I put my notebook in my backpack, locked the screen on my computer, and gave my boss my solemn word that my current project would be done first thing in the morning. It was the end of my Monday and there was someplace I needed to be.
That place was Tres Agaves, a bar/restaurant around the corner from where I work. I had probably walked by there hundreds of times but never set foot inside. I’m not a big fan of tequila and the whole bar-restaurant thing detracts from the joy of drinking on an empty stomach. However, this was a special occasion. It was a reunion of people from the dot com where I worked close to ten years ago.
Back in 1999, I was going to be a millionaire. It wasn’t a total given. I had to do a satisfactory job until I was fully vested but if I managed to pull that off, it was a done deal.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all that wealth. It didn’t matter if I did anything at all with it. The important thing is that I did some worthwhile with myself and had a million to prove it. If someone dared tell me otherwise, all I had to do was affect my best withering sneer and say, “Fuck you, I’m rich.”
Well, we all know how well that turned out for most of us.
The funny thing is despite the fact that the company did a nose dive along with every other dot com with a bong-hit business plan, I have very fond memories of that time. What made them that way were my co-workers.
They were a good bunch to work with, smart, interesting, and very tolerant of my weirdness. They also liked to drink. A lot. Those heady early days of long hours and rosy predictions, the CEO and one of the founders would take us all to some bar at the end of each, toss his credit card to the bartender, and let us have at it. A lot of lasting friendships were formed during those times and despite the amount of liquor involved, there were no fistfights.
We got our product to market in record time and then without even stopping for a breath, rewrote it in another programming language. We were ready to go public. In the spring of 2000, we filed our S-1 with the SEC. The IPO was just a few months away and after that, ka-ching!
And then the unthinkable happened. No, not 9/11. This was what we thought was unthinkable before the real unthinkable shit went down. The market started to tank. That bubble that we hoped would stick around for a few more years was beginning to rupture.
We lowered our expectations and moved on, fixing bugs, adding features, and making the system run faster. If we had some paying customers, it would have been perfect.
Company funds began to dwindle. First came a small round of layoffs, then a big one, followed by round three that pretty much eliminated everybody. In the months that followed, we’d meet up at our old watering holes to swap horror stories about our respective job searches and to reminisce about old times.
As time progressed, both the frequency of the reunions and number of attendees diminished as we settled into lives in a post dot-com reality.
Then came the announcement that there would be one last hurrah, a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues who once shared a failed dream. The turnout was impressive.
I wouldn’t say that the years have been unkind to any of us but they have been truthful. We were all to some extent victims of thickening middles, graying and/or thinning hair, and the relentless pull of gravity. None of that mattered and we were there for more than simple nostalgia. It was good to hear about people’s new jobs, how their kids growing up, and all the things that reassured us that despite the disappointments, life did indeed go on.