Here it is, the dawn of the new century. It’s nothing like any science fiction writer had ever imagined. We still don’t have jetpacks, time travel or mind-melding brain microchips. We have fat-free potato chips, inane special interest groups lobbying to make sure that everyone receives fewer benefits than their represented segment of the population, and monstrous truck/car hybrids consuming everything on the road from gas to lane space. Then we have dot coms. Dot coms: offspring companies of the Internet, a new medium created by my generation for my generation. Sadly, old school number-collectors see this medium as a get-rich-quick scheme and try to apply their rules to our format. Befuddled by the possibility that things didn’t go the way that they had gotten used to for the past 30 years, the Edsels of the computer age fail, and the Great Dot Com Depression of 2001 begins.
I am a participant in the new age. I am a young, upwardly mobile woman living in a major metropolitan area. I graduate college in 4 years, a duration of time that is becoming less and less common, and after a stint of waiting tables, I find myself employed at an e-commerce dot com. It was a glorious time. A golden age of sorts: I wear jeans and sneakers every day; my work is interrupted by a company officer who insists that I play foozball with him; the bi-monthly company sponsored happy hours leave me bleary eyed and slow for the following Friday; I am promoted at breakneck speed.
Suddenly, half of the company is laid off. It’s not much of a surprise to most of us. We had seen how upper management’s application of old rules had failed the company time and again, and that we only had a few more bad decisions left in us. Rumors fly and purse strings tighten. Blatant errors that were once met with the same laughing exasperation that Lucy would receive from Ricky Ricardo are now seen as harbingers of doom. The number of closed-door secret meetings increase, the number of lighthearted jokes from upper management decrease. Then came the day of the emergency meeting.
We all placed bets that day on how much longer we’d have jobs. Some guessed a few months, others guessed a few weeks, and one of us guessed a few days. That one was right. The following Monday, the day came. We were sent on our way with nothing more than a speech about how we gave it our best shot and a severance check. We all exchanged numbers, swearing that we would stay in touch and go out together often, and upon request of management, we were out of the building by 5:00.
A few were asked to stay behind to tie up the loose ends, others began their unemployment immediately. Having been one of the ones who was to stay after to clean up, I learned one thing and one thing only: if ever I am offered the opportunity to observe firsthand the destruction of something I helped create, nurture and love, I shall refuse. Though I got a few more paychecks out of it, the ones who got to leave the company on it’s last good day were the lucky ones -- they didn’t have to clean out their friends’ desks.
The happy ending of this story is that those who looked for new jobs found them before the severance ran out. Some started work right away, others took advantage of the long vacation that the check allotted them. So if anyone who has recently gotten laid off is reading this, take heart. It’s just another bump in the road.
I myself found a job in a better position at another dot com, but instead of e-commerce, now I’m at a B2B. It’s almost funny to me. I often wonder that if I was born in another day and age, would I be the same stock character for that time? If I was at this stage of my life 15-20 years ago, would I be writing about how I watched Dynasty, snorted coke in a nightclub bathroom and worked for a Savings and Loan?