Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Well, It Was a Good, Long Run

Eight years, I gave that company.

They kicked me to the curb today.

It was a great beginning. I was gonna be an AOL Millionaire, just like my neighbor Steve, who drove a bitchen Audi and remodeled his kitchen before moving to the nicest house in the neighborhood. The stock split the day after I was hired.

The options I was granted on my hiring are by now utterly, utterly worthless. Have been since just about the day I got them in 1999.

I sat at Jim Bankoff's elbow -- invited as the UI designer who'd drawn the first concepts for a music subscription service that would eventually become the disastrous MusicNet -- as he divided the digital distribution of three-fifths of the world's music with slick-assed snakes from Sony and BMG, in a sleekly metallic meeting-room in CC1. iTunes wasn't yet even a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye.

I attended a Design Summit in Columbus -- Netscape, CompuServe and AOL graphic designers -- where the immortal Rob Raines and about ten designers ran up a $3500 tab at the Columbus Morton's. One guy was so flush with it that he bought a jeroboam of Dom Perignon that was on display -- the kind of thing they put up with a ridiculous price-tag to make the hoi-polloi feel like a Player. Stupid asshole walked around with the huge thing cradled in his arms all night, getting warmer and warmer.

I was there for the big media event consummating the AOL Time Warner merger, what, maybe late 2000. I walked to the cafeteria to get some food; on my way I ran into Ted Turner, bored and hungry, waiting for lunch to be served to the executives. He was fingering a ball-chain blind-puller. He mused aloud for my benefit -- and mine alone -- "Not very high-tech, is it..." The contempt dripping from his voice on the words "high-tech" are something I'll take to my grave.

Oh, I've got stories. Now that I'm no longer a member of the family, and when the dust has settled and I'm safely employed again, I'll get around to telling them.

I'll be able to explain this thing, (last two paragraphs) which I was constrained by professional circumspection at the time from telling.

There's one story I can't tell even after I'm safely employed elsewhere. Suffice to say: The bastards richly, richly deserved their comeuppance.

I had a front-row seat for the Great AOL Train Wreck. And I finally went under the wheels. Can't say fairer than that.

Now, with a few months to relax, I'll write my book, I'll get back on top of the yardwork, put the garden to bed for the winter, ride the Triumph, get that damned Historical Society website hammered together....

I think I'm one of the lucky ones.



Some program notes: NeddieJingo at aol dot com is at least temporarily out of service. I can now be reached at hbsherwood at mac dot com. For stupid reasons, the Neddie address won't bounce back, so if I appear not to be answering your emails, that's why. I hope and pray they'll see reason and let the Neddie address become a non-business account, after which things will be back to normal. Should take about a week.

38 comments:

Tom W. said...

Sorry Ned - I was once in Steve Case's conference room for a Network for Good meeting way, way back. Lots of push-button things that moved stuff.

Talk to me offline if you need anything...I might know a person or two.

Tom W. said...

I should add that I'm very much looking forward to your book!

Mike Kretzler said...

I read that AOL was laying off. I thought...no, couldn't happen. And, yet, it did. Sorry, but I like your plan for the winter. And, I'm looking forward to the stories.

Jol said...

Sorry to hear the impending doom of the plastic-wrapped moving boxes finally fell and on top of you.

But it might turn out for the best, giving you time to kick off the book. If I turn on the Simpsons in their 37th season and say to myself "that there guy with the paper bag on his head, his voice sounds familiar", well won't that be a kick in the pants.

If you find yourself looking on the jobs site of our dear old company and hit on something interesting, send me your resume so I can make sure it gets in the right hands.

Christopher said...

That just sucks. Sorry, Neddie. If it helps, I am poised and ready to shell out twenty bucks or so for your book when it comes out. No doubt that thought will save you from many restless nights.

An Upstep or a Downstep said...

Too bad about the steady gig. But, you are right in that you are one of the lucky ones. Perfect timing to focus on your book.

Tom said...

