This has been waiting in my mailbox for almost a week now but since it took me a while to get things working here:
Appologies to Charles and to all of you: Enjoy the
Waves of Terror (and Porn!)
(continued from The Tech Horde and the Last Mile)
At some point everyone who worked at Kozmo was unexpectedly shocked by a DVD called something like „Anna“™s Anal Adventures, Part 8″. For me, it happened one morning at the warehouse when the first order of the day came in: two pints of Ben and Jerry“™s ice cream and three gang-bang flicks. While the pickers and packers hustled to assemble the order, I had to wonder, „Porn and ice cream first thing in the morning… exactly what kind of lifestyle are we enabling here?“ I imagined a porcine modern-day Caligula, impatiently waiting for his morning porn. At least now I knew why warehouse people always wore rubber gloves to shelve returns.
Porn was one of our main profit sources, so there was no point in avoiding it. Even so, some people were sufficiently uncomfortable with pornography that it affected their decision-making. The web pages for the porn section were always hopelessly tangled because some web developers just didn“™t want to flesh out all of the subcategories of gay orgy cinema. One programmer declined our job offer because his pastor told him to. And if anyone seemed genuinely put off by our connection to the porn industry, it was our CFO, soon to be CEO.
I“™m not informed enough to describe the boardroom politics that led to this promotion, or to explain the whims of our venture capital investors, but I can tell you this: when the blood starts flowing at a dot-com, it flows fast and freely. After the NASDAQ crash, the knives came out. Our CTO was an early casualty: the only reason I can imagine was that they thought he was too young, but then most of the company was under 40. He stayed on for a while as a sort of tech ombudsman, but eventually was put out to pasture. Then came the elimination, in no particular order, of the head of QA, the head of WebDev, and our OpsDev matriarch, Claudia. Also somewhere in there, our youthful founder was declared to be unfit to act as CEO. In a bid to improve fiscal discipline (we had none), our CFO was elevated to the position of CEO, and suddenly we weren“™t stocking new porn anymore.
When they canned the entire QA department, we finally accepted that things weren“™t getting better. Along with my closest peers in OpsDev, Quing, who had started us on a boxing craze, and Andres, who had the uncommon ability to explain to a party host why one of his guests was being beaten into a drooling mess, I figured that I would stick around to see the lights go out. Sure, we could try to find jobs with a future, but why hurry? The salary was pretty good, and without a QA department no new software was getting deployed anyway.
The three of us were playing hooky at the gym one afternoon when the call came. The financial backers had pulled the plug. Finally. At this point, we really didn“™t feel that bad about it. Our CTO had been deposed, the ranks of tech leadership had been gutted, and our projects were all languishing. We laughed, and congratulated ourselves for spending the final hours of the company pounding the heavy bag instead of sitting in a cubicle. Yes, in the end they finally did get us into cubicles.
Now, four years later in SoHo, in a building with no cubicles. Rumors about the rebirth had been floating around for over a year. People who had scattered to far flung points were slowly re-assembling. Despite first-hand reports, it wasn“™t real to me until I saw it with my own eyes: Chris, our CTO, is back. The software is back. The warehouse is back. And this time, the CTO is in charge. So no limos or sushi or VC money getting flushed down the toilets for fun, just printers and packing lines and kick-ass software. And this rotty building. After he finished showing me the servers, I looked around the shadowy sub-basement.
„This is a lot of room just for servers, isn“™t it?“
„Well, what I“™d like to do,“ he said, pointing at an empty wall, „is put a desk down here for myself, too.“
Hey, it“™s a step up from the utility closet.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further… And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
— The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
links of the week:
MaxDelivery.com (yes, again. shameless)
One U.S. economic security net, up for auction on EBay!
One person, one law!