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.