Fred is a great new writer.
“Can you teach me to use this computer, please?”
Jennifer had deliberately chosen a computer Games Room with a woman assistant. She had tried a different computer shop earlier, but the man working there was too tired, or just couldn’t be bothered.
The girl looked up and smiled at Jennifer.
A good start, Jennifer thought.
“What do you want to do?” asked the girl.
“I’d like to join a social network. I’ve heard Facebook is good,” Jennifer said. “But I don’t want to play games.”
“Do you have your own computer?”
“No. But I can come here most days, can’t I?”
“Can you pay?” The girl pointed to the price list on the wall.
“Shall I pay for one hour, now?” Jennifer took some small notes from her bag, but left the coins behind. Behind the assistant, two lines of about twenty computers faced the walls. There were about five young men looking at the computer screens.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“From the beginning, please, but I can type a bit in English.”
“Come over here,” suggested the girl, “and you can ask me if you get stuck.”
Jennifer followed the assistant around the reception desk.
“Sit down,” said the girl, “and I’ll set up an account for you.”
“How do you switch it on?”
“In this shop they’re on all the time, but that’s not difficult.”
Jennifer sat in a chair in front of the screen.
“What’s your name?” asked the girl.
“Jenn, but can I keep typing in English?”
The girl pressed some characters on the keyboard, and Jennifer’s name popped up on the screen. Some more keys were pressed. The girl wrote something on a piece of paper.
“Here’s your account, which I’ve called Jenn, and this is your password.” She handed the piece of paper to Jennifer.
“Wait a bit,” said the girl as she attended to another customer. A few minutes later, she returned to Jennifer’s side.
“Now type in your name in that box,” she instructed.
JENN, typed Jennifer.
“Now your password.”
Jennifer pressed the six number keys.
“Now press Enter.”
The screen went blank then opened MS Explorer with just a few words and blank boxes at the top.
“Type in Facebook dot com in that box.”
Jennifer did, and the screen flickered again.
“Now you have to open a Facebook account, but keep a note of the password you select and the number they allocate to you.”
“All you have to do is complete your Facebook profile,” said the girl. “Can I leave you to it?”
Jennifer smiled and nodded then turned back to the screen. She took her USB flash drive out of her handbag, plugged it into the keyword and uploaded her picture to her Facebook account.
“Name,” she read and typed in her given name and her family name.
Address, prompted the screen.
Jennifer completed as much as she could, but left out some information she didn’t want to add. The girl showed her how to press the blue button on the screen to save everything.
“Do you want it Public or Private?”
“Oh, I’m not sure.” She tapped the desk. “To find friends I’d better make it Public.”
“Do you have an email address?” asked the girl.
“Yes.” Jennifer typed in her Google mail address in the box on the screen.
“Great,” announced the girl. “Now you can start to find some friends!”
Jennifer saw a long list of faces on the left side of the screen, and she randomly pressed a few that she found attractive. She stopped after five or six names.
“Now you have to check your email address and see who has accepted your invitation,” explained the girl, “and you have to open the website to do that.”
“Oh, yes, I remember how to do that,” agreed Jennifer.
The more familiar Google mail icon appeared on the screen, and she typed in her email address and password.
After a few minutes, a new email appeared from Facebook.
She clicked on the email, and a Facebook message opened showing the photograph of one the people who had accepted her invitation to be friends, along with six other suggestions to invite more new friends.
“You can write anything that everyone can read, or send a private message to that person,” the girl concluded.
Jennifer looked at these faces; one was a cat and another a doll, but three were women and one was a good looking man about her age, so she pressed the invitation for the man.
The woman who had accepted her invitation appeared to be online herself, and she asked Jennifer what her job was. All Jennifer had written on her profile was “worked in an office.”
Jennifer typed: I’m an accountant.
The new friend typed: Put that in your profile, but you don’t have to reveal the name of your firm.
The girl attendant came over to see her. “Your time’s almost up.”
“Thanks,” said Jennifer, “that will do for today. Can I come back tomorrow?”
The girl pointed to a list of opening times, and Jennifer smiled.
“Now you must logoff,” said the girl, “but don’t forget your name and password for tomorrow.”
“Oh yes,” added the girl, “here’s your Membership Card. Please keep it somewhere safe.”
Jennifer stood. She was several centimeters taller than most women in Thailand, but then her father was an Indian construction manager from Kerala, so her skin was also a shade darker than most females.
Jenn looked at the clock on the wall and decided not to go back to her office that day. She walked back to her tiny flat.
She thought fondly of her parents. They had left Thailand just before Jennifer was married to a man they didn’t like. Her parents didn’t like Jennifer’s choice of a husband, as they didn’t think he would treat her kindly.
They were right. Jennifer frowned.
