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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why I Love AOL

Before there were Internet service providers, there were modems hooked from your computer to your telephone line. You would dial up a number and send text to people or a group of people. Sometimes these services were free; sometimes there was a membership fee. This was in the 80’s when computers had no mice. There was no music, graphics, or video, because there was no Microsoft Windows. Most of these chat lines served local areas only.

Then along came America Online, which was the same concept, only it had a network of phone banks strewn across the country so that you could enter a chat “room” and talk to someone clear across the country. They charged a per-minute connect fee, and where I lived in rural Virginia, it often took a half hour to an hour to connect to a number that didn’t give you a busy signal. I used it sparingly, as sometimes my AOL bill would be as much as $80 a month. Just to send words to strangers.

AOL, in its heyday, was a zillion dollar corporation, and if you weren’t a member, you were a nobody. It was like not owning an iSomething now. I knew a guy who worked for AOL then, and they had benefits stuffed up their butts: stock options and free everything. If you were lucky enough to land a job with AOL back then, you were guaranteed to live the life of a Bill Gates Mini Me.

Provided, of course, you sold your stock before AOL disappeared from the radar screen. The guy I knew who worked for AOL got canned in one of their numerous downsizings or takeovers or corporate messes that turned their bright looking futures into a flaming bag of dog poo on their front porches.

I still have an AOL account; it’s a joint account used by Other Bill and me, but it is mostly used as Other Bill’s primary home e-mail account. If you want to get word to both of us without having to send it to two addresses (I know that extra mouse click can be taxing), you send it to the AOL account.

For me, the Internet has surpassed television as my primary time waster, but it also is one of my primary providers of blog material, so for that I am grateful. I know a lot of people spend a whole lot of time on Facebook. I limit my time there, and also limit my postings to things that happen to me that are funny or exciting and not just where I am at the moment or if I like red potatoes more than brown potatoes.

But AOL, despite its low ranking in the World of Serious Internet Business, is my secret little hub of blog material, always. They run a new slide show every day of the scandalous, the bizarre, the 100+ pound weight losses and how they did it, cars that sell for a million dollars and the people who buy them. Most of it is crap that is easy to ignore. People lose 100 pounds all the time. But often there is something that leads to something that leads to something, and that’s where you find the nougat, the tasty cream filling, the Kruggerand in the coffee can of metal washers.

Today there was a note about the 500th person executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982. It also said that Texas law (and I love Texas law. I love everything Texas. As Other Bill likes to say, Europeans see Americans as Americans see Texans) requires that everyone executed must have their last statement on file. So I dug deeper and found a link to a database of the 500 records of the names, ages, races, etc. of the people executed in Texas and their last statements.

Having an obsessive personality that is somewhat under control through medication, I started going through it record by record. I would say I got through 100 records before I thought I wouldn’t find anything noteworthy. The majority had no last statements.  Many had found Jesus and were glad to be going to meet Him. Some still proclaimed innocence and urged people to fight against the death penalty. Most told their families they loved them. A few apologized to the families of the victims and hoped that their deaths would bring closure and that they could move on with their lives. Some were still angry and would die angry. It was a lot of the same.

So then I decided that rather than waste more time going through each of the records of 500 dead people, I would just go through the records of the youngest ones, because they were probably the ones who were too young to have learned anything from what they had done, or were most likely to say something really stupid.

But I was wrong on that count, too. I found someone that I think should have been spared the lethal injection, marched out of prison and put directly on the stage at the Improv. The award for best Last Statement by a Death Row Inmate in Texas goes to a man who kept both his cool and his sense of humor in the face of his demise goes to one Vincent Gutierrez, age 28, a mere child with only an 8th grade education who was executed on March 28, 2007, who in his final statement said the following:

Where’s my stunt double when you need one?”

Photo courtesy of Texas Department of Criminal Justice

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