Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

While I was keeping my little cauldron's lid on last week, I read this post about perpetual Nerd-dom by my friend Valerie Demetros, and I went from Nobody to, well, ok, I stayed Nobody, but I became a nobody who had another nobodies’ back, and vice versa. Just like making that pivotal first friend at a new school, it made me just brave enough to relax and let me be myself, consequences be damned. So what if she picks her nose, wears five layers of clothing in June and brings her pet hermit crab to school in her pocket? At least she’s not sneaking up behind me in the halls to toss my books!

NOTE: The author wishes to make it known that he’s never known Mrs. Demetros to pick her nose, wear too many layers, or keep hermit crabs in her pocket. It’s just a device.

The Sounds of Silence

Like lots of other die-hard social networkers, I thought for sure I'd be one of the last holdouts—like I was with smartphones, four-bangers, SUVs, new Country, Brad Pitt (yes, I admit he's not only stupid-good looking, but also a great actor—so shoot me, guys), Miami Vice, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, well, I better stop. But curiosity finally overwhelmed me, and I fell in love with Twitter earlier this year.

When I saw the many fellow pilots, writers, and other enthusiasts of anything you can stick a #hashtag in front of, and how sincerely welcoming, helpful, and nice the overwhelming majority of them were, I was hooked. People started wondering why I wasn't emailing much anymore. Or Facebooking. Or e-mailing. Or calling. Or talking. Or eating...

There’s something I must confess before we go any further. I’m a social moron. People utterly confound me. I like to think I have decent manners and believe in the basic goodness of people, but my skin's as thin as an onion’s in places it shouldn’t be and virtually numb in areas where many others are tender. So, social networking is, for me, a minefield—with more tripwires than safe spots.

Anyway, I became a Tweep - someone who spends more time, and often gets more satisfaction from, interacting with people he's never met via Twitter than with his real friends and family.

Was it the brevity? The 24/7 activity? The ability to be silent without appearing morose or to make any number of sarcastic comments with no way to notice the dreadful, awkward silences that often follow them in person? That's it! At least for me, it was. The peace, the quiet, and the insulation from the God-awful din of those damned crickets lurking in dark corners of every room, just waiting, praying for their chance to let fly with whatever so compels them to chirp about right after I say something I alone found humorous.

I’ve since discovered, however, that crickets not only ’blog, they also Tweet. “Socially-challenged” people like me just can’t hear them from cyberspace. We could really use a “virtual crickets” gadget to sound after we “express ourselves inappropriately.” They have that thingy to speak the anti-spam verification codes required by some web pages, so why not a little “chirpchirp…chirpchirp” action for those of us (or is it just me?) who don’t have social lives, but only “social existences,” which only begin to seem normal in the brief peaceful, hopeful lulls between grand-mal faux-pas?

In those first few Tweeks, which were also some of my first as a semi-regular blogger, I was like the first guy to get tipsy at a party. I was witty. I was smart. I was building a following. People were asking me things. They really, honestly seemed to be happy I was there! It was like Mom and Dad always promised being the new kid in town would be like. I was in demand - a player! And this was only the beginning—the infinitesimally narrow end of that exponential-growth-curve thingy that all the publicists and marketing types show around like it's John 3:16 or something. It was only a matter of time before my stuff went "viral," and I, Nathan Carriker, would become Airborne/Literary Ebola and do for pilots what Stephenie Meyer did for those other evil, flying bloodsuckers everybody’s sick of.

Being an #airline #pilot, I try to help tweeps who are #traveling. I helped a bigwig get her lost luggage back last winter. That was cool—made me think, “Gee, lots of people tweet about #travel. Maybe I could become a go-to guy when the tweeps need some #airline 411. I wouldn't expect anything in return (well, a polite acknowledgment would be nice). I just thought it would be a good way for me to give back a little, make my contribution to the #GreaterGood. But a couple of weeks ago, those crickets told me some of the tweeps I follow, who don’t yet follow me, might think otherwise. No, #normalpeople, I hadn’t considered that even though people who have more followers than Jehovah has Witnesses can call me their tweep, the reverse is, most assuredly, not the case. Or likely to be any time soon. Or later.

