Ok, I’m just going to acknowledge at the outset that to most people I know, this will not make any sense. I’m well aware of your incredulous looks of disbelief, the rolled eyes, the “what-on-earth-was-he-thinking” face.
Alicia is one of a group of friends I made nearly three years ago now on the Counting Crows fanclub message board. How can you make friends with someone over the internet? Actually, it’s surprisingly easy. You soon get an idea of who you have stuff in common with, who you like, and who you find difficult. Then you tend to talk more to those people, on chat and email and the like. Pretty soon you have friends as real as any others.
I’m well aware of the skepticism that says that the person on the other end may well be of the opposite gender to that which they claim, or misrepresent themselves in other ways. My experience has not borne that out. Still, that cynicism is reflected in our group’s joking reference to each other as “fake internet friends”.
May I just say by way of a disclaimer here that it may well be that the internet will revolutionize social contact for introverts especially. It’s all very well for you extraverts to sneer with disdain at friendships begun via this medium, but it suits me down to the ground. In actual fact I think it’s a wonderful expression of the potential unity of the world that I can make friendships with people of different place and culture.
Anyway, I’m done with disclaimers now. It was admittedly a little strange having someone you’ve never met with face-to-face before jump in your car and start chatting away. But the weird thing wasn’t that so much as the feeling that it was totally normal. I mean, I knew this person as well as most other people I have in my life, we share a group of friends and .
Alicia and Doug (her boyfriend) were here on holiday, and had done the driving trip from Cairns right down to Melbourne. So we were responsible for showing them the sights of our fair city. We started with St Kilda Esplanade and beach, seeing as it’s kind of the live music destination and Paul Kelly’s favourite spot (“I’d give you all of Sydney Harbour/All that land and all that water/for that one sweet promenade”). Then we went back into the city and checked out the Crown complex, and then did the Melbourne Observation Deck. Then Julie and Chelsea went home and left us to wander along Southbank, get some lunch and go to the MCG for the Demons/Dockers game.
We talked Counting Crows, we talked fanclub stuff (Alicia runs the fanclub) but mostly we talked about the differences between America and Australia that had emerged during their trip. Apparently there are no roundabouts in America. Go figure. And they’re fascinated by the morbidity of the signage here (courtesy of the TAC) – do this, you’ll be killed. Do that, you’ll die a horrible, painful death. Do the other thing, you’ll kill someone else. They’d also managed to find Australia’s most bizarre food. Thinking they’d finally discovered a menu with some normal things on it, they sat down in a Melbourne restaurant confident that they couldn’t go wrong with spaghetti bolognese. Turns out it was made of rabbit meat.
Some funny moments: on the way back from the footy, as you walk over the bridge at Birrarung Marr towards the city, they have speakers on the bridge playing aboriginal wails and moans and songs and chatter. It’s quite eerie at the best of times, but out of nowhere it’s just plain weird. Anyway, we were on our way back over it for the second time when Doug suddenly stopped us in our tracks, eyes like saucers, clearly amazed and disturbed by something. Suddenly he exclaimed, “Listen! The aboriginals know Mr. Jones!” (a Counting Crows song). It was at that point I realised that my phone was ringing (the ringtone on my new phone is an mp3 of Mr Jones).
Later we got on the tram to come back to our place for dinner and struck up a conversation with a girl who happened to sit with us on a rather full tram. In our conversation we mentioned Counting Crows and she said she’d heard them playing on a bad US drama show recently. We were most impressed that not only had she heard of them (which is rare) but she was able to pull out a reasonably obscure reference to them (we worked out it was a Boston Public episode). We then talked to her the entire way home. While the whole conversation was utterly hysterical, I’ll just mention the highlights.
Doug: Why are you texting on two phones at once?
Girl: This is really embarrassing. I was the last person to get a mobile and here I am texting on two at once.
Me: Are you racing them? Are you doing the same message to the same phone on two mobiles and seeing which message arrives first? That should be an Olympic sport. Or at the very least, a Commonwealth Games sport. They let everything else in.
Then we discussed the injustice that led to Alicia and Doug being in the country for only 10 days, yet not only meeting, but hanging out with You Am I (who they had never heard of), while I lived in Australia for my whole life and never met them. This still seems patently unjust to me.
This led onto other brushes with fame stories, where the girl talked about her recent meeting with Pink, who had picked her drunk friend up off the floor.
At one point, Doug and Alicia were babbling away about something American and laughing hysterically, in what was, let’s face it, a fairly peculiar conversation.
Girl (tongue in cheek): Do you know these people?
Me: I met them on the internet. (which would have been funny if it was a joke, but being true made it absolutely hysterical.)
Ok, so maybe you had to be there. Nonetheless, we had an enormous amount of fun. The random girl even got off at the same stop; in fact, I think she thought we were stalking her such was the coincidence. After dinner at our place we went out to a bar near their hotel and just chatted till it was time for bed. Conversation included how Australia has cornered the marsupial market. You want marsupials, you come to us. I’m really not sure how that happened. Did Australia sit down one day and say, “You know, I think the potentially lucrative marsupial market is underrepresented. If we can capitalize on the whole warm-blooded mammal with a pouch market now, we’ll be set for tourism for life.”
And that was the jules/smoyle meetup.
(incidentally, jules is Alicia’s username, or more accurately, itsmejules. mine is smoyle. combination of the first letter of my first name and my last name, all one word. clever, no?)