While Jennifer was at work one day, he had taken all their furniture and moved in with another woman. Fortunately, Jennifer was employed, and had fallen back on her work, which was her only source of income.
Their divorce was not acrimonious; just one day she was married, and the next she wasn’t. The court had ordered her husband to return a lot of her possessions, but he ignored it. She found a new, tiny studio flat and only purchased furniture she needed. She planned to move on, maybe leave Bangkok, but she hadn’t made a decision, yet.
Her job was her lifeline.
Jenn used computers more than she had admitted in the Games Room, but in her office, Social Media groups were simply not allowed. She had her own email address and used it mainly for work. Her job focused on data processing. She enjoyed using spreadsheets and statistical analysis and graphs every day, especially as her immediate boss could not use them effectively and had to rely on Jennifer.
She was impatient to know which of the other people on Facebook had accepted her offer, so she decided to go back to the Games Room later in the evening.
For now she cooked rice and decided that a salad and some cold meat would be most acceptable for dinner. Whilst the food cooked, she decided to take a shower.
She stared at herself in the mirror. Tall, dark, and handsome, she decided. But that would be great for a man, not a woman, so she carefully looked more closely at herself, and memorized her vital statistics as she admired her undressed body. Twenty-nine, five-feet-six, long dark hair, dark black eyes, and fifty-five kilos last time she checked, so not too much body fat. Her breasts were firm but small with brown nipples. She smacked her bottom. “Not too fat.”
With a careful application of makeup, she could make her smooth, brown complexion quite attractive to men.
At work she was expected to wear national dress, or business clothes, but never trousers. Now she found a clean bra and panties, and wore jeans and a T-shirt, plus comfortable shoes for a warm Bangkok evening.
When she arrived at the Games Room, the girl who had helped her earlier had gone home. She showed her membership card to the administrator, a young man, and he waved her to a computer at the end of the line. She paid him for two hours.
She navigated her way to her email account easily and checked her Inbox. There was a short note from her mother saying she and her father were both well and missed her. Two more Facebook friends had replied to her request—a woman and the nice-looking man.
They both wrote in English, and she carefully checked out their profiles. This second woman came from Singapore, whilst the man came from East London in South Africa, miles away. Their ages were not revealed, but she guessed from their photos that they’d be just a bit older than she was.
She typed hello to both women, but neither were currently on line.
She clicked the man’s profile, and the face in his photo smiled at her.
She sent him a greeting message, and he replied almost immediately.
Jenn typed: Tell me about yourself.
She waited and idly looked at the faces of other potential friends, mainly middle-aged women.
The man typed his message: I’m a farmer, but I don’t have my own farm. I help other farmers when they get stuck.
Without being asked, she typed: I’m an accountant.
The man replied a few minutes later: I know that. Your profile said that.
The man typed: Are you married?
Jennifer did not hesitate to type: I’m divorced!
The man replied a few minutes later: Oh, I’m sorry.
He typed: Do you have a Twitter account? He gave her his own Twitter account name.
Jenn typed: No, but I’ll get one now. Can you wait a few minutes?
She typed Twitter.com in the search box, and the little blue bird appeared.
She entered her real name and then her selected Twitter name and email account in to the boxes as she was asked, and then her mobile telephone number on the next page. The phone on her lap buzzed with a message, and she carefully typed the confirmation number in to the Twitter account details.
An onscreen prompt told her to wait. It took about five minutes for a confirmation to appear in her email inbox. She now had her Facebook account and her Twitter account.
She checked her screen to remind herself the man was called Charles, and Facebook volunteered that he was about thirty. He looked nice, and she hoped they could have some good conversations together.
She told all her friends, now three of them, her Twitter account name, and started to write back to her mother. As she typed, she realized how demoralizing her divorce had been, even though she was not at fault—except in the selection of her husband. Just as well that she had no children.
She checked her Twitter account and discovered only Charles had replied just to say well done.
She scrolled through her Facebook page and selected two ladies as potential friends because she liked their photos. She glanced at the clock on the wall, and the young man tapped his wrist watch. Time’s up, he indicated.
Jennifer shut down her account on the computer, and walked home.
She didn’t usually watch much television, but today she switched on the news, and her TV advertised a program on another channel, and for some reason decided to watch it, about a man and a woman undertaking a twenty one adventure in the wilderness without clothes, shelter, food or water.
Jennifer was more than a bit disappointed with the contestants. The man refused to work as a team with the woman. She turned out to be more successful in finding food than the man. He seemed to restrict himself to building a shelter and collecting firewood. At the end of the program, the man was the one marked down for his score.
She turned off the television and undressed to go to bed.
She had seen the contestants go to sleep without any clothes and she did the same, and laughed at herself for doing so.