Oh, the places you’ll go. An excerpt from my upcoming book, Reminisces of a Chat Operator.
Many of the people I had met through the site were based out of New York, NY. So in the winter of 2001 I decided to take a trip to attach some faces to these familiar names. I was 19 years old and this was my first trip ever to the east coast. I was extremely excited of all the business opportunities - Yet equally as excited to see a girl I had some what of a crush on. I figured I’d travel to NY for a week, make some important business contacts, and catch up with the girl I’ve been fond of.
My fourth day there, I decided to meet up with my lady friend during the day – and a long time business associate at night - both of whom were in up state New York. On a freezing February afternoon in Purchase, New York, I was handed a heavy blow – the girl I had been interested did not feel the same way. In retrospect, it makes sense to some degree that the feelings weren’t mutual – me being a budding young capitalist and her a liberal arts major. Anyhow, I had to muster what strength I had for a business meeting shortly thereafter. My mood now dimmed, I tried to focus back on the matter at hand. My friend and business associate was on his way to pick me up, the nervous wreck that I was. On the one hand I had been dealt some really bad news, and on the other – this was my first truly important business meeting.
You see, this business meeting was not only with my old associate, but a legendary businessperson we’ll call Frank. I have heard for months and months about this mythical ‘Frank’ and his ballooning eight figure net worth. I had heard so much about this person that I would hate myself for not showing up in top form. My Brooks Brothers suit was pressed properly, fingernails cut, and hair with just the right amount of gel. I felt like a million bucks. Up until this time – all the stories that I had heard of this magical mogul allowed me to have a pretty clear image of him in my mind. The man has seven limited editions Mercedes Benz’s (possibly one for everyday of the week) – and a penthouse at the Trump Tower building. I had previously thought of all the things I’d say after introducing myself to him – to the word. I was nervous alright – and had every right to be. The glimmer of the girl still lingering – I had my seat at the restaurant. It was a fair place, not too bad – but not amazing either. We sat and waited for Frank.
Suddenly out of our window we see the silver limited edition Benz pull up.
“What would you like to drink guys?” Our waitress – a 20 something girl that clearly doesn’t like her job asks.
“We’re waiting on some one else actually – when he gets here we’ll order. Wait - there he is now.” says my friend John, pointing out the window.
I go back to munching on the bread she brought to the table and trying to forget the girl and remember my lines. The company I am pitching Frank is my latest creation, a Peer to Peer networking application we’ve coined and created called PhatView. The key behind this concept was that we’d be implementing the very recent DivX technology into the platform – saving bandwidth and download time in the process. It was some cutting edge stuff. We had the software developed – though not bug tested- and were contemplating an IPO. Frank was the kind of person that could make all that happen very easily. I adjust my tie and wait for Frank to walk in.
I see a short, plump man in his thirties walk up to the table, possibly waddling. Still wondering where Frank is I hear the person walking up to John burst saying “Yo! Yo! Yo! What’s going on guys?!” This man, who is unshaven and wearing sweatpants – is Frank. My jaw not completely dropped, I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt and invite him to sit down with us.
“So John has told me a lot about you…” starts our portly friend.
“Yes – well its all true” – I respond with a smile, an old line that I still use to this day.
The waitress comes back. “So is everyone here now?” she inquires.
“Hello Darlin” Frank starts – in a Jersey accent. “Yeah we’re all here – now that you’re here. So yeah I’ll have a Pepsi and a Diet Pepsi for my boy Johnny, ‘cause he’s queer like that!” Frank continues, laughing abruptly at his own joke.
“So what’ll you have?” The waitress asks me.
“Uh, I’ll go with an ice tea. Thanks.” I answer – still nervous about this whole scene, and why I’m the only one here with cufflinks.
“We have Passion Fruit, Mango, Pineapple, and Peach – which do you prefer?” she asks politely, smiling.
“I bet John would want the Passion Fruit” Frank interrupts. Again, he laughs at his own joke, this time lightly.
“I’ll have the peach please.” I say – looking intently now at our new friend Frank.
“That makes sense since you got some Peach Fuzz on you right now!” He chimes in.
“So Johnny what’s up with FRXC, my guys say the float is getting all jacked up. You hear anything new?” Frank asks John impatiently.
“No not really, I think we need to have a conference call with the shareholders to let them know what has been going on. We need to let them know about the restructuring and have all their questions answered.” John responds calmly, in his typical salesmen shtick.
“So tell me about this company of yours tyke, what’s it all about?” Frank starts, looking at me and changing gears while munching on some bread.
“It’s actually really revolutionary.” I begin, excited for my time to speak. “You know how Napster has very recently changed the music landscape due to the rise of broadband technology and mp3 conversion software – well that is what we intend to do – but for video. The DivX platform allows users to show high quality videos at a fraction of the original file size – it’s a real technological marvel.” I say, as eloquently as possible. Being that I was genuinely passionate about this project made it all the more easy to sell.
“So it’s called PhatView huh, and it’s like Napster but like for Video…We should call it Phatster! Ha Ha!” Frank responds, with a piece of bread flying out of his mouth at the word “Phatster” and heavy jersey accent still in tow. I realize at this point in our meeting that Frank seriously lacks both masculine and feminine attributes, in my mind he is neither a man nor a woman – he is just a thing. Needless to say, the meeting still haunts me to this day.
“Uh, yeah…” I murmur in response to his Phatster comment. At this point I am speechless. For the remainder of the evening I basically zone out and try to think about other things. The meeting ends and I am relieved. I grab my coat and begin to contemplate.
This is how I spent my day in upstate New York in late February of 2001 – getting turned down by a girl I’ve been thinking about for months and bread spit at me by a loser billionaire.
As we walk out of the restaurant and head toward John’s car, he looks at me and smiles, “You thought you were meeting with Solomon Brothers, huh? “
An excerpt from my upcoming book, Reminisces of a Chat Operator.