Tales From The Bitstream
Jeff Schult and Nicole Chardenet
(Note: looking at this three years later, IRC has NOT changed a lot, really. Nicole still gets hit on a LOT more than I do. ;-) )
Wanna talk to a Satanist about the nature of God or discuss the implications of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination hours after it happened? The place to be is International Relay Chat, or IRC, a Net experience largely unnoticed as the media obsesses over the World Wide Web. IRC is where you can talk to other people by typing back and forth in real time.
==> Jeff: It ain't for the meek. The chat channels on IRC are pronouncedly more diverse and cosmopolitan than the "rooms" over at, say, AOL or Prodigy. You're more likely to meet a housewife from Stockholm, a pilot from New Zealand, a student from Hong Kong.
One would think you might meet a higher class of pervert, too, but Nicole, better known as Frenchy on IRC, and I haven't found that to be the case.
=> TAREK: Frenchy, do you like being able to get guys off over the
=>FRENCHY: I'm sorry, I don't do netsex. Please look somewhere else.
=>Nicole: Tarek's what we call an HNG (Horny Net Geek.) They're out there; in fact, it's hard to miss them. But Jeff, who goes by Jabberwok on IRC, has found some delightful places for us to hang out.
==> Jeff: We became regulars on #newbplus, where a lot of folks go when they're new to IRC and then end up staying a spell because everyone's so friendly. There we first met Vapor, a software guru who stays up late at night selflessly troubleshooting Windows 95 gremlins for people he's never met, and GdGolly, a Maryland woman named, of course, Molly, a Beatles fanatic and dear friend whom we had cause to worry about one day when she said she hadn't seen her husband in days. ... "Where is he?" I asked.
"Upstairs, I think, on the other computer," she typed back.
Of course, then there's Tarek.
=>TAREK: What *is* it with so many women who don't like netsex??? Are you a strict Catholic girl or something?
=>FRENCHY: No, I think netsex is boring and stupid. And I don't do it.
=>Nicole: Over in #wicca, where trusting in God means She will provide, people frequently ask for help interpreting dreams. Although there is always someone there for whom no rational explanation is nearly as good as an irrational one -- the eclectic assortment of New Agers, mystic Christians, and Goddess worshippers provides a firm basis in Jungian/Freudian interpretation that make it a fascinating conversation to watch scroll by.
==>Jeff: I bop into #lulu's sometimes, a hangout named after a cyberpub on The Microsoft Network. There, any starry illusions one might cherish about Bill Gates can be put to rest, and the latest secrets about the dark lord's empire are freely discussed.
=>TAREK: I mean, what's so bad about masturbation, anyway?
=>FRENCHY: How many times do I have to tell you I am NOT interested in netsex?!?
=>Nicole: Jeff and I met Snoops and her hubby Geobyte in #40plus and immediately hit it off. We got together with the Worcester, Mass. couple at the recent Big E fair up in Springfield. Snoops showed up wearing a baseball cap turned backwards, green hair and a gold ring in her nose.
"I wanted to make a good impression on you," she laughed, her large gray eyes twinkling. "You should see the reactions I've been getting. Everybody thinks I'm a lesbian biker or something."
So, to make the fair just a little bit weirder, we walked to the ladies' room together. With our arms around each other.
=> TAREK: I'm from Saudia Arabia. Don't you think a study of the sex
habits of people from different countries would be interesting?
=>FRENCHY: What part of NO don't you understand??? GO AWAY!!!
==>Jeff: Before anybody gets the not-entirely-incorrect notion that IRC is a playground for the sexually frustrated, dear, let me point out that a casual inspection of the names of the 1,000-plus channels on the Undernet (the oldest and most popular Internet chat vehicle) shows that only about 100 -- 10 percent -- are clearly devoted on any given night to things you wouldn't want your mother or kids reading about.
People like Tarek who leave the, er, "safety" of channels like #dogsex (Topic: Sex with dogs. Canine lovers. Yes really) or #sexpics (No Kiddies or Animals, Please) tend to get sent back where they came from in a hurry.
=>Nicole: IRC is one of the best ways to find useful and up-to-date information anywhere on the Net. On #ireland we found our fantasy of buying a house on the Irish coastline and living a life as writers with attendant tax breaks wasn't so unrealistic when we were informed that a 3-bedroom house there went for about fifty thousand Yankee dollars.
==>Jeff: OK, so it's a dream. But as long as they have good high-speed data phone lines, it's in the realm of possibility!
Irish real estate agents, closet Netsexers and Wiccan High Priestesses can e-mail their comments, suggestions, flames, or questions to jeffbot at tftb dot com.
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