There I was sitting in BlogLand, sipping on the last dregs of an Ice Mocha Moka (I wonder where they come up with these names), waiting for Anil. He was supposed to have met me there two hours before, which explained the three empty glasses of Moka next to my laptop.
I was in the middle of a debate with myself about whether I should order a fourth Moka or not, when Anil walked in.
"Sorry, man! Totally forgot about you. I got busy chatting."
Now Anil was the perfect example of the kind of guy who shouldn't have any luck with women on the internet. The scary thing was, he managed to befriend a new girl every week, and would spend hours chatting with them online.
"Why do you do it, Anil?" I asked.
"Do what?" he replied, as if he didn't know what I was referring to. We'd had a number of conversations about my disapproval of his trying to meet women in chat rooms.
"This obsession of yours, of course."
"I really don't understand why you have this problem with my attempts to get a girlfriend."
"A girlfriend? In a chat room? A girlfriend out of a conversation that begins with A/S/L? Anil, these women you're meeting could be 53-year-old male truck drivers, for all you know!"
"Man, you could be a 53-year-old truck driver, for all I know." After a pause, he added, "Well, in a quarter of a century or so."
I glared at him.
"Anyway, I'm meeting her for coffee tomorrow."
"What?!" I was stunned. "You're meeting this one?"
"Yep. Right here."
"Here? What if she's a he? And what if she's a serial killer! Anil, BlogLand is a coffeehouse for bloggers. I won't let you desecrate this place by bringing your chat room flings here."
"Serial killer? Desecrate? I think you've lost your marbles for sure this time. And anyway, BlogLand is a coffeehouse that also provides special services for bloggers. It's not a temple. And I really don't think BJ has any intention of driving away paying customers."
I looked at BJ - the proprietor of BlogLand - for support as he sat behind the counter. BJ just looked at me and shrugged.
BJ was a retired blogger. No one knew what his screen name had been, though he'd mentioned that he had been very popular when he blogged, and that the pressure to blog everyday had just become too much.
He'd started BlogLand a year before, with the intention of making blogging tools more accessible. The place was essentially a coffeehouse/internet-center that provided the added service of helping customers with their blogging needs. You could hire a laptop for an hour that came with wireless internet access and pre-installed blogging tools. If you had a laptop, you could hook on to BlogLand's wireless network for a fee. If you ordered something to eat or drink, the internet access was free. BJ also helped customers make changes to their blog designs, and if the need arose, he'd help them fix a broken blog. If you didn't have a blog, BJ would encourage you to start one and show you how. If you were interested in reading blogs instead of writing them, there was always BJ's daily recommended-reading list.
BJ wouldn't turn away non-believers (that was the term he used for people who didn't write or read blogs). He'd just try to convert them. And if that didn't work, there was always coffee.
"What's your problem with chat rooms anyway?" continued Anil. "I've never seen you complain about Bloggers' Meets. How come meeting strangers through a blog is okay, but meeting people in chat rooms is considered an act of desperation? It's just hypocrisy, I think."
"Oh, come on! When you meet someone through a blog, you've read the stuff they write. They've read stuff you write. There's a bit of background. Bloggers' meets are not about desperate single men and women!"
"Internet chat rooms aren't all about desperate men or women either. But how can you be so sure that what you say, is true for every single person out there meeting someone through a blog?"
He had me there. And he knew it. He also knew that I hated losing an argument. So by way of changing the topic, he looked at my three glasses of Ice Mocha Moka and said, "I'm going to order an Espresso. One more for you?"
As he brought the drinks back to the table, Anil looked at my glass and said, "Why do you insist on having this horrid concoction all the time? And four of them in a row?"
"It's not horrid," I said, taking my glass from him. "It's quite nice, in fact. Also, it's one of the few things BJ has with no coffee in it. You know I hate coffee."
"Yes. You hate the smell. You're weird. I mean, who in this world, hates the smell of coffee?!"
"I do. And," I continued, "do you need me to remind you that I've been waiting here for you, for the past two hours?"
Anil laughed. "Man, I thought you'd have forgotten about that by now!"
"Hey Mikeo!" he called at the T-shirt clad, spectacle-wearing man at the next table. Mike, as usual, was reading a book while sipping on a large cappuccino. He had a blog in which he mostly wrote book reviews. He read two or three books in a week, and a few times he'd hit as many as seven books in seven days.
"Yeah?" Mike growled. He didn't like being disturbed when he was reading, and Anil loved to do exactly that.
"What book are you reading?" he asked.
"Dickens's The Pickwick Papers."
"Well, how is it?"
"I've been reading it for over a week now," he replied sullenly.
"A week?!" said Anil, genuinely shocked. "How thick is it anyway? You've been reading that for more than seven days?" Mike had finished Lord of the Rings in six days.
"It's seven hundred and fifty pages of tiny text, and has English from 1836. I'm almost done, though. Do you know what a portmanteau is?"
"Port man toe?" repeated Anil. "The toe of a man who works at a port, maybe?"
"It's a sort of suitcase."
"Then why don't they call it that in the first place?"
Mike rolled his eyes.
"So is it any good?"
"Yes, actually it is really good. The humour is sometimes subtle and at other times extremely loud. The characterization is simply amazing. And of course reading something from two centuries ago also gives you a wonderful insight into the culture of that time."
"Right," said Anil blankly. Mike shrugged and returned to his book.
Anil turned back to me and said, "If you gave me a book that was seven hundred and fifty pages long with words like Port-Man-Toe, I'd take a month to read it."
"Anil, you'd take a month to read a Famous Five book. I think you'd find The Pickwick Papers a little heavy for your consumption."
"I didn't understand that last word you used," he said.
We both laughed.
Next: Going South: The BlogLand Chronicles - 2