Breathing The Same Air

I had scheduled our first ever live chat with Rick Springfield for 11pm during the first week of May, 2000.  I was insanely excited to be able to offer this opportunity for the fans to really connect live with Rick Springfield.  As I’d said when I was a teen, “breathing the same air.”  In this case it was all of us, looking at a computer screen at the same time.  Rick’s west coast time zone made the chat hour a bit late for those further to the East, but all of the fans were so excited that no one complained.

It hadn’t been easy to set up.  I had been looking at different chat scripts for weeks while I was waiting for our house to sell in Oklahoma.  I had stumbled on the very type I wanted on a James Taylor fan site.  I emailed the webmaster to ask some questions about the script and how I could get my hands on it.  The script Joel used was such that while normally the room operated as a regular chat room that anyone could log in and out of, it could also be closed to the general public and just certain people allowed in.  Even so, anyone with the chat web address could still view those in the room and see the chat. This capability was exactly what I’d wanted.

Joel had generously offered to help me by setting up the chat on his domain.  It had been in operation for a few weeks now and seemed to be working flawlessly.  Vivian and I had tested the moderated set up a few days ago with another woman, Elizabeth.  She was helping us with our mailing list online, which was swiftly becoming a hub for fans to connect and interact in addition to the chat room.   Elizabeth watched Vivian and I in the chat room, but couldn’t enter.  Vivian pretended to be Rick while I asked her questions, and she answered them.  The plan was during the real chat, Vivian and I would alternate asking Rick questions sent in by the fans, and Rick would hunt and peck in his answers from his computer in California.  The fans would be able to watch as our words slowly scrolled down their screens.   Elizabeth reported that the test worked perfectly, and now, it was time for the real deal.

I was terribly nervous.  To add to the nervousness, I wasn’t sitting in my comfortable office in the fourth bedroom in our neat as a pin house for sale in Oklahoma.  Our house had sold much more quickly than anyone imagined.  The date of our scheduled chat came just after we’d left our house to be packed up by movers.  So here I was, sitting at a tiny desk in a bedroom of our long term stay hotel suite.  My baby was sound asleep in the pack and play a few steps away, completely unbothered by the quick sounds of my fingers on the keys.  R was in the other room watching tv, waiting to hear me yell out for him if Melinda roused during the time of the chat, and likely secretly hoping this would all wrap up soon.  It was terribly late. Z was in the other bedroom of our suite sleeping.

I could feel myself sweating as I entered the chat room and opened my instant message window to send Rick the link as soon as he messaged me for it.  I knew fans were watching the screen, waiting for his arrival; our email list dumped ten messages into my inbox in three minutes asking why he was late and if this had all been some sort of joke on the fans.  I sent back a message to the whole list asking for patience, meanwhile messaging my cohort Vivian with expletive ridden worries about where our guy was.

Suddenly, his message filled my screen, a funny query as to where to go to spend the next few minutes of his life.  I laughed out loud and cut and pasted the link into the window, replying that I was so glad to see him and how nervous I was.  He messaged back about being nervous as well.  I moved to the chat window and saw his moniker show up next to mine and Vivian’s.  He typed in simply:  “rick”.

Unfortunately, he seemed to be having trouble with the set up and quickly disappeared from our screens.  I kept our instant message window open and talked him through the log in process again.  Finally, after ten excruciatingly long minutes, he logged in and seemed to be “getting it”.  It was now 11:36pm, but I was wide awake with adrenalin and worry that balanced carefully on the edge of glee.

We peppered him with questions for what seemed like forever (but in reality was exactly thirteen minutes),  questions about everything from his tour to his new record to his dog.  His answers were funny and the fans ate it up with a spoon.  I leaned back in my chair and saw my inbox light up with messages of delight and wonder that we were all sitting here, at the same time, all doing the same thing as Rick Springfield.    He even offered to try the chat unmoderated with all of the fans able to interact with him in the room.  Within seconds, scores of fans logged in, sending him messages.  I shook my head with a wry smile, just glad that the room wasn’t crashing and that everyone seemed to be happy.  Unfortunately, the messages came so quickly that they overwhelmed Rick, and he sent me a private message saying that he would have to go.  Still, he’d spent forty or so minutes chatting with us, and seemed eager to try it again soon.  I thanked him and watched his screen name go dark on my screen.  The clock read 12:03 am.

It was over.  And it had been a success.  We had breathed the same air.  And it was oh, so sweet.

To read the chat that we hosted with Rick Springfield in May, 2000, click here.

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