Computer Game - Level II
After receiving some positive write-ups in computer hobbyist magazines, and a two-page feature story in the Seattle Post-Impressionist newspaper, Servercomp began turning a small profit. To the disappointment of investors who were short on cash, though, all profits had to be plowed right back into additional servers and phone lines to handle the huge increase in online traffic, which had been building steadily for months but was now exploding. Most of the magazine reviews had praised the fast response-times of Servercomp's servers, which was largely due to the company's very close proximity to the city's main Bell Telephone switching center. Joey Blowers, the company CEO, once told me that that was a big reason why he had been so keen to lease the particular office space that Servercomp now occupied.
One evening in mid-March, the company held an impromptu office party/shareholders meeting, partly in celebration of the accountant's report that for the month of February Servercomp had turned a profit of over $6,000 - the most by far in its eight months of existence. Nearly all of the major shareholders were in attendance as Joey, white and in his early-30s, made an announcement: “All the recent media buzz surrounding the company has drawn the interest of several venture capitalists, so the board of directors - namely Herb, Ron and myself - has voted unanimously to authorize the issuance of 20 additional shares, increasing the number of company shares to 120.” Then, after some investors made noises of protest, Joey held up his hands and continued. “I knew you wouldn't like the sound of that, but we have no choice but to raise more capital to continue the rapid increase of our file storage capacity and phone-line capacity, or else we won't be able to compete with America On-Line and Prodigy. Look at it philosophically: 80 percent of something is infinitely better than 100 percent of nothing.” Then he clapped once and with a sly smile said, “Now, allow me to tell you guys something you'll like much better: those 20 shares will be sold for 30,000 dollars - each!” That elicited an appreciative sigh from everyone, including myself. The value of my own holdings, originally $5,000, had suddenly ballooned to over $250,000 (in theory). I wasn't going to say a word about that to Angie, as she would fall under the delusion that we were wealthy.
Wanting to drive home before I could drink too much of the freely flowing champagne, I grabbed my coat and said my goodbyes. Our Chief Operations Officer, Herb Toker, a tall and fat white guy of around 40, took me aside. With his breathy voice and noticeable lisp, which was exaggerated by the champagne, he asked, “I wath wondering, Denny - are you still working at that temp job?”
“Yeah, but it's just a way to pay the bills for the time being.”
“So you're doing okay financially, then?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Uh, why do you ask?”
“Well, I wath just going to ask if you'd be interested in selling some of your share-th back to the company. You'd get at least 30 thousand per share, perhap-th more.”
“Angie would love it if I did that, but I have no plans to sell my holdings.” I added with a laugh, “Especially now, just as it's getting interesting. Those hundreds of hours I worked for no pay are finally starting to pay-off, apparently. I can't believe how many new customers have signed-up this month - more than 500 and the month is only half over. It's getting hard to stay on top of everything, now.”
“That'th the kind of problem we like, eh, “Herb happily replied.
“Yeah, really.” My tongue loosened by alcohol, I then brought up an issue that had occupied my thoughts, on-and-off, for the past few months: “Although it makes it tough to keep illegal activity off our system. Have you seen what goes-on these days? Half of our new customers appear to be local prostitutes and pimps trying to drum-up business in the chat rooms.”
Herb dismissed my concerns with a flap of his hand. “Oh, don't worry about that, Denny. That'th why we got so many rules of conduct listed in the small print in the customers' contracts, legally covering our a-thes by banning every kind of criminal activity. Like you said, it'th getting almost impossible to stay on top of everything, but if the law ever becomes interested in one of our customer-th, of cour-th we'll cooperate.”
Now more-or-less reconciled to the situation, I made the rationalizing statement, “Yeah, I don't suppose that anyone at Sprint or A-T-and-T loses any sleep just because customers use their phone lines to commit crimes.”
* * *
One July day in 1987, I walked the short distance from home to downtown to pick-up my rather anemic paycheck at the temp agency. Lately I had been dreaming about the day when I could finally ditch the keyboard pounding data entry job, ever since receiving my very first quarterly dividend from Servercomp recently. And it was hard not to dwell on the fact that my shares in the company were worth roughly $350,000. After a long day of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-inducing keypunching, I couldn't resist fantasizing about the kind of cool cars and electronic crap I could afford if I cashed-in immediately.
After depositing my paycheck at the bank, I killed time on that beautiful afternoon by mingling with tourists on the waterfront. At nearby Pike Place Market, I stopped and perused reading material at a big news stand which stocked every major out-of-town newspaper as well as hundreds of magazine titles. While scanning the covers on the large selection of dirty magazines, I saw a female face on the cover of XXX Video Review that looked oddly familiar. I yanked the magazine out of the rack and stared at the gorgeous young ice-blonde porn star. “That's Marta? No fuckin' way!” I said under my breath. Then I read the cover blurb next to her: Marta Eicher - Europe's Hottest New Adult Video Starlet! “Eicher, hell - more like Eichenburger.” Still, I scarcely believed it was actually her until I flipped through the magazine and found a short bio about her. It said that she was 18 years old, born in Frankfurt, Germany and had lived in the US in 1985. Eighteen months had passed since the last time I saw Marta.
I paid the 10 bucks for the porn mag and could hardly wait to get home to show it to Tina and Angie. Tina then exclaimed, "Good Lord, look at all the filth in this magazine! Angie, check-out this big black muthafucka that Marta's givin' a blowjob to - now, he's hung! “ Then she turned to me and admonished, “This is all yer fault, Herc."
Copyright 2015 by K.D. Bishop