Archive of ‘write on edge’ category

Sun, Sand and Serious Cash: Memories from Working in the Dot Com Bubble

The year was 1998. I was working as a lowly receptionist, lazing away my days at the front desk of a bustling digital ad agency.

Sunset Beach on Captiva Island

Photo Credit:: Kaitlin M.

Our company had just bought three other web design firms, full of employees not very happy to have been purchased.

To smooth feathers, calm fears and bond us together, our owner decided to take us all to a posh resort on Captiva Island. All 200 of us. For four days.

Even then, I thought it was insane.

Still I wasn’t complaining. Instead, I was buying bikinis, packing sunscreen, and jumping up and down with glee. And honestly? I was waiting for them to come to their senses and realize they didn’t need to drag the receptionist along.

But they never did, and before I knew it, I was on a plane, Florida-bound.

The resort was something out of a movie, full of lush tropical gardens, private villas, and, of course, heart stoppingly beautiful beaches.

I believe we attended some seminars. Did some “trust building” exercises. But that’s not what I remember.

I remember bobbing in the waves under an impossibly blue sky, giggling as I watched my peers cavort drunkenly on the beach.

I remember sitting beneath the canopy of a big white tent, watching the sun set through the palm trees, butter dripping down my chin as I feasted on the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet.

I remember swimming in the moonlit ocean, gazing about me in wonder as the water around me glowed with the light of millions of tiny phytoplankton.

I remember wondering how this could possibly be my life, and when I was going to wake up.

And thinking that if this was what the working world was like, they could go ahead and sign me up for a lifetime sentence.

Now, of course, I know better.

That was not reality.

It was a moment of collective insanity, fueled by ridiculous amounts of cash given to impossibly young CEOs in an economic environment no one really understood.

But it was awesome.

And I feel damn lucky to have been part of it.

Fancy.

Marla unwound one last golden lock from the steaming curler. Then she ran her hands carefully through her hair, fluffing it out into the perfect mockery of natural curls.

Next she turned to her makeup – the armor she’d been shielding herself with since Mama first taught her how to use it at age ten.

“Now that you’re almost grown, Marla, you need to learn how to make yourself up,” she’d said. “Cosmetics can make even a plain face like yours into something special.”

 

“Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath…”

“Promise me you’ll never go out in public bare-faced.”

Looking at her mother’s fierce expression, Marla promised. She would have agreed to almost anything to keep Mama with her just a little bit longer.

Over the next few months, Mama did her best. She taught her how to play up her still non-existant curves to maximum advantage. When to look a man in the eyes, and when to look away. How to act just seductive enough, without ever giving anything away.

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
“To thine own self be true”
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin’
Askin’ Mama what do I do
She said just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they’ll be nice to you…

Mama grew weaker with every word. As soon as she had given up her last weapons, she faded away.

Marla was just twelve. Alone. Without a single relative who cared to claim her.

Through all the years that followed, through every cold night and unwanted touch, Marla remembered what her mama had told her.

“Just be nice to the gentlemen, Marla,” she’d whisper as she went to sleep. “And they’ll be nice to you.”

And now she was about to move uptown.

But as she looked at her reflection  drowning inside yards of white silk, her soul yearned for just one thing.

“I did it, mama,” she whispered, clasping her tarnished locket. “I only wish you could be here to see it.”

Then, squaring her shoulders, she put on her best smile and turned to face her destiny.