I took a break from the SnapStory Project over the past couple months to buy a house and move out of a place I had lived in for nearly 12 years. I knew it was going to be a colossal project, but I had no idea what remnants I would find of past lives. Tim O’Brien wrote about “The Things They Carried.” For me, it’s more of a matter of “The Things We Save.” Among the catacombs of my basement were artifacts of past relationships, former hobbies and companies gone bust.
I hired movers to move all the big stuff–boxes filled with books, couches, tables, bins filled with heavy records, un-filed paperwork, unorganized cables, A/V equipment, several seasons worth of clothes and more. In the days leading up to the last big push, I came down with the Flu (and probably some form of exotic bronchial plague), leaving me running at around 30%, while the task of packing and moving required 110% (yes, a mathematical impossibility). Holly sprung into action, helped me tape and pack boxes, making sure the menagerie of exotic travel treasures that once cluttered my walls and shelves were carefully wrapped in newspaper (that black and white paper stuff that comes in handy when moving) and packed in boxes. Without her help, I would still be there standing in the middle of the room staring at the empty boxes. Or, I would be serving five to life for suspected arson.
Once the movers took the majority of things to the new house, I was left with the task of cleaning up those “last few items.” In my case, these items were not just a few. I was able to organize the remaining items into four major groups: stuff to keep, stuff to donate, stuff to trash and stuff to recycle. I also had to get a 1998 Honda Passport, which had been sitting parked in my garage for 3 years, in road-worthy condition (replacing a starter, exhaust and cam shaft gasket). But that’s a whole other story.
Today’s photo comes from the recycle pile.
In the year 2000, I was working at a dot-com start-up called eBody.com. We built Web sites for doctors (cosmetic surgeons to be more specific), ran a portal dedicated to elective procedures and were on our way to early retirement–cashing in on the great healthcare dot-com race. Think WebMD, Healtheon and the others. On paper, I was worth millions. On paper. We had just closed our Series A round of financing when the bottom fell out of the market. The founders were having a fight over something as simple as one of them sleeping with their assistant (while being married to the other one’s sister). True story. I couldn’t even make this up. We went from 34 people down to 6 in a matter of a couple of months. Yet, despite not being able to raise additional capital at the time, we were making money. Really good money.
We were paying a premium price for office space that we no longer needed. I had just networked my house and jokingly mentioned the CEO, “Hey, my place is networked, we should just move the company into may basement.” Within 48 hours, I had 5 phone lines strung into my house with a U-Haul truck filled with files and equipment following shortly. Two of the sales guys lived within walking distance to my door. The tech guys worked remotely and our poor little admin just didn’t know any better. While most dot-coms started in a basement, that’s where this one would end up.
I think I told my then-girlfriend about this new business venture when the staff showed up for the first day of work at the new office. If I recall correctly, she may or may not have been in her bathrobe. She was far less understanding than I had expected. No big loss on that one.
After a few months, another dot-com venture came calling for me. I had little hopes of getting paid for my eBody.com work, so I took the job, while leaving the new remote underground office open for business during the day. After about 6 months of running the basement office, we closed down shop–partly due to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against one of the founders (you know, the one sleeping with his assistant). Note: I’m not in HR, but if you sleep with your assistant, you probably shouldn’t fire her and then demand that one of your side businesses funnel money into a secret account you’re using for legal fees. But that’s just me. I’m a prude that way.
As the office started to slowly wind down, people came less and less, phones rang infrequently and servers were slowly taken offline. I was left with unpaid invoices, countless numbers of discarded computer bodies and stacks and stacks of client files. Due to my legal connection to the company, I couldn’t just throw them out. And there was no central office to return things to. Everyone else moved on to better gigs and I was left trying to figure out what to do with the remains of this dot-com dream.
My solution: file the remains away into a dark corner storage area of my basement, to be recalled at a later date. That day never came. Over the years, these computers would serve as organ donors for various projects and new computer builds. The files sat there untouched, as a reminder of a potential retirement plan of re-starting the business from a remote tropical island. One of the unpaid invoices were for domain renewals–which included the company’s namesake. I’d say after 11 years and a lapse in copyright, I could probably do something with the domain name, don’t you think?
11 years later, I’m moving on, starting a fresh life. New dreams and new beginnings. I’m ready for the next chapter and the next start-up. This time hopefully with a better end. Although, making a throne out of discarded computer cases was pretty damn fun.
Now, if I could just find a place to recycle these things, I would be a happy man.