Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

Years and years ago -- Fourteen? Fifteen? God, so long -- I worked in a little software shop, in the back of a bookstore. I was awkward and fumbling, fat, a geek -- unsure of myself and where I was going. I had dropped out of college to be with a girlfriend who had then dropped out of the relationship to be with a boyfriend. Y'know.

There was a woman who worked in the book part of the bookstore who liked me. I could tell. It was a vibe I wasn't used to getting, and it left me more than a little startled. I kept glancing behind me to see who see who she was sending it to. But, no, nobody there. It was me.

Her name was Rachel, and she was smart and funny and very, very pretty. She had shoulder-length brown hair and pale, clear skin and she was adventurous and exciting and, good Lord, she liked me.

So, of course, I did nothing. We talked and we ran chairs around the store after closing and we traded nametags some days and I did nothing. She was sending signals like mad -- touches, hellos, laughs -- and I responded by being as receptive as a concrete wall. I was petrified. She liked me! God! Imagine everything that could go wrong with that! We might... Go out! And get along! There might be kissing!

The thought of asking out this smart, funny woman left me nauseous. With every reason in the world to be giddy, I turned tail and ran, a coward and a failure. The possibilities -- the endless possibilities -- left me panic-stricken, paralyzed, huddled in the dark corners with my arms wrapped around my knees. Instead of being thrilled, I was terrified. Faced with an open door, I refused to step through.

I am a jackass.

I think about Rachel sometimes, whenever my first reaction is to run. Fear -- of failure, of success, of something other than this, here, now -- has played too large a role in my life, has kept me from doing too many things. I think about Rachel when I need a reminder that regret is worse than risk -- that, no matter what, there is something to be learned from failure, that there is something to be gained from success. I think about Rachel, and the fact that I still think about Rachel, all this time later. I think about what might have been, and what I was too afraid to discover.

I'm still working on having it make a difference.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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