Friday, 7 April 2017


Charlie was on holiday. Well, it was only his sister's house but he was away from his own home and he wasn't going to work so it still counted. He shifted his generous bulk in his borrowed chair and pecked at the keyboard. This was only the third time he'd used a computer but his buddy Frank, who normally worked opposite Charlie and was covering his shifts, said that you could have a lot of fun on a computer and Charlie thought this was the perfect time to give it a go.
Frank had suggested that Charlie think of a topic that interested him and there would probably be a forum dedicated to it. You could play games, he said, but really the most fun was finding people interested in something that you knew about and talking to them. The first time, Charlie had reasoned he would be better off sticking to what he knew and he'd lurked on a couple of forums related to his work; he'd taken part in a few conversations on his second attempt. He'd had a bit of fun even if it wasn't as great as Frank had suggested it would be but Charlie thought he should give it at least one more try so he could honestly say he'd tried it. This time, Charlie was going to branch out, he joined a forum that wasn't work-related but still seemed like it would be fun and interesting, although he'd been forced to sign in with a ridiculous user name full of Xs and numbers. He scratched at the stubble on his oddly thin neck (the combination with his ample girth have Charlie an almost bobble-head appearance) and scanned the screen looking for a promising thread.
Charlie brushed the crumbs from his lunch off his shirt and grinned at the screen. Charlie had barely moved from his seat since he'd sat down. It was only when the need for a toilet break became too great that he had stopped and fixed himself something to eat while he was up but now he was ready to dive back in. Frank had been right, this was great fun, but he had been wrong in one respect, the less you knew, the more fun it was. Getting away from work had been the key. Once you stopped caring about being accurate or knowing what you were talking about, it became so much easier and so much more fun. Charlie had found that he had opinions on all sorts of topics that he knew nothing about from Brexit (he didn't live in the United Kingdom or Europe) to child rearing (he had no children) to GMOs and organic farming (he didn't know or care where his food came from).
As his holiday continued, Charlie even felt that he was starting to develop a style. At first, he'd post inflammatory comments, actively trying to start an argument and keep it going (once he'd even been on both sides of the argument) but now that he was finding he could do more with less. He was starting to recognise people, not just individuals but character types and sometimes, if you could find the right person, you could nudge a person just so and the rest almost looked after itself. He was particular proud of himself after he'd started a flame war by just repeating someone else's statement with different emphasis (there were tricks he was learning, you could underline or use boldface or italics or so many other things). He hadn't even had to do anything after that, just sit back and enjoy the show.
Once he was back at work, Charlie found himself drifting off, thinking about his holidays as he stared out past the river by his office. He'd told Frank about how close he'd been to giving up but how much fun he'd ended up having but now he wanted to do a bit more and he was planning to get a set up at home. There were still things he wanted to try (he wanted to see if he could lead someone into arguing against their original position) and he'd need to get a more comfortable set up than at his sister's place, a bigger chair at least. Listening to the cars and trucks rumble past overhead, Charlie smiled to himself, it was nice to have a hobby, especially one that was nearly as satisfying as the real thing.