by Ray Pelzer

(with apologies as appropriate)

T'was the Night After Christmas
And all through the net
Not a creature could log on
Not e'en on a bet.

Computers unwrapped
at the tree-side with care
included new modems
to get "on the air."

And Dexter in his glasses
and pocket-protector
worked hard at the desk
to try and connect 'er.

He plugged in the cables
and tightened the screws
"I still can't connect!"
he shouted his blues.

Just then from his modem
arose such a clatter.
He'd forgot "ATM0"
to silence the matter.

Away to the phone jack
to jiggle the plug.
But it's solid, maybe software
is causing the bug?

He tried different numbers
he dialed some more.
"Why can't I connect
like always before?"

On a whim, he tried dialing
the number by hand.
Then he heard it! They're busy!
Every node in the land!

He dialed several numbers
but no carrier whine!
Did a nuclear EMP
knock them off-line?

His resolve became strong.
He'd not leave his station!
"I might demon-dial
every phone in the nation!"

"On UART! On Modem!
On fast CPU!
We must keep on trying!
We have to get through!"

"Off Gameport! Off Soundcard!
Off Hi-Res Display!
We must save resources!
We'll get through THAT way!"

Then finally, it happened.
CONNECT on the screen!
Dexter looked, and the CD light
now could be seen!

He logged on, but somehow
the system seemed slow.
And it bogged down much further
the farther he'd go.

"I must know the reason!
I've spent so much time
trying hard to collect
all my e-mail on-line!"

At this point, the worst.
His system locked up
as lots of chat boxes
began to pop up.

"Hey dood, this RULEZ!"
said a line of the mess
Another said "You suck!"
(I won't quote the rest)

"Wanna trade dirty pictures?"
"M or F?" now came over
He thought Beavis and Butthead
might be taking over!

But through all of the chats
Dexter found one thing weird:
"This new Christmas Modem"
had always appeared!

Oh no! Brand new dweebs!
Kids without supervision
turned loose by dumb parents
who now watch television!

They're clogging the nets
with their insipid chatter!
And we regular users
can't settle the matter.

They're rambling and babbling
over meaningless fluff.
They're taking up bandwidth
from practical stuff.

They've never been on
and don't know where to go.
So they stand in the middle
and jam up the flow.

They're here without purpose
every last girl and boy.
To them, it's no tool -
it's just a new toy!

Like a day in the mall,
just slacking along,
they slow down REAL shoppers!
It's totally wrong!

Dexter froze, then he twitched
as he started to fume.
And he called all these kids
into one big Chat Room.

"Now look, everyone,
between me and you...
I know you MUST have
at least average I.Q.!"

"But you must understand
as you surf on the net
that you're not here alone
you must share this space yet!"

"Others came here before
and they'll be here again.
And you'll need wiser users
to be guides and be friends."

"When you chat, chat with dignity
tact and aplomb.
If not, you'll be shunned
and be called 'cyber-bum'."

"Your folks do disservice
by dropping you here
while they find other rooms
to go sip on their beer."

"You need expert guidance
to build up the skill
and make the net useful
(not just space to fill)."

Some chatters fell silent
while others shot flames.
Aimed at Dexter, they printed
unprintable names.

Dexter shrugged, he had tried
but with minor success
to make some coherence
from all of this mess.

Then he thought, "Wait a sec
I've little to fear!
Their folks will unplug 'em
as phone bills appear!"

These twerps will tie-up
parents' phones, and that's fine!
And then Mommy and Daddy
will take them off-line!

I'll just wait for a month,
then return for the quiet!
If I NEED to log in
late at night's when I'll try it.

Dexter sent one last message
before he'd log off
"OK little children,
just sit there and scoff!"

"I'll leave with one thought"
and he ended to them:
"Merry Christmas to all,
better R.T.F.M.!!!!!"

© 1995 Raymond Pelzer

Story Page back to the Short Story Page.

T'was the Night After Christmas, 2 March 1996