Most students enter college with a computer. If you are like me, your parents bought you a computer as a graduation present. My father purchased mine online the July before I came to Rochester. I am sure he smiled proudly as he envisioned me typing twenty-page midterms, researching important information on the Internet, and of course writing articles for the Campus Times as he and my mother did when they were students at the University of Rochester.
Though these activities do occur, they are only secondary uses for my computer and the computers of most Eastman students. Upon arriving in Rochester in 2001, my father’s dreams quickly faded as my computer became a glorified dry erase-board.
America Online Instant Messenger has become the staple for college students everywhere. My brother and I have a calling plan that for all intents and purposes allows us to call each other for free. I can honestly say that I have called him maybe ten times in the entire two and a half years that I have been in college. Instead, we talk over AIM almost every day, typing away about our funny drunken stories, family issues, and our scholastic gripes.
Last year, I lived next door to one of my best friends. One day the fire alarm went off in our building. We instant messaged for a good ten minutes debating whether or not the alarm was true or false and if we should leave.
This was not the first time that we avoided the three-foot walk next door and talked online. Weekend plans, dinner invites, and the occasional “just because you have an 8 a.m. class doesn’t mean that I do, so can you please turn off your stereo” were all discussed over AIM.
With AIM comes the infamous “away message.” The art of the away message is something carefully cultivated by college undergrads across the country. Song lyrics, original poetry, quotes from “Office Space” and conversations with other instant messengers are the norm. In addition, there are the drunken away messages with the foot in the mouth smiley faces that say “drufnk, levesa messseage.”
For Eastman students, the most infamous of all away messages is the “practicing” away message. This achieves the best effect when combined with the idle timer. It is a great way to show the other members of your studio just how hard-core you really are. Just a note, though – unless you’re a pianist, your “practicing” away message that has been up for seven hours isn’t fooling anyone.
Talking to your parents on AIM is another story. My mom is permanently connected to the Internet at work, so she is online a fair amount. She still hasn’t completely mastered the art of the away message. A conversation with her could be “Mom, hello. Mom, are you there? Mom?” Twenty minutes later, I will see her screen name go idle.
My father, on the other hand, hasn’t quite mastered the concept of AIM in general. He still types his conversations like a letter, beginning “Dear Kim,” and frequently signing “Love, Dad.” I will admit, however, that my parents are getting a lot better.
My grandparents are in on the AIM action, too. One night, I came home to find an IM from my grandfather telling me that he had just smoked pot with my grandmother. My grandfather used to own a health food store, so despite the fact that this message freaked the hell out of me, it was believable. Later, I found out that this particular IM was a cruel joke courtesy of my aunt and uncle.
Last April, the Eastman Student Living Center’s Internet connection went down. Many students were immediately thrown into a panic. Suddenly, our main means of communication was taken away. The computers on our desks quickly became a waste of space. If you were lucky like me, and had a laptop, you could fold it down and use it as a coaster for your beer.
At the end of last semester, I came home one night to find that my computer wouldn’t turn on. I prayed to the Dell gods for mercy, but alas, my hard drive had crashed, and until it could be replaced, I had no Internet or AIM. I took a few deep breaths, called my father to inform him of my loss, and walked to the computer lab to use a computer the way my parents had intended – typing finals.
Gorode can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.