When did the world get so HUGE for you?

World Map

When I was a kid, even into my early teens, the world was relatively small to me. Sure my grandparents went on a trip to a foreign country nearly every year, and in school we learned about the various countries, but they still seemed abstract to me.

Soon after that the Internet arrived in my home. Well I guess I should say “diet Internet” because back then you used your phone line to dial into a service and even then, you had to do some additional configuration to get onto the Internet proper. But that’s another story. The one thing our local BBS did was dial into a system called the “Chatlink”. Consider it one huge party line. Various channels from various parts of the US (and I believe a few external, but prices were high then) and from your local computer, you could join in on a given network.

This was a lot of fun. Chat was rather light, sometimes serious, and people had their own personalities out in the Chatlink. Being a desert rat, I had a couple of macros setup to give out cacti to people, which all it really entailed was a fancy colorful text show up in the chat that says:

Tubanator sends you a cactus.

Nothing fancy, but hey, I times were different. I’ll explain later.

One night, I was over in the Minnesota chat link, channel 555. This was one of my favorites. A good group of folks, and people from more than just Minnesota showed up. We’d talk about our day, cool ideas, and generally shoot the breeze. It was November, and I’ll never forget what somebody says next in the chat:

Well, its’ time for me to go plug in the car and go to bed.

What?! Plug in a car?! Why would you do a thing like that?! This was far before electric cars were considered common place. For folks in Minnesota and other climates were the temperatures can easily drop far below zero in the winter, you needed to keep your engine block somewhat warm over the night, otherwise it wouldn’t start in the morning. Some folks would go drive the car around the block a few times to give the engine one last warm up before heading to bed. Other folks would literally attach a device to their engine that ran off electricity and kept the engine warm overnight. They’d literally “plug the car in” before going to bed.

I don’t know why, but then all of the sudden the world got HUGE. Here was a group of folks that lived a bit differently than me. I had no concept of how cold that could be, but in hearing the explanation and imagining myself having to do such a task, it blew my mind. For some reason, all the “theoretical” or “abstract” knowledge I had became tangible to me in some way. I realized then that there was a whole lot more of the world out there to be discovered and to experience. It was a very exciting and humbling experience.

I realize that this experience was a little odd, especially seeing all the slide shows from various countries that my grandfather made, but hey, I was only 13 or 14 at the time, that was the thing that triggered my senses to want to see and explore the world, and culture, around me. I would have this experienced reinforced later on through a couple of trips around the country to see family, a missions trip or two down to Mexico in high school, and a couple of trips to France during the summer in my college years.

But that one night on the Chatlink did it for me. What about you? When did the world become HUGE to you? If not? Why not? I want to know.

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