Eh, who needs those losers. Looking forward to the book.

bobby lightfoot said...

Dig it. Now you can be a auther. You've probably got a couples monthies before th' wolves are at the door where you can really build the basement of this thing. Come do some of it here if ye want.

It's all creative and shit here.

Fuck those polesmoking dick bags anyway. They're their own worst punishment for being wangs and that.

And th' only way you could be any more employable is if you could shoot pingpong balls out yer arsehole.

WW said...

Now why didn't I think of that, Bobby-in-law dear? Neddie can stay with you while he writes his tome. We certainly wouldn't want to cause him any stress here at home. Fuck familial responsibility! As long as his creative juices are flowing...what else matters?

The Viscount LaCarte said...

I'm sure this will age well and will be viewed as a break in the very near future.


xhunch

ct said...

Neddie-san,

I think this might turn out to be a really good thing.

Will Divide said...

As Louis Armstrong once said to Billie Holiday:

"Fuck'em, Baby."

bobby lightfoot said...

Oops.

I just meant a weekend or two.

Just trying to be supportive and positive about the future. I'll shut up now.

Larry Jones said...

At least you got fired, and you can start to extricate yourself mentally and emotionally from The Corporation. My company won't let me go, but instead finds ways daily to remind me of my insignificance.

Best of luck with the garden and the bike. I'll look forward to the book.

david said...

Buck up Ned, it's been my experience that these things often turn out to be beneficial in the end. It's the universe giving you a kick in the ass, what you do with it is up to you. You're a smart and talented individual, you'll be fine.
And it is good timing as far as the book goes. Or maybe the book is good timing considering the job thing. Is it a coincidence that 'Office Space' was on Mpix last night?

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

The writing's been on the wall for a while, right? I mean, really, ever since dial-up died off in favor of always-on broadband ISPs, AOL must've been hemorrhaging members & watching revenues plummet.(Right?)

Still, you've got a kick-ass resume. Even if AOL's going down the tubes, I'm sure the employment market will respect the experience you gained there. Plus, DC's not a bad employment market to be in. Might just mean riding the metro again...

BTW, a player may indeed drink Dom, but a real playa drinks nothing but Cristal. Usually in hot tubs, though.

HomefrontRadio said...

That sucks Ned, but intelligent, capable people are never out of work for long, so i have faith that you'll bounce back on your feet quickly enough.

EmployeeoftheMonth said...

Book #2?

Skunk said...

Fuck the twinkerbells. The Company doesn't love you, Neddie. Never has, never will.

Just walk away. Go crab fishing. There's a big ole life outside of the tiny corporate hee-haw world.

I left and look at me. er...
~~American Goose

James said...

you'll be missed, keep writing, and let us know who that paragraph was written about, I am embarrassed to say that I cannot be sure :)

JC said...

That's horrible news. I feared the worst when I read about the restructuring ealier this week.
But, hey, look: 1) They are evil, and didn't deserve you in the first place; 2) with your many talents, you will soon find other gainful pursuits; 3) you've got great material for a second book after you've finsihed the first; and 4) you are an inveterately lucky fellow, and right now, somewhere, that man who saved us so many years ago is opening up his garage door and getting ready to rev-up his white rover to come and save you again. I know it . . . .

cope said...

Man, you are so FUCKED. AOL is like the bestest company ever invented. To get chucked by them is the forever kiss of eternal DEATH. So glad I am not you.

Your life will certainly suck from this point on. Forget that book stuff and that community involvement history thing...you have been marked as "not even good enough to work for AOL."

Reminds me of when the oil industry spit me out in the early '80s, right when I was beginning to bring in the big moola. Well, fuck that goddam oil crap, too. The peak is here, baby, and my publilc education gig is looking pretty secure.

If you want them, I have some pretty decent recipes that extend "Hamburger Helper". Just let me know.

Welcome to the world of the disenfranchised, discarded and disheveled. And who knows, maybe that book thing will work out somehow. Somebody named Nancy Newhall once said words to the effect (points for finding the exact quote) that "not supine, secure nor sepulcher does man create but out of stern challenge." Looks like you have been challenged.

