I’m a little hard on InfiNet sometimes, but a lot of good happened there. There were people there I remember fondly, and others I remember, well, not so fondly.
Tom and Richard were good guys. Randy was just odd. Randy wasn’t really around after Wyvern became InfiNet, but I remember his strange stories. He’d talk about setting his cruise control on his old red Lincoln Continental and then putting his feet up on the dash and driving like that, with the challenge being to never take his feet down until he had to. I don’t know what became of him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was how he left this world.
InfiNet bought me a tooth once, sort of.
When I was about 8, my dad thought I should get involved in sports so he put me in little league. I was never any good at baseball, and I was never really interested, but I did make an effort. Anyway, my best friend and neighbor Brian, tossed me a ground ball that bounced and it broke my right front tooth. A dentist put a poorly matching permanent cap on it, and my smile always looked odd, so I tended not to do it as much as I should have.
Well, long before InfiNet, that permanent cap came off and I could never afford to have it replaced. Any job you had back then would require that you worked a year before dental insurance would be offered, and as like today, it’s very expensive to even pay the premiums.
One day Richard approached me and said that they would pay to have my tooth capped. That was amazing. So I went to a dentist and he put a temporary crown on the tooth, and I presented Richard with the bill and it was paid. The dentist later put a permanent crown on, and I had a new bill. But, I didn’t know what was expected of me. I didn’t know if I was supposed to give that one to Richard as well, but looking back, I was supposed to. It’s all about how I don’t understand the expectations of others, so I don’t know how I’m to respond to all sorts of things.
So,I had the tooth that InfiNet half paid for. A new permanent cap that would, itself, prove to be non-permanent years later. These days I have dentures. ADHD and tooth care don’t work hand in hand. But on the bright side, my canines are sharpened and slightly extended. My dentist is awesome.
I also learned a lot at InfiNet. I learned the fundamentals of system administration from John Caywood who was our primary admin for a while. I really liked John, he was a great guy who was always willing to talk about the systems and even life after 40.
From Pete Desnoyers I learned the basics of PERL, a fascinating text processing programming language, as well as the advantages of a flat file system for a database. You may recall, this is how Talker was built. It’s a very cool combination. I recall hanging out with Pete and his wife at a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts concert in a nearby park. Good times and portapotties.
Another thing I learned at InfiNet is that I am ill equipped to manage people. My expectations are too high and I really just don’t understand you humans well enough manage you.
Rick, before his death, had started expanding the web design department by hiring an actual trained designer. Suzanna turned out to be quite the piece of work.
Suzanna didn’t think I had any talent or understanding of design. How could I when I hadn’t gone to school for it. She, on the other hands felt the need be around real design. For example, she gushed about how well thought out the design and styling of her VW Gulf was. She was a designer who depended on rules. I’ve never been a fan of rules. You don’t do new things if you only follow the rules. I’m a seat of the pants, let’s try this kind of thinker.
I had one software toy she loathed. Kai’s Power Tools. KPT could create really cool, seamlessly tiled random graphics that, well, felt good to my particular form of synesthesia. Sometimes when I just needed to think, I’d hit the generate button repeatedly and just enjoy the feeling of the resulting graphics. I thought it was really cool so I made sure everyone had a copy. I had no idea people didn’t react like me to imagery.
Remember how I don’t understand what others expect from me? I received overtures of friendship from she and her boyfriend. I hung out with them on weekends. They introduced me to dim-sum and we talked about all kinds of things friends talk about. I didn’t recognize it for the sycophancy that it actually was.
With Rick gone, I became the default person in charge of the web design department. Yeah, me, with zero actual experience managing anyone and absolutely no training in doing so. Toss in my now known autism, and it did not go as well as it could have.
Generally, it didn’t go too badly. There was one really odd incident from one of the workers, however.
I had participated in her interview process as a favor to Ray, our financial officer. She wasn’t a super designer, but in those days, you really didn’t need a lot of designers. You needed people to code the designs into HTML. I saw her as a good worker bee for part of what we needed, and I’m always happy to do someone a favor, I recommended we hire her. It would also give her an opportunity to start on this new web design career path so it was really a win for everyone.
One day, I walk into the general work area where the team was and she starts gushing at me about what a great boss I am and oh my gods did she lay it on thick with everyone watching and with Suzanna glaring at us. I just kind of thanked her and went on with business as if she hadn’t said anything.
One day Suzanna asks me about taking off work for something I don’t remember. I wasn’t paying strict attention, I gave a quick thought on our timelines and said we’d need her. That was the moment I apparently became the enemy and a vendetta ensued.
One day I had flown to North Caroline with Brian, whom I worked with for some things after Rick passed. He was from The Virginia-Pilot newspaper. We had flown down for the day to meet with one of the North Carolina papers. The plane was a straw with wings, but we made it there and back.
When I got to my office, that I shared with Suzanna, there was a note on the door for me to not go in, but to go directly across the street for a meeting. I went in, checked my email, then left my office for the last time.
When I finally went across the street to what was now the primary headquarters of the company, I was told that Suzanna was accusing me of sexual harassment and wanted me fired. Some of her ammunition came from conversations she, her boyfriend. Some from things like the time her boyfriend was in the office and he and I were looking at a website for a movie. One of the videos had a girl in a hot tub. That was apparently sexual harassment because he and I watched a movie clip.
I was accused of hiring the girl I discussed earlier because she had features similar to what I had described as attractive. Appearance has no factor in a decision to hire someone or not. At least for me. I’m sure there are people out there who do, I’m not one of them. I don’t judge people based on appearance. I’ve been misjudged too many times to do that to anyone else.
There were a few other things I can’t recall, but they were each and every one a stretch.
It had been decided that it had been a mistake for me to be in charge of anything with zero management training. Since it was their mistake, I would move into the headquarters building and become the Director of Special Projects. Me, being the special project I directed. Gordon became my boss.
Gordon had an inkling of what he had and he pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. If not for him, we might not have had the first Cool Site of the Year.
In many ways, it was the best thing possible. I no longer had to supervise anyone or anything other than myself. I could sit there and play with the web all day long.
And I did.
Of course I was forbidden to cross the street and visit the other building, even to go to the administration area and talk to John. I did that one day and apparently Suzanna had a hissy fit.
I can’t speak for the veracity of this, but I heard that she later tried to do the same thing to someone else at InfiNet and got called to the carpet pretty thoroughly.