April 22, 2019

Red Blood in the Emergency Room, Red Carpet on the Way

A polite debate

  • February 9, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

This week's look at all things GNOME has been partially written on a few pieces of paper I begged from an emergency room nurse to give me something to do while waiting for some blood work to come back.

You'd think "visit to the emergency room" trumps "column owed to editor," and for some sites that may be the case, but there are times you've got to grit your teeth and say "I'm a professional, damnit" three times slowly and then get to work. This was such an evening.

The reason I was in the emergency room is irrelevant to the narrative. Nothing overly traumatic... just one of those times when it occurs to you that a trip to the emergency room is in order. No stitches, no convulsions. Just being kneaded by a doctor and patiently explaining over a mouthful of tongue depressor that yes, when you were seven, your tonsils just up and disappeared and that your doctor at the time was just as mystified, and you can call your parents to see if they can remember the physician who announced the miraculous ascension of nature's most infectable organ up out of your skull and off to the big biological waste disposal facility in the sky.

Leading up to that, though, I managed to have a genuine "out on the street" desktop experience with the emergency room nurse, a surly man with snake and dagger tats on his forearms. He was checking my bloodpressure (low, my bloodpressure is so low that standing up too quickly makes me stagger around eight times out of ten) when the receiving nurse said:

"Sir, your zip code must be the same as your home... it says you work for in-n-ernet.com, so that's a home business?"

Why, yes... all .com's are scrappy little startups being run out of garages. Even Amazon.com is actually headquartered in a burned out bookmobile on blocks somewhere in New Jersey, I hear.

But not knowing the zipcode for my employer, I reached into my wallet with the arm that wasn't in the pressure cuff and pulled out a business card, hoping it might have the information. The nurse with the tatoos took it from me and examined it.

"Say... LinuxToday... that's neat! I like Linux!"

I smiled. There are enough Linux fans walking around these days that it's hard to feel the sudden rush of kinship you might have once, but this person was likely going to be ramming me with a needle soon. No point in antagonizing him.

"I'm fond of it, too," I allowed.

He kept messing with blood pressure cuff, looking agitated. After long moments of silence, he said:

"So, uh... GNOME or KDE?"

"Why, GNOME," I said.

The cuff went tight, his eyes hardened, and he spat out between his teeth "But KDE's much more polished. And GNOME has a long history of flaming people in IRC. Are you sure you don't like KDE better?"

Ordinarily, I'm a go-along, get-along kind of person, but I was agitated. Sitting in the middle of the emergency room, in fear for my health, and someone with snake and dagger tatoos is hassling me over desktop environments.

"Listen, pig-eyes," I said, "KDE might have a slight lead in the polish game, though I'd be hard pressed to point to how at this point; but your self-righteous crap about some IRC-based overzealousness from years ago is too much. Take your toy interface and creep back to your shack in the woods."

He stood up, knocking his chair over, and we were separated.

Another nurse took my vitals.

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