The prevailing attitude at Seattle Online Network’s recent Holiday Mixer? In one word: Glib.
In two words? Puffed up.
Seattle’s blossoming Internet community is happy with the way things are going — apparently, we’re in on a good thing.
And everyone wants a piece of the action — even Tacoma. In fact, two very nice people from T-town crashed the SON party to entice local Internet companies down south. Their motto: “Run like Hell to Tacoma,” presumably where office space is cheap. I felt sorry for them. Don’t they realize that Internet startups have their phasers set on “spend”?
Meanwhile, the women walked to and fro, talking of their Internet co.
My escort and I sauntered over to a hounds-tooth jacket and found ourselves yacking with a media buyer from Avenue A, the Internet advertising agency registered to go public soon.
By that time, I had stopped asking Seattle24x7’s preformulated question: “What’s the best Seattle Internet company to work for?” No point asking when everyone says “mine,” and proudly admits his/her loyalty has been bought with stock options. I know Internet workers bitch and moan about their jobs — I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that. But like North Korean journalists, you’ll never get them to publicly criticize the regime — their lives (read STOCK PRICES) are at stake, for god’s sake.
Spring Is in the Air
“February/March is the best time to go public,” says the guy from AvenueA; “It has to do with springtime in the northern hemisphere, but it’s more complicated than that — you gotta trust me on that.” The conversation heats up, and Mr. A begins the annoying tactic of asking my escort questions with incredibly obvious answers:
“When you think of a cola-flavored carbonated beverage, what company comes to mind?”
“Who do you think is going to shop online — us, or the 70-year-old couple living in a doublewide in Kent?”
“You wouldn’t happen to own Amazon stock?” my mildly irritated escort finally asks.
“Ah, you’d be a fool [though not a Motley Fool] not to buy Amazon.”
“Yeah, but don’t we lose something when we shop online?”
[Or as the poet Robert Lowell put it: “But what if a new diminuendo brings no true tenderness, only restlessness, excess, the hunger for success, sanity of self-deception fixed and kicked by reckless caution…”]
“Nobody is misleading anyone into any of this,” Mr. A responds. The market rules, and the market is never wrong. Quality of life is subjective. Just cause you think a certain way of life is good or bad doesn’t mean anything. The market decides, and the market is NEVER WRONG. Anyway, if you could talk to someone old enough, I guarantee they’d tell you the standard of living now is higher.”
Now vs. Then
During the holidays, my escort asks two of his grandparents, both in their nineties, if Americans’ quality of life has improved since they were our age. The verdict is four thumbs down. They miss talking to the local baker, the banker and the candlestick maker. They deplore the faceless shopping malls and the childless couple next door who are too busy to enjoy their $800,000 house.
Back in Seattle, I listen sympathetically. But what do I do? I place a buy order for Amazon in the low $60s; (I’ve heard Amazon shares usually tank in January). Let’s get real, I think. The local hardware store, with its Beaver-like clerks has long been replaced by the likes of Eagle and other Pits of Despair. Plus, with the U.S. population now twice the size it was in the 1940s, the last thing we want is to get caught in a human swarm. I click on “limit order” and hope the childless couple stays that way.
Soula Jones is content chief of Seattle24x7.