Digex used to be one of those "progressive" offices you used to hear about back in the Roaring 90s Tech Bonanza. They had ping pong. A Lego pit. People came to work in jeans, a tee-shirt, and I ever heard smoking breaks weren't always tobacco. You could bring your dog to work. Some Fridays, everyone went out to drink at a bar. Or shut down the office to see a movie. Those sort of wacky fun things. The employee base were a weird bunch of fun people. And I wanted to be a part of it.
When I got there, it turns out that a LOT of people I knew worked there. The interview was going really, really well. The girl interviewing me was named "Heidi," a kind of peppy girl who was very casual to talk to. For the next few hours, I wandered about this fantasy land, saying hello to people, and then had lunch with one of the company's owners who shook my hand and said, "I look forward to working with you." I had everything down pat, there was NO way I could not get this job. The place was great, I totally fit it, I was more than qualified, and one of the owners loved me! So what could go wrong?
After lunch, Heidi took me back to her office. She had Warner Brothers memorabilia and Koosh balls everywhere. She wanted to finalize some paperwork, make sure she had my references, and when I'd be able to start if I was offered a job. We talked about a lot of random stuff, too. I positively commented on her decor. She became all girly-cutsey about everything, so, again, what could go wrong?
My eyes rested one of the many photos she had in her office. She pointed out who everyone was in them, and one guy she pointed out look familiar. Now, up to this point, I had seen about 5-6 other people during the interview who knew me, and said, "Wow, Punkie wants to work here? All-RIGHT!" Fandom people. My pals. So when Heidi showed me this photo, this guy looked really familiar.
It was 1987. I was moving out of my house I grew up in since I was 5. My father had made living conditions impossible (long story), I was 18, had a steady job, and I saw the writing on the wall: GET OUT. Because my father was being impossible, I waited until a weekend he was out of town to do my move to my new living situation with a bunch of people in the FanTek house.
I had helped them move out of their old house in Hyattsville and to the new one in Mount Vernon. One of their roommates was a girl named Diane, whom one ex-roomate (I think his name was Wendell) was obsessed with the fact she was into bondage. In fact, he seemed to have to mention it every damn time he brought up her name. "Diane, who's into bondage, said she needed..." or "Diane, who's into bondage, asked that her mail be forwarded to..." or a lot of "Diane, who's into bondage, and has a boyfriend named Quasi..." I don't know if Diane was into bondage, but she left a lot of porn behind that we had to clean up out of Hyattsville. This roommate mentioned this SO much, it became like one word: "Dianewhosintobondage." I mentioned Dianewhosintobondage has a boyfriend named Quasi, didn't I?
Quasi was a real nice guy. He was so named because he was huge. He was a broad-shouldered guy who towered over everyone else, and he was very hairy, too. Look at the picture on the left. That's how I remember him, with Dianewhosintobondage at some convention (I think Balticon) in the late 1980s (sorry it's so grainy, my camera used to be one of those Kodak Disc cameras, and convention hotel rooms are very dark, but look at the picture and realize that Diane is average height for a human... Quasi was very tall). I haven't seen these guys in a while... no, I take that back, I saw Dianewhosintobondage at the last Balticon, I think. She didn't remember me, which is good because of the damn Wendell, I will always think "That's Dianewhosintobondage!" I fear I might call her that to her face, and she'd get upset. Diane's nice, I don't want her to be upset.
Anyway, Quasi had a pickup truck, and Quasi was a strong guy, so Quasi, Diane, and my good friend (and a new roommate) Bruce helped me move. I had moved about 90% of my stuff, and came back for a final trip, when my dad suddenly came home early. He would not let me get the rest of my stuff. A heated verbal discussion ensued. Bruce had to calm my dad down, and Quasi offered, I think, to teach my dad a lesson physically, but I didn't want my dad beaten up, I just wanted my stuff! My father suddenly grabbed my house key from around my neck, and nearly strangled me to get it off (it was on one of those ball-bead chains), and Quasi had to hold him back. Yeah, it was ugly. I never got that stuff, either, and I was never allowed back in my old house again, even though my father lived there another 13 years. Last thing he said to me as we drove off was, "I don't trust you anymore hanging around with such losers." Quasi said on the ride back he understood why I needed to leave. I had a bruised imprint of that ball-bean chain around my neck for days.
So, you know, I had positive memories with Quasi. So I said, "He looks like a guy I used to know, but haven't seen for almost 7 years." I didn't want to say "Quasi," in case that sounded like an insult. She asked me who, and since I couldn't remember Quasi's real name, I said, "Well, it was this nice guy who had this nickname of Quasi--"
"You know Quasi?" she asked, incredulously. "How do you know Quasi?" she asked. She was very excited I knew him.
Sadly, I replied. I was preparing to tell the story above, unconsciously rubbing my neck where the chain had nearly choked me. But then I said something really, really dumb. I play this part in my head over and over because it was so dramatic. I mean, I saw the photo she had, she had her arm around his waist, head leaning against his chest. It was obvious they were together. I was all of 25, so I should have known better. But this phrase left my lips:
"Yes, I used to know him when he was with Diane and..."
I swear the second I said "Diane," Heidi's whole face changed shape. It was like her smile and perky personality ran off her face like hot, runny cheese. If this had been a movie, the lights would have dimmed, clouds would have formed in the sky, thunder would have rumbled, and the filter on the camera lens would have turned burnt umber. A raven would have cawed from a distant dead tree limb.
"We do not speak of her," she said, like she suddenly became possessed. "He is MY Quasi now..."
I will never forget that phrase, "He is MY Quasi now..." Her voice was filled with some sort of ancient curse, like some great battle had happened in the distant past where Quasi was won at some great cost.
She became angrily quiet, and the interview abruptly ended. She did not show me out the door. And I didn't get the job. I am not sure if she specifically didn't hire me because of mentioning Diane, or if there were other reasons, but Brad later said, "What the HELL did you say to Heidi? She was pissed off the rest of the day!"
Eugh. I have played those last moments over and over in my head, crying out, "Who knew? How was I supposed to ... damn, what are the ODDS?" Brad assured me it was for the best, because Heidi was moody that way.
In the long run, the company got sold, did badly, got bought out, did even worse, and in some political coup, Heidi and all her "children," (meaning people she favored, hired, and "protected under her wing") got booted out. Apparently she considered herself some sort of mommy figure. Digex was bought and sold many times, and finally got so watered down and thinned out, I don't think anyone I know works there anymore. Brad left years ago, and recently Rogue got laid off from the latest company to inherit their stuff, I think it's Intermedia or something. So if I had stayed there, I would have had a different and more turbulent career path. I wouldn't have made friends with people like Nate, and I certainly wouldn't have gotten all that Internet stock to cash out and buy a house. I would be unemployed by now.
So I don't ... really fault Heidi. Or Diane or Quasi. I don't know what happened. Maybe something totally horrific. Maybe the three of them fought demons from the gates of hell, and their trust was nearly broken for the sake of saving humanity. Some complex love triangle that got into a bitter legal battle. Or maybe Heidi didn't care about Diane at all, but I had a big booger hanging from my nose, or some guy behind me took one look at me, and secretly shook his head, warning Heidi I was not to be trusted. Who knows.
But that has to be the worst luck I ever had. At first ... now it's just a great story. Maybe it would have been different if I had called her, "Dianewhosintobondage..." Naahhh...
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000201.html