a screen name, not a real name.
When I first entered the authors’ chat room, there were 19 people chatting, most of whom already seemed to know each other. They had catchy on-screen names like “Over-the-Hill-Lil,” “YoYoBozo,” “LilBoyBlu,” “DroopyDraws” and “Rubberduckie." They were in the midst of a heated discussion.
“It does TOO hurt to have an ingrown toenail removed,” one chatter was saying. “I can hardly walk!”
“Aw, you’re just a big sissy!” another wrote back. “I had three toenails removed on my right foot and was wearing my steel-toed work boots the next morning!”
“Hey, we’re not here to talk about your feet!” another chatter interrupted. “Is anyone here a Steinbeck fan?”
“Oh, shut up!” came the response. “Who cares about Steinbeck when my toe is swollen to the size of a banana?”
I sat silently following the conversation for several minutes, thinking I’d entered the wrong room. No one seemed to be discussing writing, not in any definition of the word.
Another new chatter popped into the room. “Hello,” he or she said. “I’m 17 and I write poetry. My friends say I’m a real natural when it comes to writing. Anyone here know where I can get my poems published?”
“Learn to write something else,” came one suggestion. “You’ll never get anywhere with poetry.”
“Only sissies write poetry,” said the same person who’d just called the toenail person a sissy.
“Yeah! Learn to write true-crime stories,” someone else chimed in. “Nothing captures a reader’s attention like a decapitated human head rolling down a hill!”
“Eeeeeeeyuuuuuw!” came another response. “That’s gross!”
“But I enjoy writing poetry,” the young writer defended. “I write all about love!”
“Love??” another chatter shot back (and I swear this is an exact quote). “Love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”
Finally another chatter dared to ask, “Is anyone here REALLY a writer?”
“I wrote a biography about Princess Diana,” came one answer.
“And I currently have four novels on the bestseller list,” boasted another.
“Yeah, right, and I’m Stephen King’s twin sister!” said yet another. “I taught him everything he knows!”
“I can’t write and I hate reading,” another chatter wrote. “And I think all writers are really boring!”
“Then what the heck are you doing in this chat room?” came the immediate response.
“Looking for girls!” he answered. “Anyone here single and available?”
“Go to the ‘Looking for Romance’ chat room,” someone suggested.
“I just came from there,” he answered. “It’s full of other guys looking for girls!”
“My mother is single and available,” one chatter offered. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen,” he responded.
I’d seen just about enough. Foolishly, I decided to jump in with, “I write a weekly humor column. Anyone have any ideas for a topic I can write about this week?”
“Yeah, write about what it would be like to be decapitated,” said the aforementioned would-be ax-murderer. “Think of how funny it would be to run around looking for your head!”
“Dummy!” someone wrote back. “How could you look for anything if you didn’t have a head?”
“Write about that stupid woman on TV, Anna somebody, who married that wrinkled-up old multi-millionaire who was like 120 years old,” came another suggestion.
“She wasn’t stupid!” another argued. “HE was the stupid one! All men are pigs! As I said before, love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”
“Write about all the crazy people you find in chat rooms,” came one last suggestion.
Yep, I sure do miss those AOL chat rooms.
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