My wife glared at me. Not a nice way to be greeted after a long commute, but still.
"Someone called for you. Said he'd be calling back."
"Oh, who was it?"
"I've no idea. I'm not your secretary."
And with that she stormed off to go online.
Great. That was really going to screw up our evening. But I didn't have to wait long, the phone rang. And when the person said "Hi, I rang earlier" my blood boiled.
It was the CTO of a dot com.
It was 1998. Dot coms were all the rage. People made puns. Dot comix, Dot communism. Commercial real estate actually put in their ad "dot com preferred". Jokes about foosball tables and insane ideas and burn rates abounded. And yeah, I was jealous of two childhood friends who'd made enough bank on theirs to buy five bedroom homes, cash.
But I explicitly told the recruiters I worked with to secure this position, and who decided to call me daily thereafter, that I had none, no, zero, nada interest in dot coms. I saw the crash before it happened and wanted to be nowhere near that disaster.
But apparently, to "get the sale", some asshole had decided to give this scabrous bastard my home telephone number. I had come home to a job interview.
"Alright then" I said to the squeaky voiced CTO on the other side of the line, that I was SURE had acne, "what is it that you do?"
"We're a dot com!"
"Could you be more, like, SPECIFIC?"
"We're a best of breed, fast paced, forward moving, forward thinking, web based internet company seeking to maximise strategic initiatives in the information superhighway."
"Uh, okay, what do you do?"
"We're a best of breed..."
"No, no. Seriously. Shush. (I had decided I was not going to work there even if they made me a millionaire tomorrow.) If I was to come work for you tomorrow, what would I be doing in my day to day job? What kind of system would I be developing? To do what?"
"You would be part of a team developing a best of breed, forward thinking..."
"You know your mission statement? Put something on top of it so you can't see it, or better yet, burn it. And talk to me in ENGLISH. What. Do. You. Do."
He couldn't tell me. But I'd already pulled up his web site on the laptop. Another internet retailer. This one specialised in gifts for last minute folks.
"Okay, so your business model is you sell overpriced knick-knacks noone wants marked up through the roof but sent FedEx with a laser printed note, so that the person placing the order doesn't get in shit for forgetting his wife's birthday?"
"Just say yes, dude. That's your business model."
"Good! Now we're getting somewhere. Now, what operating system do you develop your software on."
Oh for fuck's.....
"Okay, look. Somewhere in your building, between the foosball tables, open offices and beanbag chair area there's a room filled with what looks like stereo equipment, manned by some troglodytic dude who doesn't bathe. Every now and then said person is found dead curled up on his back, and some other guy who smells just as bad, has a neckbeard and reads Dungeons and Dragons books just shows up and sweeps his carcass away and starts working there..."
"I know what a server room is."
"Progress! Now, in this room there are little TV type things that say either Windows NT, OS/2 Warp, or some Linux stuff when you start them up.
"We're running on Windows NT and ActiveX."
"Now we're getting somewhere. You're planning on earning (look at website) next year, and... euh... (a few mental calculations later, and it was obvious this thing was going to have to handle hundreds of transactions a second to get anywhere close to satisfying their revenue expectations.
"Hey, Dutch, can I ask you something?"
"What's it like being in complete cognitive surrender?"
There was a strangled cry on his part.
"Listen, do you really think there's a market for four hundred bottles of 600% markup wine to be sold a second? You do realise that you'll have sold the entire world's stock of wine at that rate in less than a year, right?"
"Our revenue projections..."
"Are fiction" I said in closing. "And also, you are aware that Windows NT will choke on its own spleen before handling this kind of throughput? And that ActiveX controls are guaranteeing this thing will shit the bed long before that happens?
There was silence on his side.
"That's why we need an expert."
"You need your bumps felt, that's what you need. A thorough psychiatric evaluation. Listen, what year did you drop out of?
"What do you mean?"
"College, motherfucker, did you attend it."
"What. Year. Did. You. Drop. Out. Of."
"First year" he said, "but I don't see..."
"Here's the dilemma" I said, "You clearly have no ability to follow or evaluate a sine business model, nor do you have the brains to realise that that kind of web traffic CANNOT be handled by NT. I will remind you that hotmail shat itself explosively when they moved to NT from FreeBSD."
"Look, seriously. Stop wasting daddy's money - go back to college and get an education. If you really believe this shit's gonna fly beyond a year, then hey, go back when you got the degree. And a clue."
"You're giving up a golden opportunity."
"Dude, I've done nothing but insult you the whole time, and you're still trying to hire me. That's a bad sign in and of itself.
And with that, i hung up. A minute and a half later, the phnne rang again. It was the same number.
"Come on sweetheart" I purred to the other room. "let's go get dinner". The phone was still ringing as I walked out.