the fund - Thursday January 25 2001    

In the morning soon after I arrived at work, I was carrying on a pair of aimless AIM conversations with my erstwhile boss Linda (still living in glorious slackerdom) and, in a separate window, her youthful boyfriend Julian (just upstairs in my building). The two were entirely different conversations. With Julian the discourse was semi-work-related in that semi-gossipy comic way that AIM conversations always are. We touched on the fact that the dotcom downturn has yet to really hit Europe, partly because the web isn't really built there yet, and that perhaps this was reason enough to get and/or stay hitched to the wagon known as the UK development effort.
Meanwhile my conversation with Linda quickly lapsed into the fantastic and absurd. I told her that I would not be surprised in the least to discover my workplace was overrun with gnomes every night after the employees go home, or that all the space is squeezed out of the building, with the top of my monitor rising up to meet the descending ceiling midway while its face reaches out to kiss the wall of the cubicle normally several feet behind me. I also stated that the keys from all the keyboards probably wriggle free of their moorings, mingle in great random piles on the floor, and then return to new keyboards to resume lives as functional keys for entirely new sets of fingers. At this point Linda told me something she'd heard about Clinton staffers removing all the W keys from Whitehouse keyboards as a wicked prank on the incoming administration of befuddled creationist simians.

Today was a particularly stressful day of "issue juggling" at work. This always happens with a project as "crunch time" approaches, especially when your position is that of lead developer. Look at me now, mah, I've cut my hair, bought a house and I'm a lead developer!

After work I rode with Linda and Julian to Venice Beach for another of the erstwhile Community Team's reunion beer bashes, which always seem to take place at The Waterfront Café on the boardwalk. Julian was never a member of that team, but rules of admission to this reunion were considerably more relaxed than they must have been at the last one.
On the ride to Venice, Julian and Linda were discussing what they should buy as a wedding present for one of their female friends who is getting married to Beck's brother. (Yes, that Beck. I found myself wondering if this whole conversation was one big elaborate namedrop, far more subtle than the Bathtubgirl namedrops with which I am more familiar.)
They kicked around the usual gift ideas: kitchen items, a photo album, cocaine, LSD, a prostitute, baby ducks, etc. So then I suggested that they cut off a parking meter full of change and give the newlyweds that. Linda thought that was an excellent idea, but how to do it without getting caught? "A Saws-AllTM!" Julian suggested.

We met Kolja on the way to the bar and soon enough we were drowning our collective sorrows on pitchers of beer. It wasn't that we were especially sorrowful. For a man who was recently laid off for the second time in three months from the dotcom job he took after getting laid off from my workplace, Kolja seemed in remarkably good spirits. He said he'd probably be taking up his old job as a project manager at Berlitz, where he was working before he got sidetracked into this whole horrible dotcom odyssey.
Still, we had plenty of bitterness and bile we needed to get out of our systems, especially once we were joined by Stan, the older Japanese developer who got the axe back on Black Monday. Stan was in the company of an older female developer who had only worked at my company for a month before being laid off. She was one of those unfortunate wretches caught in the vicious churn between dotcom ramp-up and the sudden realization that the internet bubble had collapsed, a churn that can be almost precisely dated to mid-December, 2000.
Much was said about the cowardly manner with which these layoffs are dished out. When Kolja was canned from my workplace, for example, he was led into the CTO's office and the CTO said only one thing, "this is one of those bad-type meetings," and then vanished, leaving Kolja in the tender mercies of an HR axeman. Kolja's most recent layoff, a week ago, was carried out with more the flavor of a war crime. Everyone was herded into a room and the group was told that the names of those who would be kept on would be read (and all the others would be laid off, of course). Only about a dozen names were read, which meant that the rest of the 40-some people (including the entire tech department) had to make haste to the showers, or wherever it was they had to go.
Eventually all the British members of the UK team showed up, including the CEO (who is visiting from London). It was the first time I'd ever met him and he seemed like a nice enough guy in a sort of wryly understated way, which isn't what I've come to expect from CEOs (and their pretenders). I joined him and the other UK boys outside in the cold and even smoked a cigarette (American Spirit, of course) with them.
After the UK people and other assorted hangers-on had gone and it came time to pay the bill, Linda tallied the pile of 20s that had been left and found it came to about sixty dollars more than was needed to pay the bill. "Let's start a fund!" I enthused. And that was how "the fund" came to be. It was decided that Linda should be "keeper of the fund."

Back at in my living room, Maria and Chun were hanging out with John in the usual way. Suddenly Linda wanted to show John her pornographic collages, so we trooped up to my room, the only place in the house where her emails to me could be pulled up.
It was like a sitcom when Linda and Julian left, because the moment the door was shut behind them Fernando walked in, all spiffed-out from work. He was very proud because for the first time ever he'd been given workplace business cards. His job: Special Assistant to the President (at a local Los Angeles College). Cue joke depending on the 'tard connotations of the word "special" here.
While the others (except the ever-crotchety Maria) went off to the local café for jazz, I antisocially crept off to bed.

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