Monday, February 20, 2017

This is the last time. Are you sad?

Last summer, I started a series of posts about the online word game Psychobabble in which Cara and I met, and that, as our friendship grew, we increasingly used to flirt with each other via sentences we made in the game.

First Psychobbable post (Note: this post includes an explanation of how the game worked. Since it's been so long since my previous post on the topic, it's probably worth including a very brief refresher here. The game was based on magnetic fridge poetry, and in each round, players in a room of up to twelve had one minute to pick some words from a set of around 60-70 tiles and arrange them into a sentence. Then all the sentences were displayed and players voted for their favorites.)

Second Psychobabble post

I intended it to be a three-part series, and now I'm finally getting around to writing the third part, which covers July and August 2006 including the first trip we ever took together, an event that was shortly followed by the end of the game Psychobabble. As before, I'll be posting screenshots of sentences, sometimes with corresponding in-game chat, along with my explanations of the sentences. And as I said in the previous post, "I will remind everyone again that she and I never collaborated on sentence making; every single time that we made sentences that went with each other it was a case of us being on the same mental wavelength by thinking of the same inside jokes or, in certain cases, by some bizarre coincidence."

Now, back to the sentences.

July 9
As shown in my previous post, we really liked to make sentences about going on walks together.

July 10
"Fishing" - as in fishing for compliments from each other - was something we often accused each other of, and made jokes about, in our online chats.

July 11
Cara and I decided that we were going to travel together to Washington, D.C. in early August to see a show by our favorite band, Ozma. This sentence by Cara celebrates our decision to go!

July 13
Cara's sentence was foreshadowing of numerous future walks on which we would hold each other's hands. My sentence is a reference to the fact that I had recently sent her a short video clip of me playing the piano (specifically, a snippet of the Ozma song "Gameover").

July 23
Here we both made sentences referencing the fact that Cara worked at a company called Garden City Group.

Our two sentences both referencing the Ozma song "You Know the Story" go together nicely.

July 29
Cara's sentence is about the fact that she liked a lot of the music I listened to. My sentence teasingly insinuates that Cara liked music we considered bad such as "In the End" by Linkin Park and "My Immortal" by Evanescence.

August 1
My sentence here kind of amazes me. As I talked about in my previous blog posts about Psychobabble, it's one that could plausibly be "just a sentence," but I have no doubt that in my mind when I made it was the fact that I had never been on a real date (something I had not directly told Cara!) and that if Cara and I went out on a date she would therefore be "my first date." Which did, of course, happen, but not until a little over three months after I made this sentence!

August 2
And here's one from Cara that could be "just a sentence" but was undoubtedly actually about her hopes that I did in fact "like her" (as more than a friend).

This was shortly before our trip to D.C. My sentence is obviously about the fact we were going to a show there. Although we were going primarily so that we could see Ozma, they were actually not headlining the show but rather opening for The Rentals (another band we liked), so that's what Cara's sentence is about.

"Speedy speed boy" is something Cara had called me in reference to my being a runner.

August 4
After we returned from D.C., we learned the dismaying news that Popcap, the company that ran Psychobabble, had announced they would soon be shutting the game down. My sentence is about this, with a classic Garden Fight reference. I should also mention that of the two people who voted for my sentence, one was (of course) Cara, and the other was... Cara's mother! But I didn't know that at the time. Actually, a while before Cara had told me that her mother played Psychobabble, but I thought Cara was joking, and when it became clear I thought she was joking, Cara decided to play it off as if she had been joking rather than continue to try to convince me. It wasn't until years later that I learned the truth.

Just days before we went to D.C., I broke my arm after falling down while running, which meant that Cara had to do all the driving on the trip. Here's Cara with a rather cruel (and hilarious!) sentence about my injury.

Another sentence by Cara about her hopes that I was into her.

A great sentence by Cara about the imminent demise of our favorite pastime.

August 7
While on our trip, we saw a sign for "Forks of Cheat," a winery in Morgantown, West Virginia. We thought this name was very funny. I love Cara's sentence referencing it.

Cara's sentence is about the fact that we had slept in the same hotel room in D.C. (but in different beds!).

August 8
In retrospect, my sentence is kind of cruel considering how apparent it was Cara had a crush on me and how uncertain she was of whether I felt the same way about her! Good thing it ended up not being Cara's imagination! Her sentence is a reference to the bowling outing that was the first time we got together in person.

