Feb 20, 2004

Eric S. Raymond's Match.com Reply

Today was shaping up to be a great day for Eric S. Raymond, Open Source figurehead and accidental anthropologist extraordinaire. He had finally received, after two years, a reply to his Match.com love-letter.

Using Open Source tools such as Perl and Jägermeister, Eric had wired his entire house to his 386 running Linux. His shack had just lit up like a Christmas tree before his eyes the instant the reply hit his inbox.

Straining to read the dusty 13" monitor, ESR pulled out a soiled handkerchief and spat it in, eagerly wiping away the years of filth and grime. When the screen was cleared, he sat anxiously at his kitchen table waiting for his lovely's email to come up.

After what seemed like minutes (and was actually closer to a half hour) of Linux swapping, Felchmale displayed her reply on the screen. Eric beamed as he read the first few lines, and warm sweat began welling up on his ruddy brow.

> Windeth I towarde the skye
> I haveth eye but blinde am I

I liked your little poem. You're very clever!

Eric clapped his hands together several times as a smiled festered its way across his face. He exhaled sharply through taut lips, as if he were literally letting pressure off, and mopped sweat from his forehead. He also began opening a new bottle of Jägermeister.

So how did you learn Anglo-Saxon and Old Icelandic? You must be really smart!

Eric almost had a heart-attack. Jäger shot into the air and his hands started shaking uncontrollably. This girl was not only beautiful, but recognized his intelligence and therefore his alpha-male dominance! He began drinking the Jäger with his trembling left hand as he started pounding on his chest with the right — not in victory but in an attempt to get his heart beating in a proper cycle again. Replies this good only came along once in a blue moon. After a few seconds his crooked eyes returned to the email.

> I recently drove ... to Kansas City
> I blew a head gasket on Route 69.

What a coincidence! I take Route 69 through Kansas City to work every day! Wow, talk about fate!

Eyes whirring back and forth, Eric quickly scanned the rest of the email. It was bursting with flirtations and niceties. Clearly this woman was viable swinging material! He wasted no time in writing his reply. Fetchmail crashed, a known bug that Eric had yet to fix, so he started Pico and began typing in earnest. His lazy eye closed in concentration.

My Love:

You must be a sorceress for you have enchanted me! (That happened to me in my LARP last week, lol!) How would you like a date with the living incarnation of Open Source software? Send me your address and I will be on my way!


With the clack of a key-combo, Eric's reply was hurtling through cyberspace to his lovely in Kansas City. Before he could begin packing, however, Fetchmail crashed, indicating a new message already. His cheeks flush with excitement and Jägermeister, he restarted Fetchmail and opened his love's response.


I just can't wait to meet you! I'll have to clean -- my place is a real dump! Here's the address:

4800 Kaw Drive
Kansas City, KS 66102-4165

See you soon!

After waiting for Linux to print the email, he stuffed the address into the left breast pocket of his faded red t-shirt, shoved his chest out and stuck his shoulders back up as he spoke to himself, an aura of chirpy optimism about him.

"This is fate! This is Manifest Destiny! This is sex with a stranger from the Internet! Kansas City, here I come!"

◇ ◇ ◇

Several gym bags littered Eric's dirt-and-pebble front yard, all various brands and colors. Each was filled to bursting point. Eric's laptop, several penguin and LNX stickers adorning it, sat on a white-walled boulder as it ripped Stallman Does Slovenia, a compilation of RMS's flute concerts performed in the Eastern Bloc. Eric hunched over and grabbed two gym bags, shoved them in his car, and came back for the last two. He gingerly picked up the laptop and sat it in the passenger seat of his '86 Dodge Omni, careful not to disturb it.

Turning, he limped to his front doorstep and locked his door. Then, he locked the top deadbolt, followed by the four below it. Grunting, he squatted down and locked the last one at the bottom of the door. Then he straightened up and tugged the metal cage over his front door, locked it, and finally opened a keypad and entered a code. Bright, powerful red laser lights criss-crossed his front doorstep and he hopped out of the way of them at the last second. Satisfied, he limped back to the Omni and took the driver's seat and slammed the door shut.

A childish look of glee burst across Eric's face and he jammed his key into the ignition and turned it. The car jolted violently to life, gasping and coughing as the engine struggled to turn over. Dense blue smoke wafted from the tailpipe and hood while the sickly sweet smell of antifreeze filled the compartment. Coughing, Eric shifted gears and with a few more violent knocks and pings the Omni jerked into gear and rumbled down Eric's dirt driveway. Eric silently wondered if he should have replaced the head gasket after it blown.

Whipping down his street toward the highway, Eric fiddled with the controls on his laptop and Wilbert Harrison filled the car, echoing Eric's own feeble attempts at singing earlier and drowning out the sound of his sputtering engine. Eric sideswiped a large yellow school bus that had stopped in front of him, tearing the stop sign from its side. As the bus driver shook a fist at him, Eric smiled and licked his lips, tasting the last few drops of the Jägermeister he had just finished. He adjusted his rear-view mirror and settled in for the first leg of his journey.

He had a long drive ahead of him.

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