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Cyberspace, customs bring two together

Kristofer B. WakefieldPaul Appleby and E. Christina Dabis toast their first anniversary together with "Wolfie" the cat, playing with a mouse.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Thanks in part to her lucky stars and computer mogul Bill Gates, E. Christina Dabis won’t have to spend another Christmas alone.

Living alone at Christmas time is different, with the major difference being the deafening silence, said Dabis, Nevada County’s Treasurer-Tax Collector for the past 20 years and running.

“Everything’s quiet, people are gone to be with loved ones, (but) you’re alone,” Dabis recalled.



So, last Christmas Eve, Dabis decided not to participate in “self-induced pity.”

“My plan was simple: Keep my mind busy learning about Christmas customs around the world,” she said.




Dabis logged onto the Internet and opened an around-the-world chat program known as ICQ. The program allows the user to select the country, language, profession, age, gender, hobbies, etc., of the people they wish to visit with.

“Then I sent a simple message asking if anyone cared to share their Christmas customs with me.” Dabis said.

Paul Appleby, a computer programmer from England, responded

“As we discussed Christmas I was impressed by the fact that he didn’t enjoy decorating the house only to have to un-decorate it a week or two later,” Dabis said. “I feel that way, too, so a simple poinsettia is my home’s decoration for the holidays.”

The internet chats continued, one thing led to another and the long distance love birds began telephoning each other.

“I can’t remember laughing so much in all of my life,” Dabis recollected. “Paul’s British sense of humor tickled my funny bone, until I received the first telephone bill.”

So plans were made for Appleby to come to California and for the two to meet.

When Dabis and her eventual husband-to-be made their overseas connection via the Internet a year ago Christmas Eve, Appleby was living alone in a flat in Winchester, the ancient capital of Saxon, England.

Christmas was coming.

“There was an emergency duty roster at the company I was working for at that time and, being alone with no family commitments, I had volunteered to fill the vacancy for Boxing Day,” Appleby recalled. Boxing Day in England is the first weekday after Christmas when gift boxes are given out.

“There was one drawback to this arrangement: I had to be sober and capable of driving from midnight on Christmas Day until midnight Boxing Day.”

On Christmas Day in England, Appleby said, it’s a tradition to drink alcohol to a level of excess.

“Indeed, it is the one day of the year when the liberal pre-prandial consumption of strong liquor is not only regarded as acceptable, but actively encouraged,” he said. “Obviously, my work commitments would not only prevent me from indulging in this tradition with my hitherto, accustomed vigour, (but) it also rendered any aspirations to spending the festive period away from home obsolete.”

In short, Appleby said he was faced with an abstinent and solitary Feast of St. Nicholas. “After much abject contemplation, I determined that the solution to my dilemma was for me to live Noel ‘backwards’,” Appleby explained. “In essence, the scenario I conjectured was to become as intoxicated as much and as early as possible in the morning, spend as much of the post-meridian period sleeping, with a full return to sobriety by midnight.”

Thus it was, that at five o’clock on Christmas morning, Appleby was awake, washed, and dressed, and had fed his cat.

“The one-litre bottle of brandy and two-litre bottle of Diet Coke were dragged from the false safety of their dark refuge in the fridge, and I was ready to commence my unique Yuletide festive schedule,” he recalled.

But with nothing to do and little to watch on the television at that early hour on Christmas Day, Appleby realized he needed something to occupy himself with, “whilst recycling the brandy and coke.”

“So, without a viable alternative, apropos entertainment, I ‘booted’ up my computer system with the intention of communicating over the Internet with somebody – anybody!” Appleby exclaimed.

At around 5:30 a.m., Appleby received Dabis’ message, and the rest is history.

“It hardly need be mentioned that my presence on the emergency roster was not required on Boxing Day after all,” Appleby said. “But my strange manner of spending Christmas Day had reaped an unexpected, life-altering, reward – Chris, my wife!”

To make a long-distance, Christmas love story short, Dabis and Appleby were married in November by county clerk-recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick at the “Cathedral of Government”, ie; the foyer of the Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City.

So what did Dabis and Appleby do this Christmas Eve?

“We celebrated the first anniversary of our on-line meeting,” Dabis said. “Paul guaranteed me that I won’t have another tearful Christmas ever again. Thank you, Bill Gates, for making this possible.”


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