The other day I met artfuldodger
It was a much anticipated meeting, on my part at least. Being a contributor to E2 for almost 6 months, I had not yet met, in person, any other contributor.
I arrived at the coffeeshop where we had agreed to meet, just before the time we'd agreed on. I got myself a chai tea, and waited, watching the mall for artfuldodger.
While sitting there, a woman and a baby sat down next to me. I discovered the baby's name was Tyler, and the woman was Tyler's grandmother; she turned Tyler's stroller around so he could watch the mall, too. Tyler, it seemed, was not too happy, and this appeared to cheer him up. His grandmother looked at me, and I said "He's a people-watcher." And she smiled back at me, rather sheepishly, I thought, apparantly embarrassed by his fretting--though it didn't bother me.
In a couple of minutes, Tyler's mother arrived with drinks for herself and her mother, and a cookie for Tyler.
They turned him around so he could face the table, and incidentally, face me; a cute child, I thought, about a year old.
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for artfuldodger. Though it's not surprising, he and I are transit hostages, and delays are not uncommon; it surprised me that I had arrived first.
I'm thinking, wondering if there are actually people at the other end of the wires, whether or not all users of E2 aren't just figments of nate's imagination; after all, many users here are enthousiats of artificial intelligence, and, who knows, E2 might just be some elaborate kind of Turing Test.
While I'm thinking these thoughts, I hear youthful laughter. Looking, I see it's Tyler, laughing at me. And he doesn't stop.
There is no doubt: he is looking directly at me, hardly bothering to eat his cookie, laughing!
His mother and grandmother are a little embarrassed by this; but it doesn't bother me: I like children! I say to them, "I've been laughted at by the best."
And then artfuldodger arrives, delayed by the bus.
We have an interesting meeting, and discussion. We delve into realms of philosoply, the nature of technology. He even thinks he has read something one of my students had written (that is another story).
Unfortunately, I have to leave to prepare for my afternoon of teaching.
Since then, the thing most on my mind, has been Tyler's laughter. And I am reminded of a teen age obsession--which is not too uncommon: that the whole universe is some cruel joke perpetrated by a callous deity, or demon; that nate is laughing!.
Thirty-five years later, I know there really is a joke, but not the one I once thought. There are people out there; it's not some Turing test.
The cruel god I once thought was out there, is nothing more than a baby laughing, in the gentlest and most innocent way possible, at someone with a lot to learn. . . .