Encore Performance

For the record, my mother is a smart, accomplished woman.  She also has ideas.  Lots and lots of ideas.  Lots of terrible, horrible, very bad ideas.  The secret to her success is that given the sheer volume of ideas she generates, statistically speaking eventually she has to have a good one.  Then she runs with that good one and never lets the fact that she had to wade through a sea of bad ones to get it get her down.

I don’t have any stories about her good ideas, incidentally.  I have lots of stories about her bad ones, however.

For instance, some time back in the mid-90’s there was this hot new trend called The Internet.  Some of you kids may have heard about it, it was kind of a big deal.  Enraptured with the idea of being able to make my own home page and share my hormonal teen-aged thoughts on everything with the rest of the world as though anyone really gave a crap, I started to learn HTML.  This was back in the days before Flash and cascading style sheets and Javascript, back in the glory days where every internet site was one long page with everything center adjusted, blinking text, and copious amounts of animated “Under Construction” images out the wazoo.

Truly, this was the golden age of the internet.  So anyway, one of the “in” things to do back then was to sell websites to companies since not everyone knew how to make them.  To that end, my mother had the brilliant (By which I mean it was not in any way shape or form brilliant) idea to try and cash in on that by buying a dedicated ISDN line (In the days of 28.8K dial up, ISDN’s “always on” 64kbps seemed REALLY fast) and hosting websites on our desktop computer.  I don’t know how tech savvy everyone is, but even at 14 I could tell that this was one of my mom’s Really Bad Ideas.

But wait, it gets better!  My parents sat me down and explained to me how since they were going to be doing this, it was now my responsibility to put my awesome (By which I mean they were not in any way shape or form awesome) HTML coding skills to work and build these sites that we were allegedly going to host.  Seriously, they wanted me to find potential clients and give them business pitches and everything.  I was FOURTEEN; I hadn’t worked at a real job a day in my LIFE at this point.  Really, I am not making any of this up, my parents were earnestly expecting me to make enough money-making websites that we would run on our 66mhz desktop computer (that we were still using for our regular computer usage needs, BTW) that they’d be able to sell their business and retire or something.  Well mostly it was my mom, whom as we’ve already established was prone to Really Bad Ideas.  Dad was more the type who just learned long ago that it wasn’t worth the time or effort to argue with the woman and just went with the flow.

My parents ran a print shop by day, and by night… came home and ate dinner…   But one of my parents’ clients was the local water slide park, and my mom was all buddy-buddy with the woman who ran the joint (Fun fact:  Mom later sued the bejesus out of her after the water park went bankrupt and owed my parents thousands of dollars).   During one of her conversation with this woman, it came to light that they were looking to upgrade their website, which was totally optimized for Netscape 1.14 (How many of you even know what it was like to use that browser?  Anyone?  Anyone at all?  I feel so alone…).  So my mom totally oversold my website crafting abilities to this person, and the next thing I know we’re sitting around the dinner table eating when she matter-of-factly tells me, “By the way, I told Wild Water Adventures that you’d make their website, so they want you to do a pitch for them, and if you don’t land it you will be responsible for the financial ruin of our family.”

Okay, maybe I made that last part up, but my parents really had vastly unrealistic expectations of me with this.

“Um, ooookaaaay…  What should I do?”

“Pitch them a website.  Write a business proposal.”

“Ooookaaaay…  How do I do that?”

“Just make a sample website you can show them and write an outline of the features it would have.”

“What features do they want?”

“Use your imagination.  You can do stuff like 3D virtual water slide tours and things.”  This was 1994.  You could not, in fact, do 3D virtual water slide tours on the internet in 1994.  Even if you could, the sum total of my mastery of making websites consisted of putting images and text on a page, and maybe doing frames if I felt like getting fancy (Hey!  Who remembers when websites had frames!  No one?  Exactly…).   Mom was a bizarre cocktail of technological knowledge (She’d been an early adopter of personal computers and as previously mentioned ran a print shop that was brimming over with computers) and stunning naïveté about what was possible.  I tried to point this out to her, and that her expectations of what was possible on a website were not within the realm of my capabilities, or even possibility.  I was subsequently lectured about how anything is possible if I weren’t so lazy and I needed to apply myself more to the problem before giving up, and that I was a terrible disappointment to her.

