So this weekend, Jared and I got THREE DAYS to spend by ourselves, in celebration of our own anniversary. JessicaSprague.com has been around for three years, but Jared + Jessica Sprague (the team) has been around for ten.

Can you believe it? TEN! Nearly 1/3 of our lives, which I think is frickin awesome, because it’s been by far the best 10, all told.

Sure, there have been lots of challenges, struggle, disappointment, a couple of disasters, but more than anything there has been a lot of love. A lot of learning, communicating, unconditional support, understanding each other, and becoming more and more like two halves of the same being. I’ll discuss the weekend later, but one thing we did was sit on the deck at the cabin and rock in the rockers as the sun went down, and reminisce about the night we met.

I’ve never written this story down - this story of love, and pizza, and geekiness - and I think it’s time.

Chapter 1: MUD

I first laid eyes on Jared at a pizza joint. Well, technically, in the parking lot of his dorm before I drove a bunch of people to the pizza joint. And not just any pizza - if you’ve been to college in Rexburg, Idaho, you know Craigo’s pizza. A cute little local place, reasonably OK pizza, but really the only place within walking distance that’s open after 6 p.m. Also, they have live music on weekends. So it is famous and a hangout for the college kids, kind of by default.

So it was December, 1995. I had just finished moving out of my parents’ house for the second time (another story), and in to my own little apartment above a dance club in downtown Rexburg. My good friend BLT had helped me haul boxes up the stairs, and after we were finished, he said, “Hey, let’s go get pizza.” 

Awesome! I said.

“Let’s stop by the dorm and pick up a couple of guys there from my floor.”

Ok. Why not?

So I drove him back up to his dorm, and he disappeared through the side door. A few minutes later, out walks BLT, along with two other boys. One in particular was wearing a black hoodie with the hood pulled up, and I even remember thinking as I (surreptitiously) glanced at him, MMM! Hello there! He is a handsome fella!

So off we four sped to Craigo’s, and I fall in behind Jared and his friend Kirk in line to order. Still surreptitiously glancing, of course. ;)

And then I see Jared point at a flyer on the notice board, and say to Kirk, “Hey, look I could get dial-up internet access in my room. Then I could play my MUD.”

That was when, on the inside, my heart leaped about 100 feet in the air, and began to do tap dances. I think probably my mouth fell open, too. And certainly the mystery boy in the black hoodie became a LOT MORE INTERESTING.

See, way back in 1995 (as I will spin this story to my children in about 10 more years), there was no wireless internet you could access from no fewer than 10 devices in your home (including the TV, iPad, two iPhones, and 6 computers). Also, there was only one web browser (Netscape, which only became available in late 1994, and was JUST making its way to university campuses in 1996), and virtually no actual web pages. Also, I walked uphill BOTH WAYS to school in the driving snow. But the part about the internet is true.

So people (and by people, I mean geeks, the hardcore kind) who wanted to play online role-playing games almost exclusively used Telnet, to log in to a remote server that had a “game” installed in it, and there people could meet and either hack-and-slash (as Jared liked to do), or role-play, or socialize (as I liked to do). As you might imagine, this was a fairly small segment of the general population - mostly computer science majors, or sysadmins, or network/IT folks who worked at tech companies or universities. But mostly it was computer science majors - this kind of stuff required that interesting combination of technical skill and enough free time to actually play.

I had discovered MUDs (also called MUSHes) back in 1994. Interestingly I was NOT a computer science major, and also being a girl, was in the minority of the minority when it came to playing this kind of game. I can’t even remember where I first discovered it - one of those early bulletin boards I think. It gave the address and information to log in to a MUSH based on the Dune books, of which I was a really big fan.

Also, it was completely text-based. So more like reading an interactive book than actually playing a game. The idea of visual MUDs (also now called MORPGs or MMORPGs hadn’t taken off yet, and really wouldn’t get fully mainstream until World of Warcraft 10 years later). So the hardcore nerds sat and read white text on a black screen while they either hacked and slashed, or socialized with others from around the country in a virtual hot tub. NERDS. I’ll admit it.

So I had spent several months playing in the computer lab in the Computer Science building on campus (along with, I think 2 other people who were there almost as much as I was, and we never asked one another what we were doing). Loved it.

So needless to say, I had never actually met another living, breathing soul (aside from the one or two people FROM the online world that I met in real life) who even knew what this stuff was, let alone PLAYED it too.

Ok, back to Craigo’s. I’m hovering a pace or two behind the conversation, and my heart leapt in my throat when Jared said the word “MUD”. I don’t remember whether I ate. Or what. I don’t remember anything else about anything except a brief part of my conversation with him, which happened thusly:

And Chapter 2 comes tomorrow!