I was sitting in the lobby of Ms. Cryer’s apartment building by 6:00, enjoying the cool air-conditioned comfort. I allowed myself to doze a bit more as I waited. With my eyes only half-open I traced the pattern on the rug beneath my outstretched legs. A green line twisted and turned on a red background, forking frequently into numerous branches. Occasionally some of these branches merged back together again. While it was an abstract pattern, it gave the impression of a hopelessly tangled and twisted vine.
An elevator door opened behind me. I shook off my drowsiness and looked up. It was Ms. Cryer. She flashed a very brief, slight smile and nodded her head as she approached. I returned her greeting and got to my feet.
I hadn’t had a chance to change my clothes, of course, and upon seeing Ms. Cryer I became acutely aware of this. She had changed.
She wore a different pair of pants, although they were still stretch-pants and still black. Her grey sweatshirt was replaced by a loose-fitting white blouse that buttoned down the front. She hadn’t tucked it in at the bottom, instead letting it hang loose like a jacket. The white blouse and black pants made for a sharp contrast. The blouse brought out the natural beauty of her dark face.
We turned and headed out the door without saying anything immediately. She had also put on lipstick, light-red, and earrings. The earrings were gold rings about the size of a quarter and showed with dramatic effect due to her ultra-short hair. Other than the lipstick, I couldn’t tell if she was wearing make-up. Hers is the sort of beauty that either doesn’t require make-up or else is the result of very expertly applied make-up. I was struck once again by the striking beauty of her eyes — large round eyes, the whites in sharp contrast to her skin. She may have had eye shadow… I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to peer too closely. These observations came from side-ways glances during the short walk to the restaurant. The conversation during that walk consisted of sanitized small-talk, which suited me just fine. When we reached Sid’s Seafood Grill, Ms. Cryer let me hold the door for her as we went in. I also held the door for a young couple entering immediately after us. They had just stepped out of a black sport-utility vehicle parked at the curb in front of the restaurant.
I had to pause briefly inside the door to let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting. The same blonde woman was sitting at the same spot at the bar. It looked as if she hadn’t moved. She still had a cigarette in her hands and a drink sitting on the bar in front of her. The rest of the bar was empty; the two men had apparently left.
I noticed a surprised and slightly amused expression cross Ms. Cryer’s face when I gave my name and mentioned our reservation, but she didn’t say anything. The couple that had followed us in did not have a reservation but were shown a table in the non-smoking section along with us. Most of the tables were still empty at this point.
Ms. Cryer informed me that all of the food on the menu was good but that the swordfish, crab, and fillet of sole were especially good. I decided on swordfish.
Before making another attempt to explain the banking debacle I wanted some idea of Ms. Cryer’s educational background. My guess was that she had a college degree. I hoped so. It would be even better if it were in the sciences instead of the humanities. Not wanting to seem too intrusive I gingerly broached the subject and learned to my delight that she had been a computer science major at Northwestern.
“That’s great,” I exclaimed, “so you can follow the details of the computer mix-up at the bank.”
“Yes,” she replied coldly. “I know what a hacker is and I understand the world in which they operate.”
So I was a hacker in her eyes. Yuck. Time to start explaining. “It isn’t like that,” I said.
“Then what were you doing messing around with banking transactions?”
“All I really wanted to do was prove a point,” I began. “It is my contention that nobody is making full use of the tools that are readily available for computer security. Sure, everybody worries about hackers and most people are careful to use passwords and stuff like that, but there is much more that can be done. Much more can be done by hackers than merely guessing passwords, and much more can be done by honest computer users to thwart hackers. We’ve come a long way since movies like War Games. Yet, most people don’t recognize that, including people that most definitely should.”