But eventually I did figure “It” out, though “It” happened way too many times before I did. I told myself the first few people who didn’t acknowledge my witty tweets or cute comments on their blogs must have just had to go to the bathroom. Maybe their cat started to puke and they had to throw, I mean, carry her over to the linoleum and clean it up. Their mom might have called just then—you know how moms are. But for whatever reason, intentional or accidental, real or imaginary, I finally started to hear those pesky crickets again, like so many six-legged (with two way-fatter than the others) Telltale Hearts. “Chirpchirp. Chirpchirp. Chirpchirp.”

Yes, it only recently dawned on me that some of the uber-tweeps I had gotten too folksy with might think I wanted something from them. At first, I was insulted.

“What, do they think I’m going to try to hard-sell them to fly on my airline (now that’s funny), or get them to read something, all for inflicting less than 140 characters of dubiously helpful info upon them? Could anyone actually think someone like me might try to shame someone like them into flying first class, or on a real airline, next time? Or guilt them into reading something by an unknown, just hoping they’ll love it so much they beg, no, demand to get into the Nathan Carriker business?

“What?” my petulant tirade continued, “Are these people actually worried about being 'stalked' by creepy, unpublished writers/airline pilots? Have they actually begun to sense dark legions of balding, paunchy, middle-aged guys with mortgages and 401(k)'s who change their own oil lying in wait behind Tuesday night’s trashpiles, just waiting for their chance to spring from obscurity and secret a mileage club application, a complimentary micro-bottle of liquor, or, God-help-us, a query package (perhaps even lacking current contact info! cue "bloodcurdling scream") into some Somebody’s Trader Joe’s enviro-tote already overloaded with nobodies' dreams? Must I actually describe how that nightmare ends?"

“Breathe, Nate, breathe,” my friends tell me at such times.

“Write, Nate, write,” I told myself. “Just, please, for the love of everything Holy, sit on it a few days and make sure you can’t stand to tone it down some before you hit that ‘PUBLISH POST’ button. Ok, buddy?”


  1. No crickets. And LOL at the onion-skin and numb observation -- I thought I was the only one like that.

  2. Well, I don't know what normal is, but I hear the chirping outside my window. Last Friday my car was hit with me and my 2 little girls inside--everyone was fine.

    I got home, tweeted, waited...tweeted....nobody really said anything to me all weekend. I thought, sheesh, ok, then.

    Monday came and I said one lame thing resulting in a few long conversations and what do you know? Someone does care. I don't know if it's the moon, the planets alignment with Mars, or just the wrong bloody time, but those crickets are chirping for all of us.

    Write hard. Die free.

  3. Thanks, ladies. I hate to sound like an attention-starved child, but doing so much to build a following and then looking back once or twice to see three people (who don't seem completely enthralled, themselves) isn't for the faint of heart, is it?

    Ya gotta have friends. Thanks for being mine!

  4. It was the crickets combined with Telltale Heart that finally had me saying "HEY! Wait!!! Now I know I read this."

    I think being a writer creates a weird conflict of "needing affirmation" and still being a slight egomaniac that needs fed a lot. My writing feels so personal that I need people to respond so I don't feel so exposed without validation.

    Maybe that's just me...

    *crickets chirping* That's what I thought....

  5. I was thinking about not responding for a couple days, just to mess with you, Wendy, but even I'm not quite that cruel. I think you hit it right on the head with that comment, and I deem you spokesperson for being able to articulate it so well.

    Oh, and for anyone else reading this, Wendy knew she'd read this before because she we "met" on Twitter over a similar comment she'd Tweeted.

    Thanks, @sparrowbug!


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