My laptop computer keeps me connected to all sorts of people. Even my friends who live in town will often send an email, since it's very hard to get me on the telephone. My extended family sends all kinds of silly messages, congratulations, and news across the family email list. My out-of-town friends and I exchange long emails, confiding in each other, discussing relationships, and figuring out the meaning of life. Artist Friend will write me a long, sensitive email and then throw in a paragraph about football just to make sure I don't think he's too sappy.
When I log onto instant messenger, I usually do not intend to talk to anyone. I just like to read the list of away messages left by my kids, my nieces, and my extras. It's comforting to know that Schoolteacher Niece is Heading to Happy Hour! TGIF! or that Skater Boy is having a good day (My beat is correct) or that Boy in Black is Just chillin'. Ask any parent who has kids in college how often they check away messages. For the record, First Extra often has the funniest away messages – although Film Guy is good at finding cool song lyrics to put up. One of Shaggy Hair Boy's friends today had an away message that read: Off to inject some heroin. I am guessing he's training his parents early not to rely on his away messages.
When my daughter was home over winter break, and she'd see me open my laptop, she would often send me an instant message – just to make me look up and smile at her across the room. It seems funny now to see her instant message icon on my computer screen, to chat with her just as if she was sitting in the room, and to realize that she is on the other side of the ocean. She's arrived safely in the Big European City with Cool Pubs Where She is Not Underage, and today she and her friends found a flat to rent, just northeast of Hide and Seek Park. Her classes begin Monday so she has a few days now to explore the city she will be living in. Her laptop computer (and a wireless signal from some pub across the street) is already providing those of us at home with a steady stream of email messages, enabling us to enjoy her adventure vicariously.