One of the highlights of the trip was the fact that in the car, I read aloud to Cara Cretaceous Park, the sequel to Jurassic Park that my best childhood friend and I wrote in fifth grade. (In August 2015 I created an annotated version of Cretaceous Park and it can be found in this blog post.) This led to a lot of laughter on both our parts. The funniest thing to us was the absurd repetition of the phrase '"Run!" shouted Alan.'

Because I had a broken arm, it was hard for me to open a bottle of water. Cara's sentence is a great reference to this, evoking a scene of her watching me struggle with the bottle and waiting for me to ask for help (she did end up helping me open the bottle). My sentence comes from the fact that certain aspects of our trip were very poorly planned, mainly that we did not pick a dinner location ahead of time, assuming we'd come across something, and then (in those pre-smart-phone days) failing to do so after walking around the National Mall for a while and then taking the Metro to near the 9:30 Club, the concert venue. We were both very hungry, me especially. I ended up buying a bag of chips at a gas station across the street from the 9:30 Club. In the fall of 2015, on a trip in which I went to a concert at another venue in the same area, I discovered that there were actually numerous restaurants just blocks away from where we had been. Oops!

Cara's sentence is another reference to her helping me open my water bottle. My sentence is another reference to Cretaceous Park. 

August 9
Here's another Forks of Cheat reference.

While at my parents' house, I was looking at Cara's pictures from the trip on Flickr, and my mom saw that the name on the Flickr account was Communista, leading my mom to say, "Is... is this person a communist?" (Cara was not a communist.)

I really like this pair of sentences referencing the Ozma song title "Light Years Will Burn."

Aw, what a nice sentence by Cara.

Cara with another Rentals sentence. Me with another "is it flirting or is it just a sentence" sentence.

While I made a sentence about our D.C. trip and Cara made a sentence about hoping to go to another show with me, Jen (SA_shedevil) also made a sentence about Cara and me. She was someone who frequently played Psychobabble with us and who Cara had privately told about her feelings for me. I'm pretty sure I voted for "Your walks are really more than that" thinking that it was Cara's sentence and I don't remember what I thought of it when I saw it was actually Jen's sentence.

I feel like with the game soon ending, Cara was feeling desperate and was making more and more sentences hinting at her feelings for me. Although we did flirt some in our frequent AOL Instant Messenger chats, we were much more flirtatious in our Psychobabble sentences, because there was the plausible deniability factor of "maybe they're just sentences." The game going away would remove this outlet. It makes me wonder if things would have played out any differently, and perhaps sooner, had the game not gone away. My sentence, by the way, is about Cara driving the car on our trip while I controlled the music from the passenger seat.

Cara's sentence references the fact that we took the Green Line on the D.C. Metro. My sentence is a twisted reference, but one that Cara nonetheless got (and loved!), to a rest stop on the way to D.C. that overlooked the Youghiogheny River. (I combined the tiles "Yugo," "-ing," and "-ly" to make something that very vaguely resembled Youghiogheny.) This would be a good place to quote the first paragraph of Cara's wedding vows:
Even before we met, we finished each other's sentences. After we had actually met, I knew I wanted to get to know you better. And as we sat atop a hill overlooking the Youghiogheny River later that year, I knew that I was beginning to fall in love with you.
(Well, I have tears in my eyes now.)

August 10 - the last day of Psychobabble

Awwwww. Cara was going all out on the flirting.

My punny and topical sentence here was very popular.

These are my and Cara's final Psychobabble sentences ever, which we made in the same round. Very fitting.

Despite our incessant flirting in the game, it wasn't until almost three months later, November 4, that we finally revealed our feelings for each other and started dating. The long delay was partly due to the fact that after that trip to D.C., we did not see each other in person for over two months. This next in-person get together was for an Okkervil River concert in Columbus, after which I finally came to the full realization that I did want to give being more than friends with Cara a shot. And the time after that when we saw each other was that fateful November 4, Cara's first of many trips to see me in Cleveland.

Psychobabble was gone forever, but in the months and years to come there were multiple attempts at recreating it by fans of the original game. The best was called Pseudobabble, which we would enjoy playing many times over the years, all the way up to as recently as 2013. Sadly, Pseudobabble eventually died off, and to my knowledge there is no working Psychobabble-like game online today.

It really was amazing the way Cara and I hit it off after meeting through this game and then the way we used the game to create our own unique way of communicating with each other. What a fantastic love story...

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