So it came to pass as such:  I was to do a sales pitch for this place with a whole sample website and presentation, and I was pretty much under house arrest until I got it done.  This was my summer vacation, and I’d essentially just been handed a homework assignment by my mother.  Of course, my being a teenager left to my own devices all day, I blew it off every day and then would be yelled at by Mom for not having gotten anything done on this project.  “Why haven’t you done any work on the 3D virtual water slide tour?”

“Because it’s not possible?”

“I don’t want to hear any excuses!”

This went on for a week before mom started breaking out the big guns and taking the AV cables to my SNES to work with her so I couldn’t play video games.  Going outside was nigh unthinkable.  It was *summer* for crying out loud.  In *Fresno.* Do you know what summer in Fresno is like?  It’s not something that can be explained, it’s something you must suffer through for yourself.  But rest assured, when summer rolls around in Fresno California, all you want to do is seal up the house, turn on the AC full blast and pray that you live to see the fall.  But I was left with precious little choice if I was going to avoid having to do work on this stupid website with the impossible features that didn’t exist.

Now some might point out, “Well if going outside was so bad, wouldn’t it have been better to stay inside your air conditioned house and work on the website and just get it done?”  Well done, you’re so clever!  Your mother must be so proud!  Now shut up.

So anyway, I’m out riding my bike aimlessly in the heat to be anywhere but home, when I come to a stop at a street corner and hit the button to turn the light.  That’s when I notice someone standing next to me, who I’m pretty sure is insane.  First off, it’s suicide to wear all black in Fresno in June.  Second, he had to be absolutely suffocating under that cape and cowl.

Wait a minute, there’s only one man on Earth who would have the testicular fortitude to withstand the merciless unrelenting heat of a central California summer in full body suit with no ventilation…

“Batman!” I exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m on a stake out,” he replied.

“But… you’re standing on a corner in full view of everyone…

“Exactly, it’s the last thing that they’d expect.”

“Um… I guess I can’t argue with that…   But aren’t you hot?”

“I’m Batman.  I can withstand temperatures up to 1000 degrees Centigrade.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that.”

“Nah, I’m just messing with you, my uniform is super-cooled with Freon.  But you, you have to be suffering. What on earth are you doing outside on an afternoon like this?”

I explained my predicament to him.  “That’s ridiculous,” he replied, “This is 1994, 3D virtual waterslide tours on the internet aren’t possible.”

“I know, right!  But if I don’t come up with some sort of business for this nonsense, I’m going to be grounded until my parents die.  Say, you wouldn’t happen to need a website, would you?” I asked hopefully.

“I’m Batman.  I invented the internet, all websites are my website.”

“Ha ha, good one!”

“No seriously, I invented the internet.”

“Oh.  Well… cool.”  At this point, I was really dying for something to drink, the heat was really something else entirely.  “Say Batman, I don’t suppose you could give me a ride back to my house?  It’s really unbearably hot.”

“Oooooooh, I’m afraid not,” Batman said.  “See, you’re suffering from a heat stroke and are currently carrying on a conversation with a lamp post.  But fear not, your erratic behavior has been noted by the proprietor of the store across the street, and paramedics are en route to your location.”

“Well… that’s good, I suppose.”  At that point, I promptly passed out.

When I came to, I was in the hospital, surrounded by my loved ones.  Well, my family, at any rate.  “Loved ones” might be too much of a stretch for that.  No sooner had I regained consciousness, than my mother proceeded to rattle off a litany of ways in which I had failed in life by not getting the bid for the water park website.

“This whole time you’ve been insisting that the 3D virtual waterslide tour was impossible, but that didn’t stop these WayneTech Website Development from doing it!” she crowed at me.  What the?  WayneTech Website Development?  Batman, you asshole, you stole my idea that wasn’t even my idea that I wasn’t even going to use!