Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's a Dog's Life

Mike Daisey was a slacker. He was content to bounce from temp job to temp job, long enough to make a little money, then he'd quit, live off savings and "perform" in community theater productions until the next temp job.

Until Amazon came to town.

21 Dog Years is the story of Daisey's three years with Amazon; how he climbed from the perpetual night of customer service, where windows were so rare that "grown men and women cried, schemed and had knife fights with letter openers in the bathrooms, where unscrupulous managers would take bets on who would be killed and who would walk away triumphant with a seat that received a few feeble rays for a few hours a day." Daisey hung up on callers and randomly sent free books to Norwegians, to Business Development, where Amazon searched for companies worthy of partnering with - companies with vision, drive and style. Companies like, the poster child of failed dot-coms.

I enjoyed this book on many levels - Daisey's a witty writer, and he nails the rush of working in the dot-com world, a world where budgets were optional, profits were a far-off dream, and offices were "a trifecta of Batcave, Fortress of Solitude, and supervillain lair." I think that anyone who worked - even tangentially, like I did, in the dot-com world, can relate to this corporate mindset - where you were ACHIEVING THINGS, dammit, so who the hell cares about something silly like making payroll.

One of my favorite sayings is "It's not selling out - it's buying in!" I always tell friends that when they get the big promotion or new job, and lament about how they're not going to end up saving the world after all. Daisey buys in big-time - at first, but he begins to realize that for him, at least, tons of money and a 9-to-5 aren't the answer.

It's a fun book, and a great look back at one of the more -interesting- times in recent history.

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