Good luck.

Fred Wickham said...

I was fired from a big, fat-assed ad agency. Young & Rubicam. I'm sure it was every bit as stupid and soul-deadening as AOL. But still it hurt. Especially the paycheck part.

Anyway, your book will be better for it.

Nguyet said...

I wish I got chucked. I could use the time to finish my paintings too. Although I'm leaving, the new job starts on the 29th, so not much of a long break.

I'm so excited about this blog and I'm going to read all of your stories. I love stories.

I was going to say that NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month is coming up - but you're already writing your book. I look forward to reading it!

wilson said...

Neddie - Give yourself some time first. I didn't, I went banging my head against finding a job right away and came off the worse for it. So, take some time - the book will be a great thing to focus on.

You and your blogroll provided me with a place to go when I was out - so thanks for that all.

ct said...

Did the Dom ever make it to RR's suite afterwards? I forget...

Neddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neddie said...

Sorry, said something Indiscreet...

Did the Dom ever make it to RR's suite afterwards?

YES, IT DID!!!!

I think RR took a bath in it.

I forget...

Who the fuck remembers anything about that night? God, whatta drunkshow!

Neddie said...

JC, I hadn't thought about that White Rover Incident in a good, long time! Watch these pages for a reminiscence...

Wren said...

Wow, Neddie. It's like a kick in the gut with a delayed reaction time, getting laid off after giving a goodly number of years to a company. But you're SO employable, I doubt you'll have to look hard to find a new and even better job. Enjoy your time off, relax, write and play. And know we've got your back.

Klaus Störtebeker said...

This sucks. The mothership was steering for too many years towards the toilet. Looks like the journey is almost over. Kinda sad, thinking about what could have been.

Oh, if you think you were drunk in Columbus, I am sure you don't remember Palo Alto. Good days.

Enjoy the beautiful NoVa fall on your Triumph. Old motorcycles have healing power.

-sparky

Klaus Störtebeker said...

BTW. What is the story of the Yahoo home page clone?

Jeremy said...

I'm with Larry Jones on this one.

And I'm sure the editors of the book will protect you from really egregious errors that a man of your learning and education can't be arsed to apply himself to.

But seriously, enjoy it while you may. And maybe we'll finally have time for an eggnog (God forbid) at Jay's Saloon & Grill. I'll be there, come yuletide.

Neddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD said...

My husband had a similar experience in May. Helluva thing.

Our mutual friend Al Swearengen would have some pithy words to say on this occasion, for example, "You can't slit the throat of every c***sucker whose disposition it would improve." And he'd be right, more's the pity.

You'll come through. It'll be just fine.

giggles said...

Un fucking believable!

On a lighter note, when I had an unplanned "career-change opportunity," the first thing I did was buy a set of golf clubs.... I was very confident I would be fine...and I am!!!! (Fifteen years later, still a very high handicapper, sadly....) So go buy yourself a new toy and have fun!!

Julia said...

Well, shit.

Sounds like a great escape, there, Nedward, in terms of forcing you out of a space where you have to invest yourself in a situation where you won't be allowed to succeed at what you're being paid to do.

Also sounds like it bites a really lot.

I'm sorry, hon. Be OK as soon as possible.

j

Kevin Wolf said...

I'm late to the wake.

Sorry but I've been distracted by my own sudden, unplanned unemployment. (I had 7-1/2 years in.) I'm not in a financial place that will give me any room to maneuver, so it's been a tough couple of weeks, with more to come. Trying to stay "upbeat," whatever that means.

Sorry to hear about this, Neddie. I agree with the comments above: you're just too damn smart and talented not to find something good, and soon.

BTW, seems to me there should be a handy word - rather like schadenfreude - borrowed from the German and meaning, roughly, "one's feelings upon layoff from a job when the newly unemployed contemplates the frustrations and managerial malfeasance endured for the preceding x years."