blue eyes, magnified behind bottle-bottom thick glasses, changed
from excitement to puzzlement. I hate blue eyes, but even so I
would never have hurt him inten- tionally.
wouldn't you be interested? I could hook you up myself, no problem."
Then, the real bait: "I could send you mail." He was
enthusiastic and insistent, a new convert still reeling with the
force of his revelation. His subject was e-mail.
And he was trying
to convert me too. I suppose I should be more charitable now that
I think about his offer--to wire my desktop into the campus
network he would surely have had to crawl on the floor under my
desk armed with a screwdriver. But even now I can't think of
anything more pointless. Here was a man who had an office just a
few steps away from mine, yet he wanted to connect me up to the
Internet just so he could send me electronic mail. Why?
He could, of course, simply drift down the hall as he usually did, aggravating
other colleagues in other offices along his route, checking his
mail (paper, not electronic), stopping to get a cup of coffee
along the way. He could plop down in my ratty hand-me-down chair,
make fun of the junk on my desk, ridicule the book I was teaching
or the memo I was writing, get an answer to his question or a
reaction to his proposal, and then leave when he was ready or when
I threw him out. Or, just as simply, he could call me on the
He looked at me
in disbelief, but he was persistent, and the blue eyes lit up when
he thought of one further enticement. I could not only receive
mail from him, of course, I could receive mail from dozens--probably
hundreds!--of other academics all across the country. He'd just
checked his "mailbox" and had found messages from ninety-seven
historians waiting for him! I could become one of the 12 to 50
million Americans (estimates disagree), overwhelmingly people (estimates
agree), who communicate electronically. In an act of self-
lessness, he was willing to share this brave new world with me.
He was as stunned
at my rejection as I was at his offer. He was thrilled by his new-found
potential for connection. I was horrified at the prospect.