~~~The first time I went to New York City, late in 1997, the circumstances associated with my arrival there were pretty much a spectacular three-ring goat screw. The whole mind-blowing festival of Shit Going Wrong featured late arrival of my flight, public transportation from JFK airport shut down for some ludicrous reason, and a nonexistent hotel reservation.
The woman at the hotel front desk (whose level of concern for my situation was approximately the equivalent of the merest microscopic portion of a rat's left testicle), waited until I had completed a relatively inspired railing against the gods and fates. Then she looked at me for a moment, shrugged, and said in a deadpan manner that to this day, I consider the epitome of the genre...
"Welcome to New York."
That experience came to mind for me a couple weeks ago when I was hanging around in the vicinity of the Royal Court of Prussian King Friedrich der Grosse, (I have been on an 18th century kick lately--I shall endeavor to write more about this current fetish of mine at some other opportunity). Anyhow, there I was standing around in my small-town "freifrau" outfit, smoking my clay pipe and trying to rouse up some convo with the local gentry, when I was approached by a young lady who asked me if I could direct her to a place to get a proper 18th century court gown.
The lass, who was very polite--though she typed her chat in a manner that suggested she was not a native speaker of English--had apparently been in SL every bit of three days. And she was at the point where some assistance and guidance was in order. Her hair and dress were in fact in need of some improvement, though in actuality I have certainly seen far less attractive outfits on much older avatars. Anyhow, no one else seemed inclined to be of much help, so I figured I might as well give it a go.
Josephine, the young lady, turned out to be from Poland, and once I switched over to using the English to Polish translator built into the chat preferences gizmo, she could do a pretty good job of guessing what I meant as I jabbered at her. Bless her heart, she was struggling a bit with SL, but by damn, I sure do give her credit for how far she had gotten in three days. Her primary enthusiasm is 18the century European life, art and culture, and she had somehow managed to find places like Old Fritz's palace of Sansouci and a dress that was kind of cute, even if slightly inauthentic.
We went shopping and talked some, and together we made a bit of progress. But a real low point hit the next day: she sent me a pathetic email asking for help. As I was in the middle of some rp, I told her I would be there as soon as possible. She politely said ok, she would wait...and when I finally teleported to her location...
I found she was utterly and horrifically Ruthed.
Ohmyfuckingawd, even in poorly translated typed chat, I could tell poor Jospehine was nearly in tears. Well it took some work, but I got her sorted out, got a decent skin and shape on her, found her a bald cap to kill the dreaded Ruth hair, and we put a nice dress and powdered wig on her.
At this point, I wasn't sure how she felt about how things were working out, but after a long pause she said,
"oh...I look beautiful!"
And bugger me senseless if she didn't. It was just such a charming moment.
Sooooo, anyhoooo, we did some more shopping over the next few days, and talked about history and life and got to know each other a little bit, and we explored other 18th century sims. Among the places we went to was Chenonceau. It's a great build, though it never seems busy. And Josephine introduced me to a recreation of the Polish royal palace, where she and some other Polish rococo enthusiasts hang about. It's pretty freakin' impressive.
Along the way, I tried to help her figure out how to use different elements of the viewer, but this effort was perhaps the least successful of our interactions. I periodically seemed to just puzzle and confuse her further with my explanations and instructions. I think Josephine was starting to get pretty frustrated with me, when I realized that a huge part of the problem was not just one of language and marginal translator programs...
...it was the fact that I was on Phoenix and Josephine was using Viewer 2.
Beelzebub's blazing bunghole! No wonder we weren't connecting on most of these issues! I was telling her to look for buttons and other shit in locations that were totally different from where they lived on her viewer.
I can't believe that it took me so long to catch on to this simple reality. Just one more proof that this ol' girl's headguts ain't firin' on all cylinders.
So I switched to Viewer 2 to see if I could be more help to her from there...and goddamn, it really didn't help that much. I have eschewed the use of Viewer 2 since the first week it was out when I tried it and found it to be a clunky, cluttered mess. I know some folks love it because it gives you more attachments points and hell, makes espresso, or some silly shit like that. But especially for role playing and combat where you need intuitive controls and a view that is as uncluttered as possible....it's a piece of weasel-squeezing pig snot.
Overall--other than our confusion related to the different viewers--the experience with Josephine has been a very positive one. I like her very much and hope she enjoys her time in-world. But it inspired me to ponder what starting out new on the grid had been like back in 2004-5. It wasn't a particularly fast process, it sure as hell wasn't all that much fun, but at least it was made easier by the fact that I came over to SL with the migratory herd from The Sims Online, so I had people to help me.
My heart really goes out to people like Josephine who come to SL nowadays without a support network like that--unless they run into someone who takes pity on them and decides to help like I happened to (guess she caught me on a good day). But you add into the whole "Welcome to New York" mix the fact that the new folks have to try to work with Viewer 2....and I have to ask myself, how in the name of St. Joe's toolbox does anybody make it past the first 15 minutes in-world? The hell with worrying about the first hour. I'm guessing far too many folks don't get anywhere near that point without tossing their monitor out the goddamn window.
Which brings me back to "Welcome to New York."
New Yorkers say that because...well...they're painfully aware that there is a certain Darwinian natural selection process that goes on in the city, and if you're going to stay there any length of time, you have to put on your adaptability galoshes pretty fuckin' quick. But in our virtual world, does it really have to be like that? I know the old mentor program was apparently flawed and for some reason the Lindens felt compelled to take the durn thing out behind the shed like Old Yeller and put a .44 round 'twixt its goddamn eyes. But nothing can really replace a human connection and the application of just a bit of some tolerance and kindness. Does it really take that much time away from our busy schedules to make an effort to help each other to be able to look in the mirror and say, "I am beautiful?"
So what inspired me to randomly decide to assist this one gal? In all honesty, it helped that Josephine was very polite, intelligent, and patient, and didn't beg for money or do any of the other hundred little noobish malefactions that lead an old fart to shrug and shove 'em back over the railing into the river full of piranhas. But what would encourage us to regularly help more people to get up on their feet and run with the platform so as to enjoy it the way that us ancient fuckers do? And what about the people who aren't as nice as Josephine? I suppose you could argue that even the annoying gits deserve some kind of help when they are newly minted avatars--an opportunity to move beyond their initial gitliness?
I have no answer--basic human kindness and consideration, unfortunately, doesn't seem to scale. At the same time, I am relatively confident that the answer can only be partially technological. Hell, maybe it's one of those things that if each of us helped just one other person...
Yeah, I'm probably not going to make it a regular habit of providing guidance to greenhorns, but by gawd, if you ever happen to see me shrug and tell someone, "Welcome to Second Life,"...you know...in that way... please just walk over and slap the shit out of me.