BGE can bite my skinny Irish ass. What should have taken two weeks to do, tops (consolidating two electrical meters into one, and merging two bills) has taken 11 months, four turn-off notices, four seperate promises by different CSR’s, and one bottle of Pepto-Bismol. And it’s still not done.

Tell Us A Story. Given the tons of feedback I’ve gotten around here lately, and the haphazard posting most of my online peeps have been doing, I’m going to guess you’re all having loads more fun than I am this summer. Or, your computers have crashed. Or, I’m just very dull. Well, here’s a story for you, based on a call I got from Jen yesterday about some new freelance work. She asked if I’d be interested in doing some PowerPoint for her current freelance employers.

Rewind to the spring of 2000, when I was employed at a now defunct dot-com. We were still in the rosy pre-crash days, when IPO’s were exploding across the financial pages and we all entertained thoughts of buying Ferraris with our stock options. I got called into the marketing VP’s office to look at several thick stacks of color printouts on his table.

Him: So, what do you think of these?

Me: (paging through what were obviously PowerPoint presentations) They suck. Boy, do they suck.

And damn, did they suck. Some had the slickee-boy sheen of “consulting firm” all over them—glossy, shiny graphs and charts peppered with New-Economy speak touting ROI and Time-To-Market and Synergy. Others had the beaten feel of “in-house design department”, where the dull colors swallowed dull titles set in Times New Roman, the Font Face For Desktop Publishers. It was all incomprehensible gibberish to me, and unfortunately I’d have an up close and personal relationship with it for the next four months. This was the Roadshow: a week-long caravan from city to city, organized by the underwriters to sell the IPO at the highest possible price. The PowerPoint was the glue that held the whole presentation together, and it needed to be perfect.

Him: You can do better than these, right?

Me: (still being the Good Corporate Employee) Sure!

Him: Can you make PowerPoint?

Me: (wincing at the idiocy of that sentence) Sure! (lies.)

Thus began a descent into Hell, where my life became one bar chart after another, punctuated with paragraphs of twaddle pulled from the pages of Business 2.0 and Upside magazine. I had to figure out how to fit thirty company logos into a page with a bar chart and a paragraph of text, while also making our company logo (teal green and magenta, just lovely) larger. Because the program’s charting software was so ugly, I built everything in Illustrator and imported the clean graphs. I edited and rewrote their sloppy paragraphs. I rebuilt corporate logos when I was given 30×60 pixel GIF files from the web. My job became a daily routine of tweaking, changing and modifying graphs and charts at the whim of two senior VPs, and soon I was stuck in the middle of an ego contest, creating different versions of the same slide for each person while they flung poo at each other.

I got pretty good at “making PowerPoint”, though. I also got pretty good at drinking heavily when I left work. But somewhere along the way, the stories of jetting via private plane from city to city for the roadshow gave way to anxious glancing at E-Trade accounts as the market began to tank. Sometime late that fall the plans for our IPO were scrapped, and the project died on the vine. The three IBM laptops I purchased for the roadshow sat idle in my desk drawer. As we watched the economic news get worse, I began thinking of an exit strategy, and by December I was gone. Luckily, I went to a firm where PowerPoint wasn’t on my list of projects.

Back to the present day: We’re recently married, seriously planning children, and attempting to fix everything we possibly can before the little bundles of joy start appearing on our bank statements. We’re also paying off the honeymoon, eyeing a leaky roof, and waiting for a dishwasher to materialize in our kitchen. Can I make PowerPoint? You bet your ass I can.

Date posted: July 28, 2004 | Filed under art/design, history, humor | Leave a Comment »

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