CNET: My Temptress, My Nemesis / 4 August 1997

Back in 1995, I was a lot like CNET (and P.S. there is a lot of head-scratching over how their name should be written. Their logo looks more like c|net but it takes too long to find that bar on the keyboard. Most other websites call it CNET [as opposed to, say the cranberries-style cnet, or maybe c/net] so I guess I’ll do that, too … and P.P.S. I think that CNET, no matter how you slice it, is a pretty lame name, and an egregious example of Silicon Valley-inspired naming. I much prefer a random word [Lucent, Claris, Oracle] over some cut-and-paste hodgepodge [AirTouch, 3Com, PacTel]): young, full of hopes and dreams, ready to conquer the world but unsure of how exactly to proceed. And sure enough, our two paths crossed soon enough. Broke, unshaven, and unemployed, I scoured the want ads between bowls of cereal and reruns of Moonlighting on Lifetime (hey, men can watch Lifetime, too! It’s not like I’m some wussy or anything), and saw a little one by CNET. They were looking for writer/editor types, I think, so I sent in a resume and got an interview with Chris Barr, who I think is pretty high up at CNET these days. So this was like only the second or third interview I’d ever had and of course the stakes were high because at the rate I was getting interviews it would be another eight months before I had another shot, and my wretched dependence on food and shelter made an injection of income vitally necessary. So I was knock-kneed, probably sweaty, maybe even lit from within with the unmistakable glow of desperation. Anyway, it was a really short interview, like fifteen minutes, but probably one of the better ones I’ve had. Eveything seemed to click, I said what needed to be said, I managed to refrain from using profanity or revealing that my references were in actuality dead relatives. I walked out feeling pretty confident and my mind was already moving in: planning bus routes, work schedules, funny cartoons to stick on my cubicle wall, etc. That of course is always a fatal mistake. On none other than the glorious magical evening of the Academy Awards I get a call from Chris Barr saying it was down between me and someone else and this other person was far more sexy and buxom and pliable (I’m paraphrasing a little … my memory is clouded by emotion at this point) and so he was not going to hire me.

Let’s just say I was disappointed and not a few tears were shed and my enjoyment of the Oscars that year was seriously affected. So CNET and I went our separate ways. Increasingly separate. I temped at the Bank of America and spent my days trying to decide if I should kill my coworkers in alphabetical order or randomly (to keep them on their toes). Then I was finally permanently hired at UMI where I did customer service on the phone starting at 6AM. Meanwhile, CNET created one popular and successful website after another. Then they had TV shows. Nothing was safe. Everywhere I looked, CNET was there, or being mentioned, or somehow lurking, unseen but still felt, in the shadows and crevasses of my life. My bitterness knew no bounds. I could let the other failed interviews go, but CNET continued to haunt me as they got bigger and bigger. As they became one of the few internet companies to stay afloat. I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d been hired at the beginning, I’d be like VP in charge of Racketeering or something cool by this time.

And I like CNET. That’s the problem. They actually have content. They actually provide a useful service for internet users, unlike most other companies which exist only to make bells and whistles. CNET has some meat on its bones.

But time passed, the wounds healed, seasons changed, uh, the earth … went along its axis. Something something. And then just a few months ago I find out that a friend of a friend works at CNET and happens to know that they need writers. “Oh, CNET?” I say nonchalantly. “I think I’ve heard of them. Don’t they [crush young hopeful dreams] have a TV show or something?” Etc., and soon enough I find myself with another interview there. A second chance. A shot at redemption. So I get a haircut and wear pants this time and have what I feel is yet another good interview. I was recovering from a weeklong sore throat and was popping Tylenol and I think it gave me this horrific cotton mouth at times but I’m sure my interviewers were professional enough to overlook that slight and temporary problem, as well as the quiet sobbing I couldn’t help succumbing to 3/4 of the way through (“I’m sorry … it’s … it’s just that I’m so happy and thankful that you’ve allowed me back into your arms after these long, lonely two years.”). And I don’t think they got suspicious when I asked which office Chris Barr was in so I could present him with a lovely box of long-stemmed roses.

So again I was checking the public transit maps and skimming mail-order catalogs looking for funny coffee mugs that I could carry around the office, etc.

I think we all know where this sad little story is going. Suffice it to say that even though CNET determined me to be “fun and personable” (two adjectives which are almost never the first to jump to someone’s lips when describing me; more popular contenders are: “overwrought” or “unkempt”), I didn’t have the computer knowledge they needed (specifically, I didn’t list “Java as a second language” on my resume) (and please, if anyone out there ever sees that I DO list Java as a second language on my resume, please shoot me in the face repeatedly with a gun until you’re sure that I’m dead). So CNET eludes me again. It motions to me with delicately-perfumed fingers, summoning me, giving me that come-hither look, then it slowly but firmly closes the door and locks it and giggles with its real friends.

Joshua Green Allen

Fireland is a rickety old website by Joshua Allen.

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